The questioning church

This is a piece that was published in the magazine that is distributed to churches in my local area.

 

I love questions. When I get into a topic I’m passionate about they seem to flow almost endlessly. I feel part of my calling is to help others with their questions and I’m very passionate about that too. It’s why I set up my website to help with these questions, but more on that in a bit. There’s no such thing as a stupid question or one that is off limits to me. What I’m finding though is that people think there are limits or impose limits or the question or how far you can push the question. In virtually every instance it’s been to do with the Bible.

I don’t know a single Christian who doesn’t take the Bible seriously, but we don’t all treat it the same. A common stock answer is “well the Bible says……?” to pretty much any question. That’s great, if the question is “what does the Bible say about….?” But often the questions are to do with making sense of what the Bible says, telling me what it says doesn’t answer the question of “what do I do with this?” or “what does it mean?” It’s at this point though, when barriers start being formed and hit. If you continue to ask questions after being told what the Bible says, then it’s deemed that you don’t trust the Bible. Elizabeth Prata went as far as saying;

“To continue to ask questions about a subject once you have learned what the bible says on it is blasphemy because by then you’re not genuinely wondering about your understanding of the topic, you are directly questioning God.” [1]

If you want to find the quickest way to turn people away from church, use the above line. There may be people who simply don’t want to question things (which is another issue in itself) but suggesting Christians are being blasphemous because they ask questions is likely to stifle people’s faith or worse. We want to avoid blasphemy so people think it’s best to stay quiet. If you have unanswered questions and you simply remain quiet, those unanswered will continue to burrow under your faith until it eventually collapses.  I think Galileo nailed it when he said “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use” but Jesus beat him to it. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Matthew 22:37).  In other words, love God with everything you have. Confidence comes from knowledge. When you dedicate yourself to learning a subject, you feel confident to answer any question and it should be the same with our faith. The more you learn, the more your mind is renewed (see Romans 12:2)

I think churches need to develop a culture of being much more open to questions, encouraging questions, being more able to answer questions and not limiting the questions to the ones they’ve predetermined to be acceptable (people have been expelled from churches for asking the wrong questions) Atheists are not slow in raising questions, we need to be ready to answer them. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15) Faith is not believing just because you want it to be true. That’s blind faith and no where is that advocated by Jesus or anywhere in the Bible.

If you’re struggling with an issue or topic, then it’s worth talking about and wrestling with. Don’t worry though if you come to a different conclusion than other people. If you get challenged, be prepared to give an answer (that passage doesn’t just apply to defending against atheists) but if you have a different view, so be it. If you come across someone with a different view, don’t assume it’s because they’ve not prayed enough or just caving in to be popular. It’s massively unhelpful and just plain wrong. Many people’s journeys have been painful and they’ve got scars along the way, but they have been wrestling with scripture and praying; they’ve just come to a different conclusion.

If you have questions, grab your pastor or vicar and ask them (actually grabbing them is optional) If a few of you have questions, have a house group and wrestle through the questions, invite someone to come and join in with you if you need a starting point (that’s me volunteering). If you run a youth group or are involved in youth, encourage them to ask questions, engage in answering questions, engage in the big issues. This is part of what we are called to do.

References

[1] http://the-end-time.blogspot.ca/2013/07/rachel-held-evans-asks-what-if-my-son.html?

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