A Climber’s Perspective on Faith

“A man does not climb a mountain without bringing some of it away with him and leaving something of himself upon it.”
-Martin Conway

I thoroughly enjoy rock climbing. Although when people ask me why, it is difficult for me to find the words to adequately explain what it is about it that I love so much. Because, at the end of the day, rock climbing is just as it sounds. You are literally climbing rock. Why is that so thrilling? I’m still not entirely sure, but I think it has more to do with the individuals who climb than it has to do with the rock itself.

Each rock climbing experience is as unique as the individual climbing. I think that’s what makes rock climbing such a distinctive sport. There’s this sense about it that everyone can do it if they want to badly enough. I’ll admit, the fact that you’re not inhibited by stature as you are in some sports is what initially drew me in, but it was the adrenaline that kept me. You can never truly plateau in your abilities because there’s always more to be learned and discovered. It engages your whole body, mentally and physically, and keeps you engaged throughout the entirety of a climb. I enjoy other sports, but the fact that you’re fully invested throughout the duration of a climb sets it apart from other sports. At a soccer game, for instance, there is only one soccer ball for two teams. You may find yourself waiting for the ball during lulls in the game. In climbing, you’re never left standing on a field waiting for the ball to come to you, you are the focal point of the game instead. You are the only player that matters. What you do will make or break the climb. There is of course the element of danger that comes with the sport, but I’ve found that nearly everything I love to do most incorporates some aspect of danger.

But the best part of all is that the rock is unforgiving. It is unyielding to you and your peevish desires for handholds or footholds where there are none. This results in a marriage of sorts between the person climbing and the climb on the rock itself – a dance inevitably ensues between the climber and that which is being climbed. The mountain always leads. However, though the steps are carefully dictated by the mountain, they are not necessarily performed the same way by those who follow the dance to the summit. There is of course technique to climbing, but it’s up to the climber’s discretion when and how to apply it. And a movement that one climber uses to pass the crux of a climb may not be possible for the climber who follows. And this is where the beauty that is rock climbing results. The same climb might be completed a hundred different ways. And there is something so lovely about the notion that the same journey can be travelled differently to the same destination. The rock itself doesn’t change, nor does the rating of difficulty on the Yosemite Decimal System. But when the person making the climb changes, the journey to completion changes with them.

I don’t understand why this same concept seems to be so difficult to grasp in the Christian realm. To me, it seems not only obvious, but inevitable that different people with different backgrounds and cultures are going to come to different conclusions as they read and study the Bible. Please don’t misunderstand me. There are some undeniable universal truths revealed in Scripture that every Christian needs to know and understand in order to be “able to give a reason for the hope that we have,” (1 Peter 3:15), such as the gospel and who Jesus Christ was and is to us. I’m not making this statement with to devalue proper Theology or hermeneutics or the faithful study of the Word. Both are necessary if we are to understand Who, why, and what we believe. I think that based on Scripture, people should conclude things in their own mind as to why they are (or are not) convicted to abide by certain standards in their life and/or make certain decisions. In fact, I think it’s an extremely necessary thing for Christians to do, or else we will become very unstable and infuriatingly indecisive. My point is this. Having a bigoted, unyielding, self-righteous attitude in regards to your convictions in the grey areas of Scripture does nothing more than make you a modern day Pharisee.

Commands and principles in Scripture are not one in the same. Neither are orthodoxy and methodology. Don’t equate these things as if they are. We are commanded to live as “wise as serpents and as innocently as doves” (Matthew 10:16), which paraphrased simply means God intends for us to live skillfully. Living skillfully means applying the principles found in God’s Word and applying them to those things which are not specifically addressed in the Bible. We are accountable for what we know. However, we must allow for diversity in how the principles translate into convictions and ultimately programs. I may be wrong, but I don’t think it was ever God’s intention for Christians to use their convictions to spank other Christians. “I’m right, and you’re wrong, so in the spirit of false humility I’m going approach you and bring you down so that I can be elevated.”

Did it ever occur to anyone else that perhaps, perhaps, this is one of Satan’s most effective tools in his arsenal? He’s already lost the battle for a Christian’s soul, but he can still try to make a Christian impotent on the world around them.

Hey whatever. You’re right. It is obviously more important that you spend your days attacking your Christian brother or sister and causing splintering devisions than it it for you to be a living example of Christ’s love to a world that desperately needs it. Does anyone else see how faulty this viewpoint is? Can I get an amen?

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t confront your Christian brother or sister if you see a sin in their life that needs to be dealt with. Confrontation, for the right reasons and with the right motivation, is Biblical. Again, I’m talking strictly the grey areas of Scripture – such as how you choose to educate your children. Christians, I entreat you – please stop making mountains out of molehills. Please stop making the menial, temporary things your focal point and your hill to die on. Please stop writing all differences off as negative. If God wanted robots who shared the same mind and drew all the same conclusions, that’s what He would’ve created. As it is, that’s not what He wanted. You and I are living proof of that.

Though we all might by following the same climbing route to the same destination, different techniques will be employed to get there. And that’s more than okay. Embrace the journey, and appreciate the different ways in which people choose to make it.* Explore. Experience. Exist. Just don’t lose sight of Who you’re living for.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, because what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:18

* In regards to salvation, there is only one way to be saved, and it does not vary from person to person. It cannot be earned. A person can be saved by faith alone in Christ alone (see Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:23, 6:23,10:9-10; and John 3:16 for further reading on this topic.) This blog post was intended to specifically address those who have already accepted this free gift of salvation and are now figuring out what it means to live a Christian life i.e. a life to glorify God.

2 thoughts on “A Climber’s Perspective on Faith

  1. Nice discussion of the pluralism inherent in climbing!

    Regarding the theological stuff, I guess the question is: How does one draw a clear line of distinction between grey areas and areas that aren’t grey? How does one differentiate between mountains and molehills? Under the banner of Christianity are a multitude of mutually-exclusive interpretations — each held to by people who are very certain that their view is firmly rooted in scripture and endorsed by the Holy Spirit. The faith-alone doctrine itself is not something that’s universally excepted thanks, in large part, to remarks made in the book of James. (Luther wanted James expelled from the canon for this reason.)

    To borrow some cheese from Pink Floyd: Maybe there is no grey side of scripture, maybe it’s all grey — or dark.

  2. This is perfectly written! I love the way that climbing is so applicable to the rest of our lives, and how beautiful it is without really making sense. It’s just rocks, but it’s so much more, and it’s so great for me to see how other people are finding correlation between climbing and faith. LOVE LOVE LOVE.

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