26 May – Ben Cornell, Hope Church

Fish don’t climb trees

In our youth group we have introduced a question tin. The young people jumped straight in with: ‘When I die, do I go straight to Heaven? How does that work?’ ‘What about people going to Hell?’ and the like. These are tough questions, not least because the answers come with a helping of mystery, the unknowable, which, let’s face it, looks like a cop-out and feels unsatisfying. This is where I jump in with: ‘Try explaining tree-climbing to a fish.’ Some things are simply beyond us to understand, and rightly so. This is the God who created the Universe, after all. Nevertheless, scratch the surface of an enquiring mind and these profound questions spill out like the intestines of a fish whose underbelly has snagged on a sharp twig.

As Christians we don’t have comprehensive answers to the toughies. We can direct someone to CS Lewis, who had a good go at most toughies, but we must recognise how important it is to be honest about mystery, the limits of understanding. Perhaps the mystery tells us something about who God is. Why does he leave us with unanswerable questions instead of equipping us with a list of slam-dunkers for any apologetic discussion? Why does he leave us with huge questions, the answers to which even Christians don’t agree? Predestination, to name but one.

I think it is because there is a lesson in the unresolvable. It matters more how we conduct ourselves in the debate, than that I, Joe Bloggs, have got it all totally right. Why? Because relationship is what matters most. And our relationship with God is what develops the trust to put as at ease with being fish, even if that means we sometimes fall short in explaining arboreal-scaling to other fish.