Friday, March 12, 2010

Asking Questions

Lately, I've been getting into some discussions regarding questions about the Christian faith. What I've seen is that a large number of these questions stem from one thing: doubts or a lack of faith. I'll admit, my first reaction to some of these conversations has been frustration, but after meditating on some of the underlying motives, my heart began to soften a little. I began to see that maybe my frustrations were only a natural defense mechanism for my own questions of faith. I know what your thinking, and before you make a decision about my underlying motives for this blog, please indulge me for a cyberspace minute or two. I think you'll see where I'm going with this and maybe even come along for the ride. If not, no worries because I'm paying for the gas, and it's my vehicle.

From time to time, we all have questions about our faith. As we stumble and bump around this life, like a clumsy toddler learning to use his legs, we inevitably bump into things that just don't make sense. We wonder. We question. We wrestle with our thoughts. We get frustrated and many times, we give up. There is so much about God that falls into the unknown, so how can anyone with all honesty say that they have it all figured out? If they do, they either suffer from a slightly swollen ego, or they've been conditioned to believe that questioning God is just a step away from being a heretic. Our Church culture has built a structure that discourages questioning and subtly belittles those who do. And doubts or even unbelief? Forget it! Full out rejection!

But is it OK to question our faith? Is it a natural part of our spiritual walk? Are doubts and fears about our faith acceptable, or are they manifestations of unbelief. Is it possible to believe, but still struggle with unbelief? St. Augustine revealed the nature of questioning faith in Confessions. For him, the mere act of questioning was actually a portal into a deeper faith and a closer relationship with God. In his experience, he saw questioning as an energy that moved him toward God. Learning to ask questions, and how to ask questions is reflected in much of his work. But one thing remains clear, Augustine saw questioning of God and faith in general, as a natural and healthy form of spiritual discipline.

In Mark 9:13-30, Jesus heals a boy that is possessed by a demon. When his father asks Jesus to help them he says, "But if you can, take pity on us and help us." Jesus responds, "If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes." The boy's father responds, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" Jesus then cast the demon out of the boy. There were no preconditions on the man's faith, and there was no chastisement for his lack of belief. The man proclaims that he understands some of what's going on with Jesus, but some of it is also difficult. Perhaps this man had seen and heard of the miracles Jesus had preformed. Maybe he had heard murmurings that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, but His rejection by the religious leaders caused him to doubt these claims. Maybe he was afraid. Afraid of letting go of tradition and what he had been taught his entire life.

For me, questioning is liberating. It is a doorway that reveals to me that I serve a God that is big enough to handle the tough questions that I have about Him. But the interesting thing about questioning, is that it actually moves me toward a deeper faith and knowledge that I lacked to begin with. I think that if we remain in unbelief and stubbornly ignore our doubts, we end up with a shallow faith that is actually more dangerous than questioning.

Don't get me wrong. I do believe, I just need help with my unbelief.