The other day I was listening to an interview of Christian apologist Lee Strobel at Dallas Theological Seminary. In this clip Strobel recalls the time when he first became a Christian while working as a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. Listen to how he describes his moment of illumination over-against the spiritual confusion of every non-evangelical in his midst:
This comment prompts many responses. Here I’ll focus on two.
First, Strobel assumes that confusion is a bad thing. This ain’t necessarily so. Indeed, sometimes the enemy is false clarity, i.e. a perceived lack of confusion when some confusion is warranted. In my review of American Sniper I pointed out that the film offers a very clear distinction between the wolf, the sheep and the sheepdog. It is clear who is the “good guy” and who is the “bad guy”. But the reality of combat tends to blur the lines significantly leading to the unsettling possibility that a would-be sheepdog could end up being a wolf. (Even more confusing, the same person could be a sheepdog and a wolf in different moments.) Untold atrocities have occurred on the battlefield due to a failure to appreciate the moral greys that are obscured by the black vs. white of war rhetoric.
Second, the evangelical of Strobel’s generation (things are changing in the younger generation) may be characterized by a veneer of clarity, confidence and certainty. But go beneath the surface of that typical evangelical and one finds a distressing superficiality as regards Christian history, doctrine, and related disciplines like philosophy and science. They’ve been given simplistic categories to order a bewilderingly complex landscape. And so they conclude that evolution is false, Moses wrote the Pentateuch, the Canaanites had it coming, God has abortion and gay marriage at the top of his moral agenda, atheists are all sinfully suppressing their latent belief in God, and so on. Clarity, confidence and certainty are retained, but only at the expense of obscuring a deeper confusion of which the evangelical remains blissfully ignorant.
Look up “confusion” in the dictionary and one finds the following: “lack of clearness”; “disorder, upheaval, tumult, chaos”. But sometimes things aren’t that clear. Sometimes a measure of disorder, upheaval, tumult and even chaos is warranted. May God deliver us from the drive for superficial clarity, confidence and certainty that obscures our deeper confusion.