Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Genuine Seeker

Do you remember Carl Sagan? I certainly do. This Cornell astronomer and Pulitzer Prize winning author wrote and starred in the PBS series “Cosmos”. He was perhaps the best known and most outspoken scientist of our generation. I still remember his favorite phrase to describe the number of galaxies in the universe: “billions and billions.”

Dr. Sagan died in 1996, but his widow and collaborator, Ann Druyan, has collected and edited Sagan’s 1985 lectures on the boundaries between science and religion in a book titled, The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God.

Sagan’s comments on religion in general and Christianity in particular are worthy of our attention. He said that it is curious that no Christian nation has adopted the Golden Rule as a basis for foreign policy. Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was the nuclear war policy of the 1980’s and 90’s. He also said, “Christianity says that you should love your enemy. It certainly doesn’t say that you should vaporize his children.”

He acknowledges that religion can give rise to hope and can speak the truth to those in power. He cited the civil rights movement in the U. S. as an example of the positive power of religion. However, he also says that religion rarely acts in this way.

But Sagan is at his best and most persuasive as a questioner of religion and science. He argues that we should never stop questioning either. It’s when we think we have the final answers that we are in danger of self-deception and arrogance. He said, “I think if we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we came from, we will have failed.”

While some of us have been taught that questioning the tenets of our religious faith is wrong, even sinful, I agree with Dr. Sagan that questioning leads to the truth. An unquestioned faith is an untested and, often weak, faith. Questioning and searching for answers is the way we seek and find truth.

Another prophet of the 20th century, the late Baptist pastor Carlyle Marney, once said, “We [Christians] need not fear truth wherever it is found.” Never have truer words been spoken. If the truth we find contradicts the truth we believe, then it is time to rethink that belief.

Faith is not static, but dynamic. Faith is a journey more than it is a destination. If our faith is not developing and evolving, then it is not growing.

Seeking the truth, religious or scientific, is the way we grow as humans and as persons of faith. Like Sagan, we need to be fearless questioners in our quest for truth and the Truth. For, if God is the Source of Truth, then genuine questioning will only serve to lead us to God.

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