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God’s call to Question.

November 16, 2009

I did a talk last Spring at the Central Ohio’s Skpetic conference about how God calls us to doubt and to be skeptical. Needless to say, it was a hot topic at the conference. So, I thought I would share some of it here.

Most people view Christians in America as being willifully dumb. While I would argue there are more thoughtful Christians than people realize, I understand the point of view. The loudest Christians in America seem to be the dumbest. What’s even worse about that is they think the Bible sanctions their willful stupidity.

It doesn’t.

Contrary to popular opinion, God calls us to question everything. If you don’t believe me, allow me to give you a quick biblical survey. And, as with everything else, we have to start with Jesus. Jesus questioned everyone and everything. He called people’s motives into question. He called his followers into question. He asked questions that made everyone uncomfortable.

But, the most profound expression of Jesus’ questioning came on the cross when he cries out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Some Christians have tried to blunt the force of those passages by saying that Jesus was just quoting the Psalms to show his fufillment of the Old Testament. That view has some merit to be sure. But, the text shows us that there is something deeper going on here. At that moment, God is questioning God. Jesus, who Christians believe is fully God and Man, questions the Father. At that moment, all of the sin and grossness of the world is laid on Jesus and he is experiencing the full seperation from God that all of us have felt. He is questioning God’s presence. He is, in all reality, stating the problem of evil quite plainly. Why does God seem absent from this world of pain and suffering?

Jesus’ question on the cross is not unique to the Bible. It’s all over the Psalms, most especially in Psalm 88. Read it sometime. But to give you a taste, the Psalm ends this way, “Darkness is my only friend”. Or how about Job? Ecclesiastes, anyone? God’s invitation to reason together in the prophets. It all ads up.

While God encourages us to question, there is one thing we have to remember.

Those questions will eventually be turned on us.


9 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2009 9:39 pm

    You make some very good points and I agree very much with the substance of what you say. But you might say something about Why Jesus seemed to reprimand your namesake for doubting his resurrection instead of commending his skepticism (John 20:24-6). There are other places where Jesus chides his disciples for their unbelief. Reconciling this implies that there are some criteria for when skepticism is warranted and when it is not. Do you think this is true and, if so, what are they? Thanks.

  2. thomas2026 permalink*
    November 16, 2009 10:00 pm

    Hey Paul, thanks for stopping in. I think the key is my last statment in this post.

  3. AdamK permalink
    November 17, 2009 12:24 pm

    Well, christians sure have the “making everybody uncomfortable” part figured out.

  4. Matheus permalink
    November 17, 2009 12:56 pm

    Well, it goes without saying that interpreting the passages like that is quite contrived, and if it’s the result of the study of hermeneutics, it gives reason to be skeptical of it.

  5. thomas2026 permalink*
    November 17, 2009 7:46 pm

    Why would that be contrived again? Arugments?

  6. November 18, 2009 4:19 pm

    In a conversion this morning I was asked if the ultimate truths lie with faith or reason (religion or science). I answered “Both”, but my friend was not satisfied. I have questions, and I have doubts, but I seem to have something more than that too. Sometimes I wonder if that is enough.

    Don’t mind me, I’m just thinking with my keyboard.

  7. Matheus permalink
    November 19, 2009 8:19 am

    Well, first of all do you disagree that the default explanation is that he meant what he said? So if you would argue for this particular interpretation, you would need to have arguments.

  8. thomas2026 permalink*
    November 19, 2009 9:27 am

    I think the cases can be made from each individual text.

  9. Matheus permalink
    November 20, 2009 11:09 am

    Well, that’s not an argument.
    Basically you are saying that each passage has its own ad-hoc interpretation.

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