The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-charge Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

Some would be leaders are so cocksure of their position on an issue that they leave no room for doubt. This certainty is considered a virtue for politicians who deliver impassioned speeches to win audiences to their party. Preachers with clever tongues often do the same to win converts to their point of view, declaring that passages in the Bible must be interpreted their way if the listener wants a ticket to heaven. Some even proclaim that there is only one correct translation of the Bible, the King James Version, not even realizing that we have no original copies of the New Testament and that the earliest translated scraps and manuscripts were discovered in succeeding centuries written in Greek.

My brother, who was also a priest, and I as teenagers loved to talk about theology. Since he was four years older than I and a genius I usually would try to understand whatever he said and consider it the absolute truth. But as time went on I would say, "John, I finally understand what you were trying to tell me. You are absolutely right." And his usual response was, "Oh, I don't believe that anymore. I've moved on." That left me to think on my own and to realize that doubt is probably a greater virtue than certainty. Doubt helps us to let go of things that aren't necessarily so.

Dr. Brene Brown, in a speech about the power of vulnerability, said that one of the things that we need to think about is why and how we numb. As she said, "It doesn't just have to be addiction. The other thing we do is make everything that's uncertain certain. Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty. 'I'm right, you're wrong. Shut up.' That's it."

Being cocksure about many things is a dangerous position to take because it numbs one's ability to listen and to consider other points of view which allow growth. It's especially dangerous in the religious life to assume that we have all the answers to biblical, theological, personal, and spiritual questions. As a starter, God is beyond anything we might picture. God is not a man with a long white beard sitting on a throne in heaven. That comes from our imaginations. God is not man or woman. A better approach is not to think of God as masculine or feminine, but the union of the two is a mystery of the divine image. The safest word for God is the Divine Mystery.

So if you are tempted to become cocksure about something, give yourself a little wiggle room to change your mind. You might discover new evidence that changes or improves your original thought or plan.