Questions - by Jake Kampe
What does it mean to have questions about faith? Are questions a manifestation of unbelief, or simply ponderings of uncertain aspects of faith? Are questions a healthy part of our spiritual walk, or do they represent spiritual defects that need to be resolved?
Let’s be honest: from time to time, we all have questions about our faith. As we stumble and bump around this life, like clumsy toddlers learning to use their 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 just want give up. There are so many aspects about God that fall into the “unknown” category, so how can anyone with all honesty say that they have it 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. The typical Church culture has constructed an infrastructure that discourages questioning and subtly belittles those who do. And having 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 questions? St. Augustine revealed the nature of questioning faith in his Confessions. For him, the mere act of questioning was actually a portal into deeper faith and a closer relationship with God. In his experience, he saw questioning as an energy that moved him closer toward God. Learning to ask questions, as well as how to ask those questions, is reflected in much of his work. But one thing remains clear, St. Augustine saw questioning God and faith in general, as a natural and healthy form of spiritual discipline.
In Mark 9:13-30, Jesus heals a boy that was possessed by a demon. When his father asked Jesus to help him he says, "…if you can, take pity on us and help us," Jesus answers, "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’s request demonstrates that he understands some of what's going on with Jesus, but that some of it is also difficult for him to grasp. 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 the rejection of Jesus by the religious leaders caused him to doubt these claims. Maybe he was just afraid; afraid of letting go of tradition, religion and what he had been taught his entire life.
For me, questioning is liberating. It’s an open doorway leading to the revelation 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.
When we can honestly come to God, and stand naked before Him, admitting our uncertainties and questions, we are then ushered into a realm of teaching and wisdom that only comes through questioning. When we can say, without fear, “I believe! Help me with my unbelief!” we show God and the world that we are humble enough to be taught. We show that our faith is such a significant part of our life that we would rather look foolish and struggle a bit, rather than risk having a superficial spiritual life. Just as it was for Augustine and other Church Fathers, so questioning is simply part of our spiritual journey. Sometimes we take the wrong turn, but remain humble enough to ask for directions.
Jake Kampe a pastor of small groups living in League City, Texas and a graduate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Master of Arts in Christian Education. He is also a free-lance writer, currently working on his first book, Naked Theology: Daily Meditations on Christianity. He has been married to his wife, Kelly, for 18 years, and has three boys: Ian (13), Lucas (7) and Dexter the dog (5). You can contact Jake by visiting his blog at www.nakedtheologytalk.blogspot.com.