“To err is human” – many people (of faith) are hardly aware how much they lean towards this human quality when they understand themselves as lifelong spiritual seekers on a path. Among Quakers, the idea of the “absolute perhaps” became established. It is expression for continuous divine revelation and the consequence thereof that we, as humans, can never exactly or definitely know, where truth lies – since God will eventually reveal us more. As it happened for millennia since biblical times.
Continuous revelation as a theological principle is being used today too often as justification for self-indulgent arbitrariness. Some Quakers have difficulty stating what their faith principles are and tend to remain silent over it (under the protection of a liturgical form). For them, a diffuse and unclear image of God is sufficient, which fits with the idea that truth lies within the “absolute perhaps” – because we as humans would never be able to know the whole truth. “We are not Quakers, we are becoming Quakers” is their explanation.
What about (partial) truths that one has experienced or recognized? Are there any revelations in the history of humankind, or within my own experience, that can stand as truth, even if I accept that there is a plurality of acceptable opinions? Even if I accept that there is no absolute form of religion or faith in God, but a multitude of culturally relevant images of God and religious traditions? Is a peaceful attitude towards and loving dealings with your neighbours dependent on situations, on circumstances, on cultural, social, and political influences?
This raises the question: Do we, as self-determining, modern humans, want to be found unconditionally by the divine? Or are we pleased with the liberal attitude of being a spiritual seeker? Who is closer to the revelation of God’s will: The person who has the openness to become found, or the one who continues for ever to seek truth?
With the proposition of the “absolute perhaps”, do we withdraw from the responsibility to witnessing our faith and to live our earthly lives according to clear faith principles – thus avoiding becoming a target? Or do we wait, as the majority of faithful in the abrahamic tradition does, for judgement day, in the hope that the kingdom of God will manifest for us through some act of divine grace and forgiveness for the convenient and self-indulgent human blundering, on which we rely far too often and which we accept today as part of our faith tradition.
God, let me err as a human in human matters! There are sufficient situations in everyday life where I fail to discern correctly or fail to react accurately. Therefore, I will stand in the rain without an umbrella; I will meet someone with an inappropriate gift in hand; or I will apply for a position, which was not meant for me. Here, I am allowed to err. Nonetheless, in all of these varied scenarios I could have been acting from the same religious attitude of love and confidence.
On the other hand, I don’t want to become active, as an example, for euthanasia, even though it may be legal, even if this medical possibility is in expressed demand by many progressive people, and even if it is becoming socially acceptable. Nowadays, the temptation is growing to relinquish a clear image of God and understanding of faith to human blundering, and to justify this by accepting that we will never be able to know the whole truth.
Equally, the temptation is growing to use fundamental insights and faith principles to evaluate, judge, and condemn those who accept the “absolute perhaps” and who employ a social, political, or economic justification.
In this, I would err as a human being, because such judgement is not up to me!
more thoughts on being faithful here