Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sometimes There is No Answer

I wrote this letter to my children years ago. I forgot it. They probably forgot it. Yet I still draw upon the premise: sometimes there are no answers.

I can draw upon the ancient sources, including the Bible, for the names of men of great knowledge.
Josephus says this of Abram:
Berosus mentions our father Abram without naming him, when he says thus: "In the tenth generation after the Flood, there was among the Chaldeans a man righteous and great, and skillful in the celestial science." But Hecatseus does more than barely mention him; for he composed, and left behind him, a book concerning him. And Nicolaus of Damascus, in the fourth book of his History, says thus: "Abram reigned at Damascus, being a foreigner, who came with an army out of the land above Babylon, called the land of the Chaldeans: but, after a long time, he got him up, and removed from that country also, with his people, and went into the land then called the land of Canaan, but now the land of Judea, and this when his posterity were become a multitude; as to which posterity of his, we relate their history in another work. Now the name of Abram is even still famous in the country of Damascus; and there is shown a village named from him, The Habitation of Abram."

He also adds, concerning Abram and the Egyptians:
Abram conferred with each of them, and, confuting the reasonings they made use of, every one for their own practices, demonstrated that such reasonings were vain and void of truth: whereupon he was admired by them in those conferences as a very wise man, and one of great sagacity, when he discoursed on any subject he undertook; and this not only in understanding it, but in persuading other men also to assent to him. He communicated to them arithmetic, and delivered to them the science of astronomy; for before Abram came into Egypt they were unacquainted with those parts of learning; for that science came from the Chaldeans into Egypt, and from thence to the Greeks also.

Obviously Abram (Abraham) was a man of great wisdom, as shown by a number of ancient texts, though only the Bible and Josephus survive at this point. Even so, Abram was baffled by the promise of God to provide a son for him by Sarai, and, not understanding the power of God, had Ishmael by Hagar to fulfill the promise of God through his own abilities. We see in this case that Abram is not always very wise. We can also refer to the two instances where he had Sarai pose as his sister.
Solomon is known, Biblically, as the wisest man who ever lived. Yet when he was posed a problem by the Queen of Sheba he resorted to the inherent knowledge of a common bee to resolve the conundrum. He also showed his lack of wisdom in later years by straying from the direct commands of God and allowed the worship of false gods.
The point is that mankind can show signs of wisdom, yet we invariably fall short in consistency.  Though Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, it was not a Tree of All Knowledge. We just don’t know everything, regardless of the promises of an attractive serpent.
Questions will arise that you do not know the answer to. Cut yourself some slack and understand that ignorance is not fatal and can sometimes be cured. (A cautionary note here: the Internet is a great source of information, but is also full of incorrect information, so caveat emptor.) Yet without a doubt there will be questions people ask that you do not know the answer to, and the answer may not be available. What is gravity? How can atoms stay stable and not fly apart? Why is there suffering in the world? How can God be three persons in one? God knows the answers to these questions, but we do not and we cannot.
Take a deep breath and accept that there are some questions we can provide thoughtful responses to, but we cannot definitively know the answers.
This is where Faith begins, my children. You don’t know the answers, but be assured that the God who rules the Universe knows the answers. Take comfort in that.


  1. Amen!!!this post has answered a lot of questions for me!

  2. I have no answer to that. (Funny, though.)