One of the signs of a mature religious faith is that the person holding it is comfortable with ambiguity. That is, he or she doesn't need scientifically exact answers to all theological questions. In such a person's mind and heart there is room for mystery, for metaphor, for myth, for allegory.
This piece in The Economist concludes that Pope Francis himself is just such a person: "In his own words and gestures, Francis has shown an impressive ability to embrace paradox," it says.
It's one of the things that my pastor, Paul Rock, and I love about Francis and it's part of what moved us to write our new book, Jesus, Pope Francis and a Protestant Walk into a Bar: Lessons for the Christian Church.
But let's be clear: To say that one is comfortable with ambiguity, with mystery, with paradox is not to say that he or she has no firm beliefs in -- or convictions about -- anything. It's not to charge that person with having a completely relativistic faith with no core beliefs that are worth defending. Not at all.
And this pope certainly can be located in the broad middle of Catholic theology and tradition.
But in Francis there is a refreshing element of humility, an almost-unexpected willingness to acknowledge that he may not have all the answers. That goes a long way toward making faith attractive and appealing to people who are wary of slick and rock-solid answers to every possible question of faith.
People who are often wrong but never in doubt give religion a bad name. Which is why I'm grateful to find a Christian leader who is comfortable with his faith without needing to be a literalist. It's a good model -- for people of any faith and of none.
* * *
AWARDING A SAUDI DISSIDENT
A Saudi blogger who had advocated for religious freedom in the kingdom but has been jailed and lashed for it, has won the European Union’s prize for human rights and freedom of thought. Good. Saudi Arabia's rigid stance against any religion except the strict Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam is an insult to religious freedom.