Where did we ever get the idea that Christians shouldn’t ask questions about their faith?
Not from Jesus. Dozens of times (80 by one count) in the Bible, people ask Jesus questions. He never rebukes the questioner; in fact each query is an opportunity to teach. We should be grateful to the folks who had the guts to ask Jesus questions like these:
- Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?
- What must we do to do the works God requires?
- How many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?
- Who then can be saved?
- Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?
- And one for this time of year: Is it right to pay taxes?
But somewhere in the last 2000 years, the power and authority of the church began to be threatened by questions. Questioners were admonished, shunned, or, at darker times in the history of the church, tortured and killed.
We may not be putting inquirers on the rack or burning their entrails anymore, but our spoken and unspoken attitudes toward questions are driving people away.
A few weeks ago, writer Rachel Held Evans posted a list of “Fifteen Reasons I left the Church.” It’s an excellent and thought-provoking list which should lead churches to examine, if not their overt practices, the impression they give especially to those on the “outside.” Two of her reasons have to do with the church’s attitude toward questions:
- I left the church because my questions were seen as liabilities.
- I left the church because sometimes I doubt, and the church can be the worst place to doubt.
As “The Unexpected Pastor,” I am grateful that when I returned to church after my time away, I felt welcome to ask lots of questions. And I did. I never would have returned to church, and certainly never become a pastor, without the openness to inquiry I was fortunate to experience. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in many churches.
I’m still asking lots of questions. A faith that is unchallenged is a faith that never grows. Do we really worry whether the Bible – if God! – can stand up to our questions?
I hope as a pastor I’m encouraging believers and unChristians alike to do what Paul writes in I Thessalonians 5:21: “Test everything.”
This week at my church, we’re starting an evening Bible study based on questions submitted by the congregation. The next couple of Sunday sermons will also deal with the most popular questions. I’ve gotten some GREAT questions . . . it’s going to be a challenging Bible Study and sermon series to plan. But, I’m sure it’s going to be a faith-growing experience for those who attend and for the teacher (that would be me).
Do you have questions? What do you wonder about the Bible, or about God, or about the church? It would be fun to bat around some questions on this blog. You can post questions on the comments below or use the “Contact” button above.
UPDATE: On Friday I wrote about how a a missionary named Dan in Vienna had planted some seeds of faith back when I was an unChristian. That was 27 years ago, but after I wrote that post I wondered if it would be possible to locate Dan. I didn’t know his last name, but I knew he had been a missionary to Yugoslavia and I thought I remembered his home state. That information was enough to find him via the wonders of Google. I have since corresponded with him, letting him know the part he eventually played in my return to faith and ultimately becoming an Unexpected Pastor. He is still ministering in the former Yugoslavia . . . keep him in your prayers if you’re so inclined. Sometimes technology can help do very cool things.
I know God answers our prayers. Many of my prayers have been answered, although, often in very dramatic and unexpected ways. As I reflect, I am reminded that in the past my truly heartfelt prayers have been answered and I’ve always been given the strength and support to get through the difficulties of life. I have faith and that is not wavering. I trust that in the end I’ll understand what I once questioned and I will be happy living with our father in heaven. In the mean time, how do we maintain that happiness on Earth? Now that I’m going through a particularly trying time in life, the question I have been asking most often is “What if God doesn’t want what I am asking for?” “How do I know this is the case and how do I accept it if it is?”
Thanks for sharing your concerns and questions, Ruth. I will definitely be blogging on these things in the future . . . and of course dealing with them in Bible Study. Thanks for the thought- and faith-provoking reply!
I ask God lately often why Rudi is a good man he always was there to help anybody he is the best husband and father . So why dos he has to go thru to in his late life and forget so much . The one thing that is good for him and I say thank you every night he is happy and I thank God for that . I questen God but I know he knows the why but sometimes I am angry . Bible study and Church help me a lot I always feel lighter when I come home and not so alone .