I am teaching a theology course to some amazing people at our church on Wednesday nights. We offer four different “Deep Dive” courses and the one I am currently teaching is Deep Dive: The Story of God which walks through the Bible as one overarching Story. At the end of each session, I do a time of Q&A with the people. And I have heard from many that one of the most impactful answers I have given has been “I don’t know.” I hear that every time I teach the course. “I don’t know” seems to help people more than any other answer I give.
1. Saying “I don’t know” gives greater weight to what we do know.
I don’t say “I don’t know” to every question. There are many things I know with clarity and conviction. I am not saying “I don’t know” to questions about the trustworthiness of the Scripture or the exclusivity of Jesus. I am teaching that one can trust the Scripture and Jesus is the only way to eternal life. But when I say “I don’t know” to questions where the answer is unclear, it helps people understand that other things are certain and clear. It helps people separate what we can know from what we do not yet know. Why God heals sometimes and does not heal other times (I don’t know) is different than the truth that He is both powerful and good at the same time (I know this to be true).
2. Saying “I don’t know” encourages people to share their faith.
One of the reasons people do not tell their friends and neighbors about their faith is that they are worried they won’t be able to answer every question they are asked. But we do not need to know everything before we share the most important thing. Seeing a spiritual leader stumble over words and then shrug and say “I don’t know” shows people it is OK to not know everything. I can almost hear the collective sigh in the room when I say “I don’t know.” I have heard people say they can lead a small group now because they have seen that is Ok to not know everything. They learned that the course does not fall apart when I admit not knowing something.
3. Saying I don’t know acknowledges that God’s ways cannot be traced.
God’s ways are higher than ours. He has never asked us for advice, directions, our insight. Saying “I don’t know” reminds people that we cannot jam God into a system or formula. There are some things that we will not know this side of eternity because our finite minds cannot grasp the infinite nature of our amazing God. In many Bibles the title the translators put above the apostle Paul’s closing words in Romans 11 is “Doxology.” Doxology means “the statement of glory,” and this is certainly a glory statement:
Oh, the depth of the riches
and the wisdom and the knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments
and untraceable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
And who has ever given to God,
that he should be repaid?
For from him and through him
and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever. Amen.