“Come on, John, you’re next up.”
Actually I was about to be next one down. And, as I peered over the edge, it seemed a long, long drop. What if the ropes, the harness or the block and tackle gave way? What if I lost my footing and ended up dangling helplessly in mid-air?
I was standing on Caley Crag, in Chevin Forest Park above Wharfedale, on a mellow October morning along with ten other members of New Horizons Church where Jane and I belonged. We’d all been sponsored to abseil down the crag to raise money for our Christmas Kidz Club event. About a hundred children were to be bussed in from the most deprived areas of Dewsbury, and it cost serious money to provide them with a tea and presents.
Challenges like this, raise questions about the nature of trust, faith and doubt. In our Homegroups, we are walking alongside Jesus’ disciples as they struggle to believe that he really is alive again. And who better to start with than our good friend Doubting Thomas? All of us turn out to have a great deal of sympathy for this unfortunate disciple. Poor guy, he just happens to have gone missing the first time the risen Jesus visits them all. And he is a wee bit stubborn.
The prevailing view in our culture is that you’ve got to choose between two world views. The first, that of Science and Reason, means that all my decisions are taken as a result of facts, evidence and the testing of theories by carrying out experiments. You can enjoy a romance, marvel at the birth of a child or at a sublime sunset. But you must remember that such ‘spiritual experiences’ are our mere observations of long evolutionary processes or of the confluence of atoms and molecules. The second worldview is that of Faith. This lies entirely outside the realm of fact and doesn’t require hard evidence. Professor Richard Dawkins bemoans the way people of faith shy away when asked to ‘Prove it’.
So, Dawkins might have expected Jesus to turn to Thomas and say, “Surely you’ve heard many people tell of how they’ve seen me alive. And – remember the many times I told you what was going to happen whilst I was with you. Why do you need any more ‘proof’? If you won’t believe now, I have no place for you.”
But Jesus actually said, “Come on, Thomas. You say you want to place your fingers into my wounds? Well, go on then – here I am!”
I’ve previously written articles in which I’ve argued that Science, Reason and Faith intersect, and compliment each other. As an industrial scientist, I used to pray about my technical challenges. My colleagues and I arrived at many of our solutions by a combination of scientific enquiry and intuition. And as a Christian believer, I believe that Evidence and Reason inform Faith.
There at the top of Caley Crag, I looked at the strong, well-constructed harness. The two men organising the event seemed experienced and confident. I was in the company of people I trusted, of whom others had already made the descent. And – I believed in the Laws of Physics. But Science and Reason couldn’t get me any further. There was something I needed to do. I let the guys help me buckle in, grabbed the guide rope and…
…pushed off! And – it worked, just as they said. I relaxed my body and ‘walked’ down the cliff, marvelling at how smooth the whole experience felt. I had exercised Faith.
How did I feel? Well, the abseiling guys asked if anyone would like another go. “Yes, please!” I yelled. Suddenly the whole crag in its Autumn colours seemed a very beautiful place, scary but also exciting! Coming to faith in Jesus can feel like this. The challenge is to explain the experience to those who say you’re deluded…
2 thoughts on “Taking the Plunge”
scary indeed. Great account and so true! Remind me to tell you the story of a guy in a wheel barrow and a high wire, when we next meet!!
I remember abseiling to raise money for Kidz Club. It was a wonderful experience & I too was eager to have another turn.