One of our most distinctive inheritances from the Jewish faith, though an often undervalued one, is the assumption that finding salvation in God does not mean “checking our brains in at the door” as one writer put it, and may even involve a robust argument with God. Think Abraham and Sodom; think Job; think some of the Psalms. And think this iconic passage from the beginning of Isaiah set as an Ash Wednesday reading:
Come now, let us argue it out,
says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be like snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
You might think it’s a bit unfair and one-sided of God to invite us into an argument. But I take it as empowering, and affirming (following my hero Grosseteste) that our intellect is not so corrupt that it can’t be both redeemed and a redeeming power for the rest of our being. A touch of Pelagianism? Perhaps. But as the great R W Southern saw it, his was a distinctively English mind.
So during Lent, don’t – I suggest – think it’s all about turning off your head and getting all soulful: use your God-given intellect to be honest with God and even argue out the challenges of life and faith with him.