But I won't talk about any of that this time. Because one thing is sort of pressing on me most.
I've been talking with a friend lately about faith in general. In the back and forth I've realized one of the most important thing to do in my faith is to question. I do not mean that I must be constantly doubting my faith. But there are two, perhaps unspoken, myths about questioning that I'd like to clear up: The first myth is that we should be concerned about having doubts. Honestly, why are we afraid of or even forbidden to have doubts and questions? For some it is the fear, deep down, that if we ask too much we will shatter some thin veneer- that we will find out that what we believe is not really true. For others, it is the fear that doubting at all signifies a false faith. Maybe you are like me and really believe in God- so completely in Jesus and what He did- but a few places in the Bible make you want to scratch your head and say, "Really God?!? I don't get why you would do that." Or you believe in God, but feel like you can't see him in your life lately, or that he hasn't answered a longstanding prayer. We worry that if we voice those concerns-to God or others- that somehow we are letting God down- or that we couldn't even BE the Christian we claim to be if we let any doubts rise up.
So stop a second: why would we want to believe in something that we think is so fragile, so brittle, that it would fall apart at the first pebble of doubt we throw at it? When we search tirelessly for truth and pull up answers it certainly could lead a person to change their mind about what they believe- or perhaps those answers can lead us to a greater confidence in what we believe. Either way, how can the search for truth not be worth it? In the Bible God asks repeatedly for our faith- but He does not demand it mindlessly-thoughtlessly. Paul, who wrote so much of the New Testament, challenges readers to fully examine the implications of their beliefs in this specific scenario. He says,
"12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)
Obviously Paul is making a case for faith- a case for Christ's resurrection- but how does he do it? He puts himself mentally in a view he disagrees with- that Christ wasn't raised from the dead- and peels it apart, layer by layer, showing that the foundation of what we believe has to be tested or the whole thing falls apart. At the end of the day he says, essentially, "You have to really think about what we are believing here and be confident in it- it's no small matter- if we are wrong we are wasting our lives."
Also, forget the notion that "good Christians" don't doubt. Peter, the disciple who was the "rock" on which Jesus ultimately said he'd build his church, was also the one who tried to walk on water with Jesus and began to drown because he doubted. And, as comedian Mark Lowry puts it, if you read some of what David wrote in the Psalms you'd "think he needed Prozac". One minute he is confessing his profound, sincere, deep faith and love towards God, another he is pouring out his heartache- his disillusionment with God's timing or lack of aid. And God calls David "a man after my own heart;" (Acts 13:22). Then there's Job- which is like a whole book of the Bible devoted to a man questioning God.
I think the one passage that most helps me when I feel vulnerable in my questioning is this story about a man who comes to Jesus to heal his son who is demon possessed. He says to Jesus,
"22...But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24)
It has been my prayer on so many occasions- "I believe, just help me with my unbelief." Jesus does, in fact, heal his son. And I believe he knows the man's heart and sees the work in progress- the wrestling- the searching. He did not come to condemn that man, or any of us.
The second myth to clear up is that some people among us (mere mortals) have all the right answers and shouldn't be questioned. False. So absolutely, incredibly false I wish I could stand up right now and scream it loud through a megaphone at midnight to wake everyone up. Do you want to know something crazy? Not everything you believe is right. Not everything I believe is right. Not everything your college professor says is right. Not everything your mailman or neighbor or barista says is right. Not everything your preacher, pastor, Bible study author or worship leader says is right. I think there is an unbelievable danger in assuming that anything a person with "spiritual authority" says is correct 100% of the time. Again, God wants us to respect people, to learn with humility and grace, but never to listen without His Spirit, without a discerning ear. Take this passage- one I've come to appreciate personally:
"19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good,22 reject every kind of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22)
So the word used here is "prophecies" and I feel that can apply to our modern day preaching/ teaching of Scripture from a pulpit or stage, or even to statements made in more casual situations. There is this sense that we are always listening- never shutting someone out before they speak because we heard one sentence we didn't like. But we are also always testing- probing- questioning even- all that is said to make sure it holds up. If it does, embrace it- if not, get rid of it.
And that's my final point. We all seem to believe we are right and must lead others to our thinking, and sometimes that is what we need to do. But we also have to consider that we are all growing- all maturing as it were- all in process. And we have to leave room for the Spirit to work- for God to make clear. And it is OK if ten years from now I don't believe just the same things I do today because I was humble enough to question assumptions and allow myself to be changed. In fact- it is more than OK, it is my hope.