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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

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A Background of Humble Agnosticism

Dear Source:
I hope many "believers" out there did not avoid reading Jack Wilson's observations about being an agnostic. When I reached the note identifying Wilson as an Episcopal priest, I said to myself, "aha!" We Episcopalians ask questions all the time and guest what–it does not undermine our faith–it strengthens it.
My father was a Methodist minister. He was so inspired by Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick's preaching, that he transferred from Yale Divinity School to Union Theological Seminary in order to study under Fosdick back in the 1920's. Wilson quoted Fosdick as writing, "All intelligent faith in God has behind it a background of humble agnosticism." How true, at least in my experience.
A year or so ago at one of our wonderful gatherings at All Saints in St. Thomas, a visitor sitting at our table was visibly shaken by our casual discussion of "The DaVinci Code." She said she was afraid to read it because it could undermine her faith. She moved to another table. I looked at Dean Brooks in amazement and said to him, "Her faith must be terribly weak if she is afraid a book of fiction could destroy it." Dean Brooks smiled and wisely said, "That's why you're an Episcopalian." Under his guidance, our congregation has learned to question so much and in doing so we continually deepen our faith. We are truly blessed to have one of the foremost Episcopal theologians in the world as the dean of our Cathedral here in St. Thomas.
For those who remain skeptical, I offer the wisdom of Mark Twain in his short story, "The Man Who Corrupted Haddleyburg." The town's motto, placed prominently on the road leading to town, said "Lead us not into temptation." A stranger played a trick on the town. The townspeople had prided themselves on living righteous lives by avoiding temptation. The stranger placed temptation squarely before them and their righteousness crumbled. In the end, the people learned that untested virtue is no virtue at all and changed the motto to "Lead us into temptation."
Let us never stop questioning, whether it is faith or anything else. Thank you Jack Wilson, and thank you, Source, for bringing his column to us.
Dena Langdon
St. Thomas

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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