Embracing ‘I Don’t Know’

Posted on Oct 17, 2013 in God | 0 comments

The first time I ever heard someone admit, ‘I don’t know’ was when I asked a lecturer in Bible College why God made the world and humans if he knew it was going to end up such a mess.

I’d caught him in the doorway of the classroom and he said quite simply as he bustled past to put his notes down on the lectern, ‘I don’t know. I wouldn’t have done it.’

I was speechless for a moment.

‘Are we even allowed to say I don’t know?’

Because fundamentals always know.

We know how the world was made.

We know what God is like.

We know the truth about the world.

We know how go to heaven.

We know the best way to live life.

We know because God spoke to us/we had an experience/can feel the Holy Spirit/just sense it in our heart.

Really. That’s why we do what we do. Preach. Evanglise. Go on missions. Cos we know and they don’t.

At the end of the day though… there’s that…

That little fact that…

We don’t.

Know, that is.

Of course we don’t. We believe.

If we knew, it wouldn’t be belief. It would be knowledge.

I got my fear of saying I don’t know from preachers. “Those poor people out there who have no sense of meaning or purpose. They wander from one thing to another, always looking, always searching. Us, on the other hand… what wonderful peace it is to know that we have the truth.’


Saying ‘I don’t know’ is not a sign of weakness.

Actually, it takes a lot of courage to say ‘I don’t know.’

When I finally admitted those three words to myself a number of years later, (“I don’t know if God exists…), I went home, washed the residue of tears from my eyes with a splash of cold water and fell asleep fully clothed on top of our bed at 10am in the morning. When I woke up, the sloshing anxiety that used to barge into my stomach on reaching consciousness every morning never arrived. I was slipped, instead of jarred, into waking for the first time in years.

That’s what it feels like to stop lying to yourself.

It’s wonderful. Shockingly wonderful.

And horrendously scary.

Here is a video I was sent by a busker friend I met on the streets of Copenhagen around this time last year. It’s a guy called Richard Feynman, an old dude from the 80’s if the video quality is anything to go by, with a refreshing perspective on this idea of ‘I don’t know’.

“But I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things. By being lost in the universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell. It doesn’t frighten me. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.”

Saying ‘I know’ limits your world.

It means we are finished, done with our exploration, have reached the limits of our discoveries. Our brain stops expanding. ‘I know’ is the catchphrase of the Middle Ages.

Saying ‘I don’t know’ opens up your world.

It means we aren’t finished yet, there’s plenty more to discover and we are always open to new information. ‘I don’t know’ is the catchphrase of the Reformation!

I love saying I don’t know.

I love being in a position to change my mind on the make up of the very fabric of the universe. It’s amazing to meet someone with a different perspective and pull out everything they think through genuinely curious questions unencumbered by an agenda. The awe I used to feel surrounded by God’s Creation is superseded only by the awe of being surrounded by such a big, fascinating world to discover.

Thankfully, there’s a small amount of ‘I Don’t Know’ in everything.

A final thought: Saying “I Know” only shows how much we don’t know what we don’t know.

Bit of light reading over your coffee?