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Decisive indecision

As many of you know I’ve spent the past week giving the Lenten addresses at a secondary school. The week was brilliant fun and stimulating in all sorts of ways. As is often the case when we spend an extended time speaking about Christ to inquirers, I’ve come back acutely aware of the urgency of Christ’s invitation to follow him.

Those I was speaking with didn’t always recognise that urgency; indeed they were often equivocal about any response which they might make. A significant number of the pupils called themselves agnostics. Of course strictly speaking that title speaks of someone who is undecided about something, because they do not as yet have the necessary knowledge with which to make the decision. In practice some had taken the ‘agnostic’ title and smuggled practical atheism into it. They weren’t doing all they could to investigate the truth of the outrageous claims of Christ as one would expect of a genuine agnostic, but were rather happy in their indecision. Some gave the impression that they were happy to remain life-long agnostics, and didn’t want anything resembling certainty to ruin their indecision.

Sometimes such agnosticism can have the appearance of neutrality about it. It somehow seems more balanced and fair-minded to be in the process of weighing things up, or at least more attractively humble to profess uncertainty. Next to such friendly agnosticism the certainty of a convinced Christian can appear almost ugly and arrogant. And yet we must remember that there is some indecision which is decidedly decisive (if you’ll excuse the sentence!). Let me explain what I mean.

In one of my talks last week I spoke from John 3, and I finished by looking at verses 17-18:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

The Apostle John is clear that just as a coastguard offering a float to a drowning swimmer has not come to condemn the swimmer, so Christ did not come to condemn the world. To the contrary he offers rescue and eternal life! It is however sadly still possible for condemnation to occur. If, in a moment of madness, the swimmer refuses the float then she condemns herself for she has rejected the only rescue available. Even if the swimmer exercises her humble open mindedness and waits to weigh up all of her options she will be condemning herself. Indeed, even if the swimmer fails to take the float through indecision as to her wisest course of action she stands (treads water) condemned. When it comes to unique offers of salvation there is a kind of indecision which is all too decisive.

I have been reminding myself that underneath the sometimes pleasant, humble and open-minded exterior of agnosticism there can lie a decisive self-condemnation. As the Apostle Paul writes, “Behold now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” We must remain lovingly urgent. The love of Christ compels us to.

John Ash


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