Why do we have faith? Why do we read the Bible? Why are we Christian? If I were to informally poll a group of Christians, I would guess that among the top answers to these questions would be something like this: “It gives me certainty about life,” or “the Bible gives me answers to life’s toughest questions,” or even “I’m a Christian because it gives me the assurance that I will go to heaven when I die.” Now these may or may not be your answers. There’s hundreds of ways we can answer questions like these. These answers are no less as unique as the people we ask. But, we all know that answers such as the ones I include here are at least fairly common in our circles of faith.
Lately, I’ve begun a personal research project that seeks to look at questions like these in what I hope are new ways. I’m not the first to do this-I’m reading books and articles by folks who, like me, are left unsatisfied by the simple answers we give for important questions about faith. Over the last 6 months of ministry in a local church, I’ve encountered too many people for whom simple answers cannot carry the freight for the questions they have about faith and life. Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend from another town and I told them about this project I’ve been undertaking. Their answer was simply, “Well you should just have more faith.” Now before I write my friend off for being insensitive, we should at least recognize that this has been the traditional answer offered to people who dared to question the legitimacy of a faith grounded on the shallow foundation of simple answers. It’s really a circular argument. Have more faith? I’m struggling with the nature of faith-how am I supposed to just “have” more faith when I’m not really sure about it in the first place?
What if we have faith, not for answers, but rather for questions? Think about it for a minute. What if the purpose of faith was to form us into the people who could, or even would, ask the tough questions of life. You see, I wonder if our simplistic approaches to faith give the freedom for people to offer simple answers in light of the difficult and complex situations of life. Think about the asinine answers offered by some “so-called” Christians for why something like Hurricane Katrina or 9/11 would happen. More closer to home, think about all of the times others, with well-meaning and loving intent, offered simplistic answers in light of events that shook our lives. Things like, “everything happens for a reason,” or “remember that God has a plan for everything” can be more damaging than we would ever intend. Think about how many times we ourselves have done this to others.
You see, I’m beginning to wonder if a truly faithful faith (redundancy is intended here) would give us credence to not only question, but also to live into the questions we have. Instead of searching for an answer to everything, as is the compulsion of all modern people, what if the purpose of our faith was to question together the complexities of life and faith? And maybe, just maybe, our faith is most faithfully lived out as we not only accept those who dare to question, but join in and give voice to our own questions together as a community.