Amanda Smartt is the Communications Coordinator at Calvin Seminary. In this story, she writes about participating for the first time in the Book of the Semester program at Calvin Seminary, which draws together students, staff, faculty, and community members for discussion around a thought-provoking book. Based on the idea that all people are enriched by robust reading, the program helps students come in contact with readings they wouldn’t normally encounter in the course of seminary studies, and helps all who participate have a broader, richer view of the kingdom.
“I’m wary of anyone who suggests that a constant state of doubt is a legitimate way to live.”
I sympathized with that statement from one of my colleagues, so much so that I was skeptical of Calvin Seminary’s Book of the Semester, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything by David Dark. Questioning everything? Isn’t that a straight line to a lot of inner turmoil?
Dark, who theologian Eugene Peterson calls his “favorite critic of the people’s culture of America and the Christian faith,” visited Grand Rapids recently to speak at the Book of the Semester discussion and Calvin College’s Festival of Faith & Writing.
Shortly after listening to him speak, it was clear that the position I was skeptical of and the posture Dark was humbly advocating couldn’t have been farther apart. Dark doesn’t endorse questions for the sake of questions, as “endless negativity or cynicism.” Instead he sees them as a means of “always pushing further in our understanding of the sacred.”
For Dark, good questions are “like the good poems, the good stories, the good images . . . good questions are feats of attentiveness.”
After a bit longer, I realized that what he really expressed was wonder at everything around him—rappers, science fiction, his atheist neighbor, his Christian neighbor. “I have in mind . . . a kind of literacy of wonder that seems to exit whenever elitism [or] snobbery [enter in]. . . . Whenever God becomes a possession we have over others, or information about God becomes a boasting point, I think we’re missing it.”
Dark’s view of God and the church is one I can get behind. God is “one who is always welcoming conversation, who can always handle our honest confusion, and our communities as spaces where we can go with those [questions].”
For information on Calvin Seminary’s Book of the Semester program, including how to join a community reading group, please contact Mary Bardolph, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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