There is an unfortunate culture in Christianity – an unspoken, unaddressed norm – that basically says, ‘Good Christians don’t ask questions when culture rubs against their worldview; questions are doubt, and Christians can’t doubt. Hold it together. Stop questioning. Stop doubting.’
But we’ve got it all wrong. A fundamental property of Christianity, of following Jesus, is having questions, having doubt. And working through it.
Just as it takes mistakes and questions to master a concept in school, mistakes and questions help one become firm in their faith.
That’s the way our brain works. Ask questions. Make mistakes. Grow dendrites. Learn. I’m sure God wouldn’t have different prerequisites for neurons becoming fluent in faith than becoming fluent in biomechanics.
I’m convinced that if someone who claims Christian-ship says they have never doubted or questioned anything, they don’t actually know who Jesus is, or they are holding on to a deep-seeded family tradition. One without questions does not have a dynamic, transformative relationship with Jesus.
Faith without doubt is tradition.
Whereas faith beyond doubt is a pillar of strength in a changeable world.
With religion, people automatically adopt a posture of defensiveness. They need to be right. Their worldview needs to be right. The debate, whether spoken or not, is always which religion or faith is actually truth. Get a Buddhist, Muslim, Protestant Mennonite, atheist and Taoist together in the same room and this propensity to defend their beliefs is what they would feel in every conversation. Even if they don’t speak it.
But how the conversation would change if the Protestant Mennonite said, “Look, guys, Jesus seems to be charismatic and full of a lot of truth, but I’m not really sure how his words relate to LGBTQ+ culture today. What do you think?” It would shift to a togetherness to understand each other and find immoveable, unshiftable Truth.
Defending faith augments division and bequeaths conflict. Vulnerably expressing doubts dissolves conflict and opens conversation.
A Christian can’t know everything. So talk about it. See where Jesus shows up.
Rachel Held Evans in her book, Inspired, made the point that the bible was written for a Hebrew audience who valued debate and discussion. Meetings and meals would consist of talking about a question that a particular piece of the bible invoked. Together they would chew through theology and what had been written before, what tradition says, what they knew to be true. Maybe they would come to a conclusion. Maybe they wouldn’t. But after the conversation they would be closer as a community and have a little deeper understanding of their God. The bible opens up conversation, not closes it.
God is a knowable, but fully un-understandable God. His son, Jesus, is a divinely human mystery. How can you begin to fathom all that being a Christian entails, even after a lifetime of searching?
Each new conflict and human experience is a point of doubt. Even turning on the tv or walking into a mall invokes doubt. It’s a clash of worldviews.
Popular culture has a very loud voice. Perhaps we can be happy seeking our best life rather than submitting to an authoritative divinity. Perhaps God is irrelevant. And perhaps, if he even exists at all, he doesn’t care about my small little life.
But he does. And that is the mystery. That is the message. That is the gift.
Christians do not have it all together. We don’t have all the answers. We need to stop pretending that we do.
Following Jesus is committing a lifetime to doubting. It’s part of the deal of migrating the opposite way of popular culture.
Accept doubt. Doubt is beautiful. It means you are actually convinced of a better reality and an ultimate Good, but don’t currently see it in front of your face.
Doubt removes the mask of perfection we think we need to wear.
Doubt invites others into your life.
Doubt leaves space for Jesus.
Doubt isn’t to ‘stumble’ or be failing Jesus somehow.
Doubt is voicing all the spaces in our life where Jesus isn’t a reality and inviting him to show himself as real. He does every time.
And he will show you the scars on his hands and the depth of his heart unceasingly until your doubt is quiet enough to see a little more of the mystery unraveled.