Monthly Newsletter
- November 2018 -

Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."
John 6:68

By the Sea of Galilee

Capernum. Near the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd has gathered to listen to an itinerant preacher, but much of his sermon has been hard to accept, and many now turn to walk away. The rabbi looks at those nearest him and asks if they, too, will leave. Just then, a strong-looking man of swarthy complexion pushes his way forward and declares, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe, and to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

As believers, we treasure these bold words of Peter. They constitute a startling confession of faith from a simple man who had come to a realization, at least a partial awareness, that there was something bigger than himself in the world; something divine. At this point in the gospel narrative, he has seen Jesus in action; he has seen miracles and heard sublime teachings. He has come to believe.

But I also sense that Peter does not get the “full picture” even as he makes his assertions about Jesus. I could be wrong, of course, but I discern a bit of agnosticism in Peter’s voice, too, not unlike the father of the demon-possessed boy who cried out, “I do believe! Help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

I can almost hear Peter continuing to say to Jesus something along these lines, “And even if we’re mistaken about who you are, Lord, which of course we hope we’re not, we’re not going anywhere without you. You have captured our hearts and we want to be with you forever.”

Many centuries later, a great Russian writer said something similar. You will surely recognize his name – Fyodor Dostoevsky, the author of Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. What you may not know is that he was arrested as a young man, accused of subversion against the Tsar, and sentenced to four years of hard labor in the Siberian gulag. At the time, he had only written one book, Poor Folk, and was far from being a literary celebrity. While living in the hell of the gulag, Fyodor treasured a slim volume given him by a devout woman who had met him on his way to the prison camp. It was the New Testament, and Fyodor kept it with him throughout his imprisonment, reading it daily and often sharing what he had read with his fellow prisoners, using it in fact to teach some of them how to read.

Ask most people what they know about Fyodor Dostoevsky’s writings and they will likely tell you he was an existentialist writer, the inference being that he viewed life as meaningless. They do not know the story of his Christian faith. Later in life, established and well-respected, he penned these words, which strike me as hearkening back to the dark days of his gulag experience: “If someone proved to me that Christ is outside the truth and that in reality the truth is outside of Christ, then I should prefer to remain with Christ rather than with the truth.”

Ahh, my brother, Fyodor. I hear you. Where else, indeed, would you go?

I need to put my finger on something – namely, that doubt is not necessarily a sin. Let’s be honest: sometimes doubt is just part of being human. After all, how clearly do we see, or understand, anything this side of heaven? Do we not “see through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12)?

Personally, I have come to believe that it is possible to simultaneously carry doubt in one’s mind while cherishing belief in one’s heart. Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician and theologian, put it this way: “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of."

I wrote a poem some ten years ago. It’s called A Paean to God. I wrote it in the midst of despair. It was not written because I had all the answers. It was not written from a position of superiority. It was written from a place of desperation and grief; yet also written because I had seen enough to know that there is nothing more lovely, more noble, more desirable than following Jesus. For me, you see, he has the words of eternal life and I want nothing – or no one – more than him.


from a peon to his god
a paean of praise

God is mighty
God is great!
God is faithful
never late

today with questions still in hand
things he cannot understand
he plays the part
he sings to God

where it started
where it ends
stubborn faith
mysterious bend

God, he sings to you tonight
in the cold of human light
songs and praises even now
with battered soul
he prays somehow

it matters not you do not come
he does not seek your presence here
it is enough
that he can sing
and you can listen

to this tearful, torn lament
from a once and future penitent
who traces of his god has found
hints that he must be around

God is mighty
God is great!

a paean of praise
from a peon to his god
In They Were Christians (published by Baker Books), Cristóbal tells the remarkable stories of twelve individuals, well-known for their secular accomplishments, who also professed the Christian faith.

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Cristóbal Krusen is a filmmaker and author. He founded Messenger Films in 1988.

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