I wonder if you’ve ever been told NOT to question God?
I have. It’s disrespectful, irreverent, and overly-familiar, apparently. Questioning God shows a lack of faith and fear of the Lord. I mean, God is GOD, and who are we, as mere mortals, to interrogate him?
Verses such as Romans 9:20 are quoted to support this argument: “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”
In my early years as a Christian, I wouldn’t question God. Even questioning pastors was frowned upon. I mean, “touch not the Lord’s anointed,” right?
My Quest to Question
Because asking questions of God and faith has been frowned upon, those who have dared to have not been treated well. I have experienced this first-hand over the past two decades as I have started investigating aspects of my faith.
To be clear, I do not question the existence of God. Neither do I find difficulty believing in who Jesus is or what he achieved through his life, death, and resurrection. I believe Jesus is alive and reconciling people to God.
In the early 2000s, I began struggling with God ordering his chosen people to commit acts of genocide. That was followed by investigating if the Bible teaches that God deliberately tortures people forever in hell. I read widely on these subjects and published some blogs and podcasts detailing the various views Christians have held on these matters over the centuries. What became clear was that there has existed more than one perspective on each topic for hundreds of years.
How We Treat Questioners
The challenge is that most Christians are only taught one interpretation of the various themes in Scripture and are ignorant that alternative understandings exist. So, when they hear that someone believes that hell is NOT forever (for example), they brand that person a heretic or not a genuine Christian or liberal or woke.
In a recent post, a Facebook friend stated it this way: “We have also turned on our own, bullying those who wrestle sincerely with these hard questions. Are the questions themselves too dangerous? Does asking them warrant accusations of heresy? Why are we so afraid? What if Christ is up to the challenge?” Great questions.
I have been called all sorts of names by Jesus-loving people who don’t seem to be bothered by cursing another believer with unkind words (James 3:9-10). I’m a heretic, a cockroach who should hurry back to my dark places, and I’ll be sorry on the day of judgement. I think not.
The Bible and Questions
Hebraically speaking, much of the Tanakh was written to address people’s genuine questions. Consider the ageless stories in Genesis that were no doubt told and retold around campfires in the ancient worlds to answer questions like:
Why do we have to work for a living?
Why is giving birth painful?
Why do people die?
How did we get a free will or become self-aware?
Asking questions and inquiring about your faith is a healthy practice that should be encouraged rather than criticised. If you don’t believe me check out the Psalms, in which there are over fifty questions like:
Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1).
Why have you forsaken me? (Psalm 22);
How long, Lord? Will you be angry forever? (Psalm 79).
How long will your wrath burn like fire? (Psalm 89)
The book of Job is full of questions. Jesus didn’t rebuke people for querying him, and Paul commended the Berean Synagogue Jews for investigating his claims against Scripture rather than gullibly accepting or rejecting his message.
It fascinates me that the Holy Spirit has inspired people to record hundreds of examples of people questioning their faith and their God in Scripture. Yet, we discourage people from doing the same and call them names when they have valid questions.
No Easy Answers
I encourage you to question God and your faith and resist trite or simplistic answers. Learn to wrestle with Scripture and live with the tension of sometimes just not knowing. The Bible and life are full of paradoxes, especially in the depth of suffering.
I believe it is helpful for all of us to move past sayings like, “pray about it, or just believe the Bible,” or my pet hate, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.” Some people quote that like it’s inspired Scripture, except it isn’t.
My faith has gone deeper during the times when I have grappled with doubts and difficulties. I look back over the past two decades and realise that my faith has deepened, I love God and Jesus more than ever, and I walk much more gently with people.
I’d encourage you to rest where you find yourself and be honest with yourself and God.
Rob Buckingham is the founding pastor of Bayside Church, a thriving faith community located in the Bayside suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.