Many of us wrestle with doubts about our beliefs, possess significant questions about God, and have skepticism regarding the Christian faith. However, some are uncomfortable speaking openly about such things in the Church, much less with his or her pastor. This unease is often rooted in the opinion that questions and doubts reflect a lack of faith.
But what if that’s not true?
What if doubts, questions and skepticism is actually a display of deep faith? We need look no further than the Psalms to see the how faithful people screamed their doubt at God. In fact, they go beyond doubt and accuse God of abandoning them, being deaf, not caring about their desperate situation and allowing evil to triumph (to see what I mean look at Psalm 10, 13, 22, 89, 94 … just to name a few of them).
Asking Tough Questions
What we learn from the psalmists is asking tough questions can propel us forward in our understanding. Doubt forces us to rethink easy answers and, in doing so, often leads to new territory and a more robust faith.
When we look at the life of Jesus, we observe how comfortable He was with questions. Not only did He ask questions, but He rarely responded to questions asked of Him with a straightforward, concise, concrete answer.
In Luke 10, a religious person asks Jesus a straightforward question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded to this simple question with another question, which led to another question and eventually to one of the most famous stories Jesus ever told. We call that story “The Good Samaritan.”
And how does the story about the Good Samaritan end? With a question of course.
This is just one of many examples of someone asking Jesus a question, and Him responding with stories or more questions. Jesus was a guide, not an “answer man.” And by responding to a question with more questions, He forced people to look within themselves. In doing this, He invited them to go deeper than they would have with an easy answer.
Avoiding Easy Answers
Jesus knew we often want answers so we can rest easy. We feel uncomfortable when doubt swells in our mind and don’t know what to do with uncertainty. We want to move beyond it as quickly as possible, find security and resume life as usual. Jesus, however, was never about life as usual.
He constantly upset the accepted boundaries, pushed against commonly held religious beliefs and defied collective thinking about God and the Bible. In fact, Jesus seemed to at times stoke doubt, ultimately allowing old ways of thinking to break away to new understandings of God. His teaching led others to further discussion and … questions.
Perhaps it is time to jettison the idea that questions, doubts and skepticism are a bad thing. We need to deepen our faith by making these questions known–especially in our churches and with our pastors. So, what questions should you ask your pastors?
There is no way to list all the questions we have, but there are some helpful things to think about as we begin to ask these questions.
Questioning Our Pastors
Chances are good, if you ask your pastor “what” he or she believes, you will get an answer. But you will also miss an opportunity. Don’t just look for an answer; ask for guidance. Ask your pastor how he or she thinks about a particular issue.
How has she dealt with questions about theology her own life? How has he personally navigated doubts about God? How has she handled skepticism about the Bible? Remember, there is a reason your pastor believes the way he or she does. If you ask these questions, you can learn more about dealing with your questions and doubts.
As a pastor, my faith has grown, wilted, been reshaped and expanded over the years. If someone simply asks me “what” I believe they could find an answer.
What they would miss however, is “how” I came to believe those things.
The best answers are not always found in the certainty of any particular destination. They are often found in the struggle, the questions, the doubts and the journey of faith. This teaches us that guidance is far better than an answer. Learning to navigate the tricky terrain of faith will lead us to see and understand more.
If you are a pastor, do not rush to offer your opinion or belief. When we do this we only end up defending our beliefs, which shuts down conversation. Rather, be a guide. Dispensing information no longer holds the power it once did. Information is free and available everywhere. The Internet has given us the ability to find any information we want.
If we don’t know something, we pull out our phone and search the web. In less than two seconds we have more search results than we could ever hope to sift through.
What we don’t need is more information. Rather, we need good information that helps us assess and interact with what currently exists. We need to learn how to think critically.
Opportunities to Grow
In the midst of our questions, doubts and skepticism, we ought to pray for discernment and enter conversations with one another to further our faith. Too often, we stop short, only wanting to know who is right and who is wrong. We fail to see there is much more at stake than being right or wrong. In these moments of questioning, we have an opportunity to grow.
There are thousands of questions we should ask our pastors and teachers, but the most important thing for us is how we approach our pastors with our questions. Because with each question asked we have a chance to enrich our faith, even if they are rooted in doubt, disillusionment or skepticism. These are the types of questions we should be asking, because these are parts of each Christian’s journey.
For my brothers and sisters who are pastors, when questions come, may we see that we have the joy and opportunity to journey with others as guides, rather than getting them to a destination of easy answers as quickly as possible.
If we keep things in mind, it’s possible that as we wrestle with doubts, questions and skepticism we will discover a deeper, more robust faith than ever.