I have given many talks in my life – at symposia, seminars, conferences. I always liked public speaking (being the egotist that I am), but my favorite part was the questions. Some were easy. Sometimes I got a question that actually opened a new way of looking at things for me. And, at least once for every talk, I got a question that I answered with “I don’t know.” Usually I would elaborate: we haven’t done those experiments yet, or the literature is contradictory, or I haven’t even thought of that issue before, or the data is equivocal, or even that I know someone has addressed this but I don’t remember what they found. I had no problem admitting my ignorance, and no one ever held it against me. Admission of not knowing is an integral part of science. I have heard top level scientists say that same thing many times.
Although I have done no new research for many years, I still say “I don’t know”, especially when asked questions related to my Christian faith. Examples: If you think evolution is true, how could there have been sin in the world before the fall of man? I don’t know. If you believe God created the universe, who created God? I don’t know.
Is this OK? Aren’t we supposed to have all the answers? No, we aren’t. It’s nice to have some answers. Like “Scripture never says that Adam was the first man” or “My faith in Christ as savior is not subject to objective proof”. I actually do have a lot of answers, and I keep working on finding more. But I know I will never have them all.
In science we have learned that every answer leads to new questions. I think that is also true in theology, and for me that is a strong pointer to God. We are not supposed to know everything, but we are supposed to keep learning. It is the process of learning, about the natural world, about God, about our souls and our bodies, that makes us human and obedient to God’s will, as His image bearers.
There are some people who seem to have all the answers. Some are scientists, and some are theologians or philosophers. When anyone says that all is clear and they will explain it to you, walk away: they aren’t worth listening to. They are wrong. They are no longer seekers of truth, but advertisers of a product. To find the truth, we must take wrong turns, get lost, go up blind alleys, make mistakes. In other words, we must learn. And in our lifetimes, this learning will never end. That is the beautiful truth of our constantly surprising, always challenging universe, designed by a Creator whose omniscience is reflected in the unending complexity of every aspect of reality.