“The unfaithful witness is the one who simply transmits the conventional and familiar, unchanged and undigested. He is unfaithful, in the first place, because he is lazy. For the labor of interpretation and contemporization, the work of ‘translation,’ is grueling work and it is never done without abortive trials and breath-taking risks. . . .
“He who simply repeats the old phrases takes no risks; it is easy to remain orthodox and hew to the old line. But he who speaks to this hour’s need and translates the message will always be skirting the edge of heresy. He, however, is the man who is given this promise (and I really believe this promise exists): Only he who risks heresies can gain the truth.”
– Helmut Thielicke, The Trouble with the Church
Choice is a – maybe the – terrifying reality of life. This is because choice means exchanging the fallacies of freedom and safety for the possibility of error. And it’s always easier to live in the shadow of a fallacy; on the verge of something great but never having to actually take the leap.
To live a choice-less life means never having to be wrong. It’s repetitive and predictable. Safe and familiar. Depending how you look at it, this is a life marked by some combination of convention, boredom, and laziness.
Making a choice (about anything – an idea, a relationship, a community, a job, a project) comes with the inherent risk that you could choose wrong. And since there’s no way to know ahead of time, choosing is risky. This risk of heresy (or a fear of being ostracized from community and a future) means most of us will choose to remain orthodox and hew to the old line.
Yet a life of choice is marked by breathless moments of fear, wonder, and ultimately truth. This kind of life – a life that “skirts the edge of heresy” – requires faith and a good deal of translating work. Because most of the world does not want to see the way you do.
It’s a work that most of us, the church included, will choose to ignore.