Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Limits to Living the Questions

This brings back memories of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). Nothing quite like this happened to me, but there were cases in which patients pushed back against my (mostly feeble) attempts to offer comfort and direction. Those incidents served as powerful reminders that my questions and my answers are not as important as something - or Someone - bigger than all of us.

This excerpt from ER takes on the whole "postmodern" idea that religious faith is about living the questions without any discernible answers that make a claim on our lives and our loyalties (beyond what each one of us individually fabricates for ourselves – your answers, no matter how different or incompatible, being equally "true" as mine). There is an important place for questions and doubts within a living religious faith. But this dying man's response to the chaplain suggests that a non-committal, subjective approach to religious faith is largely a luxury of the healthy and the prosperous.


Bryan+ said...

BTW, this came to my attention via Brett over at A Pilgrim on the Canterbury Trail.

BillyD said...

I was taught that thinking that your sin was greater than the power of God's forgiveness in Christ Jesus was a sign of overweening pride. If the chaplain had given that answer, though, it probably wouldn't have made "good TV."

Bryan+ said...

I was taught the same thing about the power of God's grace and forgiveness. And I believe it is true.

If only the chaplain in this piece could have said something theologically solid along those lines instead of offering feel-good cotton candy.

If done well, that could make for powerful TV ...

Jerry S said...

Unfortunately, this chaplain's response is symptomatic of the liberalism, which pervades much of Christianity today. I believe this scene was as powerful as it could have been the other way round, in that it showed how lacking the "new religion" is in spiritual depth...how it lacks the hope conveyed by the good news, the Truth of Christ Jesus. I think the patient's reaction the what the chaplain was saying, or not saying, was worth not actually hearing some sound theology from her.


Anonymous said...


Can we talk about forgiveness if we do not take sin and guilt seriously? The chaplain seems uncomfortable with the man's own deep and abiding sense of sin and guilt. She seeks to minimalize it (for her owncomfort) and thus does not really take the person seriously.

While I agree that clinging to guilt in the face of God's forgiveness is a sort of pride, I'd suggest the man's guilt has to be taken seriously first and an equally serious and subtantive understanding of God's mercy and grace offered. Otherwise he is not clinging to guilt in the face of God's forgiveness so much as despairing of the possibility of God's forgiveness given his guilt.