If you just read that title and now fear for my eternal salvation, don’t worry. I am actually a Christian. I haven’t lost my faith and I’m not leading people by lying to them. What I mean is that while I’m clear on the non-negotiables, there are loads of things I just don’t get about my God: who He is, how He works, why things are the way they are in this world.
As a so-called ‘mature Christian’ there is so much I don’t get.
As a theology masters graduate – that’s a story of grace and divine humour for another time – an apparent Bible ‘expert’ by most people’s sliding scale, there is so much I don’t get.
As a young leader of an evangelical, Bible-believing church, there is so much I don’t get.
And I’m glad… Because this at least means I’m asking some honest questions and really wrestling with them. And the reason I can do that is that I’m no longer scared when all they lead to is more unanswered questions.
This argument is nothing new and I can’t remember who said it first, but it’s so true that if God exists we should expect not to understand Him. If we could, it would serve only to suggest that we’d created Him. Today, I take comfort in the fact that I can’t get my head around the almighty creator and sustainer of everything. I don’t think it’s a cop-out to cry out like Paul in Romans 11:
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgements, and His paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?”
That this would be our conclusion makes absolute, rational sense.
When we grasp this, it frees us up to face our doubts and be OK with wherever the search for answers lands us.
I think it’s all too easy to grow up as a Christian, encounter Jesus emotionally and shy away from any of the arguments levelled against us. I think it’s all too common for Christians to run and hide from our doubts about God. To some extent, that is OK – I understand that people are wired up differently and some are always going to be more ‘feelers’ than ‘thinkers’. But on some level there’s no excuse. If our faith is worth holding onto at all, it will stand up to the scrutiny. If we’re not even willing to ask our own honest questions, we remain naive, clueless Christians in a sceptical, searching world – and that doesn’t do anyone any favours.
What’s more, we deny ourselves the chance to move forwards. In a roundabout way, doubt is actually a sign of maturity. To face it demands that we wrestle with reality and ensures that we move beyond brainless naivety. The irony is that when we do, we often come out the other side more sure of that which we questioned. Either that or we learn to live with the unanswerable matters, and surely this too is a necessary part of having a real and functioning faith?
Tonight I’m hosting an event at my church called Tricky Topics Night. I’ve got a whole bunch of questions from my congregants and I’ll be putting them to a panel, which includes myself, to offer 90-second answers that will no doubt lead to more questions. Part of me is terrified of what they’ll ask me and concerned that people might just leave in a cloud of confusion. But what would be even worse is never to address these tricky topics at all; never to gently push my people to actually think their faith through. Doubt isn’t something to be scared of- it’s a chance for faith to be fleshed out. Every doubt I’ve ever had about God has ultimately led me to a firmer faith in Him.
So today I encourage you not to run from your doubts. The process of asking honest questions usually leads to more questions than answers. In many ways the more we learn, the less we understand. And yet, this process ultimately leads to a place where the faith we do have is way more credible than unquestioning Christianity could ever be.
And when the answers is still: “I don’t get God”, even then we can be glad.