I came across an intriguing book on Amazon.com this morning, What Bothers Me Most about Christianity: Honest Reflections from an Open-Minded Christ Follower by Ed Gungor. Here's a particularly thought-provoking excerpt:
We may not like it, but the nature of faith makes it an untidy enterprise. It demands persistence in the face of uncertainty. Real faith has doubt in the mix, as the coin has two sides.
This makes many Christ followers nervous. They view qualms and questions as evidence of a lack of faith and insist, “Jesus is the answer!” But what if Jesus isn't the answer? What if he is the question? What if we aren't supposed to have all the answers? Could it be that in the discomfort of unanswered questions we are forced to face our own pride and admit we only “know in part”? Is it possible that questions cause us to face the choice to believe or not to believe?
There is a great story in the life of Jesus where he asked a man if he had faith. The man responded, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Notice that it is possible to believe and still be wrestling with “unbelief.” Just because you have misgivings does not mean you do not have faith. The guy in the Jesus story asked that his doubt be “overcome” so that it would not be the prevailing force in his life.
I believe God wants people of faith to question, to be bothered, to seek for tenable answers, to consider the “What if it's true?” juxtaposed against the “What if it's not true?” Faith is not the result of quelling doubt but the result of a choice after one has earnestly sought to understand. It is a venture of human consideration and divine illumination. It's hard, sometimes painful, often disorienting, and always messy - certainly not a cheery, no-conflict, refreshingly bubbly, perpetually happy place. Only in a world where faith is difficult can faith exist.
If this is a true description of faith, then faith is more like an intense mud-wrestling contest than anything else. Our role is to stay in the ring, even though we don't see God all that clearly and even though it would be easier to quit than to stay in the fray. When we hang in there, fighting through uncertainty and doubt, we are living by faith.
When I look at the Bible and Christian faith, I am left with some formidable, disturbing questions. And I don't have the answers. I may never have them this side of eternity. I hate that, but it is what it is. In spite of what bothers me about faith, I choose to be a God follower, and because I am, he meets me where I am, despite my questions. And that is worth it all!
I read a quote from notable scholar and author Dallas Willard that captures the why behind my decision to forever follow Jesus: “The issue is, what do we want? The Bible says that if you seek God with all your heart, then you will surely find him. Surely find him. It's the person who wants to know God that God reveals himself to. And if a person doesn't want to know God - well, God has created the world and the human mind in such a way that he doesn't have to.”
I have found him. And I don't want out.
- Ed Gungor, What Bothers Me Most about Christianity: Honest Reflections from an Open-Minded Christ Follower, pp. 217-219.
Live free! Live in Daddy's affectionate love!