How many questions may a Christian ask?
Are bible stories true? How can we continue to believe in God with everything that's going on? Will Christianity survive? If God is in heaven, where is heaven? Why do some children have to suffer so much? What is the Christian responsibility towards the environment?
These were just a few of the dozen or so questions I received when asking for the faith questions that people wrestle with today. The people I asked were those who are in church on a regular basis, who form our congregation and attend Sunday worship when they can. They were not people who have left church, nor were they people who never darken the doors of a sanctuary except for a wedding or funeral.
They are the Faithful Ones. And faithful people are people who are aware and awake.
They are not blind to the lack of youth in our pews and the absence of Christian books on shelves of Chapters, Indigo & Co. They are not deaf to the developments in society or politics or science. They are not dumb to the rise of hate speech, environmental destruction and human rights infractions.
That is the good thing. I gave answers to the best of my ability on consecutive Sunday mornings (some of the sermons are posted on the website). Many people shared their excitement with me – excitement over the openness with which these questions were addressed and taken seriously. Excitement over what many perceived to be unconventional and helpful answers. Some even said we should have this every Sunday. We could have more discussion of that sort.
Yet others began mumbling. I am not exactly sure what the mumbling refers to, as none bothered to speak to me directly about what I supposedly said or what they missed and what I did not say. But you can feel it, and hear the discontent through the grape wine.
So I ask:
What is the role of questioning in faith?
I've always felt strongly that what makes me a Christian is my attachment to Jesus, the Christ, combined with a willingness to always learn from him. It's not my performance level in neighbourly aid, it's not my blameless lifestyle (and who could claim that anyway?!), it's not how well I speak about Jesus in public and it's not about on how many church boards I serve. It's a relationship thing.
Do you love (honour, respect) Jesus? Do you feel like an unfinished human being and seek to further learn from Him? Do you seek the wonder of “God” not only in nature but also in the words of the so called “Old and New Testament?” and women and men teaching their understanding of the faith throughout the centuries?
That sort, in my humble opinion, is a pretty close match to who Jesus' first disciples are portrayed to have been:
They were full of questions. They lacked understanding but tried to make meaning from the interpretation of the holy scriptures they knew. They lacked exceptional moral qualities - like courage or generosity. They were ordinary in every way, except that they were ready to leave a lot behind and follow Jesus. Except for their willingness to go with Him, to stay with Him, to ask Him more questions, to try to live the life He drew them to, and to bear with one another (of course, that was also a challenge quite often).
Profound questions surely do not make one a bad Christian. In fact, given the call “Sleepers wake!” (Ephesians 5:14) one might wonder what those who do not ask questions have been doing for so long.
Our answers to faith questions will and can never all be the same. They never were the same either. When you study the New Testament you can see the questing and the different answers written all over it.
For God's sake, and for the church's sake and for our current world's sake – we ask the questions, sit with answers...and engage in respectful dialogue.