It’s too easy to have answers. There, that’s my wisdom for the day. You’re welcome. See you on the weekend…
Actually, our provincial Premier plans to invoke the Notwithstanding Clause in a dispute with Toronto city council. The Notwithstanding Clause is part of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and a clear reminder that Canadians believe that more government control is our best answer to bureaucratic or judicial control of bureaucratic governmental control. (For less clarity on the Notwithstanding Clause, see the Nothwithstanding Clause below under the title of Notwithstanding Clause…*)
There are many opinions as to whether it is justified or not but as you look at the issues it’s, well … complicated. Thus the goofy word notwithstanding which means ‘in spite of; nevertheless; although’. Or my better definition is, ‘That might be true but we’re doing it another way.’
We live in a society of instant information and instant-er analysis. Don’t waste my time, just give me the bottom line. That’s why the wackiest conspiracy theories can go mainstream in a heartbeat. There is this information but there is this other information that I like better.
As I write this, hurricane Florence has just hit the coast of North Carolina. After days of mandatory evacuation notices, continual warnings by officials, and predictions about wind and unprecedented flooding, there were 200 people who had to be rescued last night while I was sleeping and there are as many again waiting to be rescued. And the storm is just starting!
My instinct is to be frustrated with anyone who is in that situation and to say they are getting exactly what they asked for. Some of them stayed in spite of the warnings.
But as rescuers risk their lives to save these people, I’m reminded that, notwithstanding the risk, it would also be inhuman and unchristian to leave them to their fate. Some were simply foolish but others, like an old man who was interviewed just before the storm, complicate my judgements. The old man needed to move inland for his safety, notwithstanding he was poor, didn’t have a driver’s license or means of transportation, and shelters wouldn’t accept his dog – his only family. So how, really, was he to leave the area notwithstanding the dangers of staying?
When it comes to faith, should it surprise us that there are things about God that are true notwithstanding what we see or think?
How about these notwithstanding brain-stretchers?
- There is only one God, although there are many gods;
- God is at once infinitely large and infinitely small;
- God is a single being but also a trinity. One perfectly functioning unit comprised of three distinct parts;
- God answers prayer although many prayers aren’t answered;
- Faith is knowing something we can’t prove;
- Hope is anticipating what we can’t see.
The New Testament writers were perfectly comfortable with notwithstandings because they described something more intrinsic than just common sense. How about these New Testament paradoxes that are deeply meaningful?
- when we give we receive;
- when we’re humble we’re exalted;
- servanthood brings freedom;
- when we surrender we gain;
- weakness makes us strong;
- dying brings life.
I still remember the first time I learned there was a discipline called Apologetics (defending faith by using philosophy, science, logic, etc.). My brain needed it. It was an exciting discipline that brought relevance to my faith which had always been invisible and other-worldly.
But shouldn’t it also be true that there is more than pure logic, science or lineal understanding when it comes to God? I mean, we’re talking God here.
These days I realize that, while cold arguments have their place, I’m craving a God who is other than what I can argue or explain. A God who is the Creator despite being outside of creation; who is both small and big; who makes perfect sense while being incomprehensible; who is mystical rather than manageable; who doesn’t provide answers while being the answer.
If we could completely understand God (we can’t), we would be Gods, which was the original temptation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. (If we were gods we would probably end up like some of those crazy mythological dudes and dudesses, jealously fighting, spitting, killing and reproducing evil spawn all the time).
To embrace God is to embrace ultimate reality, wrapped in ultimate mystery. These days I’m comfortable with seeing beauty and reality without needing to define or explain it.
I’m comfortable with not having all the answers, notwithstanding my need to keep asking questions.
* This is the Notwithstanding Clause.
- (1) Parliament or the legislature of a province may expressly declare in an Act of Parliament or of the legislature, as the case may be, that the Act or a provision thereof shall operate notwithstanding a provision included in section 2 or sections 7 to 15.
- (2) An Act or a provision of an Act in respect of which a declaration made under this section is in effect shall have such operation as it would have but for the provision of this Charter referred to in the declaration.
- (3) A declaration made under subsection (1) shall cease to have effect five years after it comes into force or on such earlier date as may be specified in the declaration.
- (4) Parliament or the legislature of a province may re-enact a declaration made under subsection (1).
- (5) Subsection (3) applies in respect of a re-enactment made under subsection (4).