It’s Okay to Say “I Don’t Know”

All summer I seem to be having deep theological conversations with a wide variety of people. These people have voiced questions and asked for answers. While I try my best to help everyone out, I have come to learn that I say the words “I don’t know” a lot.

There are several forms of this phrase for me:

1. “I don’t know and I have no answer”
While I try to read widely I have obviously not read everything. I have read through my bible a few times but that does not make me a master of all. I believe it is okay for a Christian to admit when they do not have an answer. Often times people will try to put me on the spot and ask, “If you had to chose between this or that what would you chose?” My best and most honest response is sometimes, “I just do not know.” I do not have opinions and ideas on every topic.

2. “I don’t know and I will find an answer”
This second variation is important. There are some questions that have great answers. I can remember a verse in scripture that addresses this topic but it is not very clear in my mind. I can remember and article that gave a wonderful explanation. I know a good answer is out there, I just have to go and find it.

3. “I don’t know but here is my best understanding”
I do have deep opinions about certain topics but I struggle to give a 100% definitive answer. I can read the scriptures over and over. I can hear the explanations and I draw conclusions but I will never be 100% sure. One minor example: We do not know how long Jesus preached on the earth. There is no verse that says he taught for 3 years (you can look it up). We are told that he celebrated three Passover feasts, that is where we get that number. The problem is that John says there are many other miracles not recorded in his book. If all Jesus did was written down there would be innumerable books. So my best guess is that he preached 3 years, but that is not a completely definitive answer.

4. “I don’t know and no one will ever really know for sure”
This one is the most hard to admit. There are some topics where we just have no explanation. Seriously. One example to me is a story in Exodus 4:25 about Moses’ wife taking her son’s foreskin and touched Moses feet. What is that all about? I can make guesses but no one knows for sure.

As a follower of Jesus I have to be able to live with a little ambiguity. I don’t know all that the Bible says yet. I keep learning and adding to my knowledge but I am not there yet. Even as I grow and learn that doesn’t mean I will have all of the answers to everything. In fact, I will often end up with more questions. I think it is okay to say “I don’t know.”

The Bible was never meant to give us all the answers, it was meant to change our lives. The Bible shows us Jesus and brings us to a trust in him. I believe he has all the answers that I do not know.

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