And Honesty for All

Archpriest Stephen Freeman | 24 December 2021

There are “bogus” Scriptures out there – special “revelations” to various characters (generally self-described as “prophets” and such). They have as a hallmark, a kind of self-promotion and a carefully crafted message to “solve” various religious problems. I’ll not name names lest I wind up on someone’s hit list. I’ll let the reader fill-in the blanks. However, there is something quite striking about the writings of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. Both of them are filled with “damaging” information about their authors and their “heroes.”

The gospels are excellent examples:

  • There is confusion within the family circle of Jesus, and this information is not withheld.
  • The leading disciple denies even knowing Jesus when a moment of danger arises.
  • Another disciple famously speaks of his doubt.
  • We are told over and over that the disciples are clueless and do not understand. Indeed, all of this damaging information is treated as though it were necessary.

We know a great deal about the life of St. Paul, particularly that he was once an enemy of the faith and sought to have Christians arrested and killed. The pages of the Old Testament are even more strikingly filled with details regarding the bad faith of its heroes. King David committed adultery and arranged for the death of the woman’s husband. There is no “sanitized” religion in the true Scriptures. They are honest – brutally so.

The Church continues this honesty. In the services that lead up to Christmas, there is this small hymn placed on the lips of Joseph the Betrothed:

Joseph said to the virgin:
What has happened to you, O Mary?
I am troubled; what can I say to you?
Doubt clouds my mind; depart from me!
What has happened to you, O Mary?
Instead of honor, you bring me shame.
Instead of joy, you fill me with grief.
Men who praised me will blame me.
I cannot bear condemnation from every side.
I received you, a pure virgin, in the sight of the Lord.///
What is this that I now see?

From time to time, I have serious questions posted on the blog. A very common example is the so-called “problem of evil” – “Why does God let stuff like this happen?” It is of interest to me, that though such questions are difficult, even impossible to answer, the question is not a stranger to the Scriptures. The book of Job, thought to be one of the oldest writings in the Old Testament, explores the problem with poetic genius. And it does not give a very satisfying answer.

This aspect of the Scriptures points towards their truth and their reliability. They are not given to us as forms of propaganda. If there is a question to be asked, it is likely that the Scriptures will have posed it already. The clay feet of its heroes, their foibles and their failures mirror the lives of every reader. It is not an ideal book. It is an honest book.

In that honesty, it is possible to find yourself, and certainly possible to find God. And when you do, then you’ll discover that you have entered into a messy world where the answers are often unsatisfying. But it is into our messiness that God Himself has entered. He is willing to tell us the truth, and to hold the mirror of His word up for us to see ourselves as we are – not as we imagine ourselves to be – much less how we imagine Him to be.

God is with us.

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