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Studying Honestly

I was talking to my friend Allie Pilate tonight and we were talking about the good ol’ days back at Crave (old youth group). She was a newer Christian at the time, so she saw things a lot differently (a lot more clearer) than I did. She was tainted by 15 years of the church like I was; she was as raw as they came. In the middle of the conversation, she posed this question.

and whats better… knowing the truth and building a relationship with God through that or now knowing the truth and thinking that you are right all the time

Here is my struggle. It is easier to be ignorant of everything I know, and continue to just follow ‘by faith’ in everything that I’ve been raised to believe. I can just assume that the Bible is the Word of God and use it like I’ve been taught. I can assume that Sunday services are the climax of what church is. I can assume that the Trinity is the best way to describe God. I can assume that I have to tithe 10%. I can assume that Jesus was God and was man. I can assume all these things. I can assume all those difficult questions that no answer seems to be up front. Then I can just be happy and content knowing that all is in perfect order and study the ‘meat’ of the gospel. Frankly, I can just assume that everything I believe right now is right and is in no need of change and just study for the sake of being able to prove that I’m right.

Or, I can ask myself why I believe any of it. I can get to the root of what I believe and explain it to myself. I can ask questions. I can ask hard questions. I can search for answers in everything that is around me. I can seek truth with everything I have. I can study not to prove that I’m right but to find out what right even is.

This puts me in a difficult place, because I want the latter option. I want to be real with my questions and my doubts and seek honestly. The problem with doing that is it makes me look weak. It makes me look inconsistent, and many people will think that I’m too frail to lead. In fact, I’ve had people accuse me already that I need to ‘get these things together’ before I am ever in place of leadership over God’s people. Leaders that ask questions are weak leaders, because typically we think that leaders should be the one giving answers.

So I’m not sure where that leaves me. Does that make me incapable of leadership? Should I refrain from leading anywhere until I have these things figured out and I believe them with the core of who I am? What are these things that I need to believe perfectly before I get into leadership? I don’t know if I’ll ever believe some things the way some people believe them. Even if I do believe some things, I still want to go into conversations with people with the acknowledgement that they could be right and I could be wrong, without that I don’t think there is any point in conversing.

To throw it up and say that I don’t know, I can’t decide or it doesn’t make sense is only going to work for me if I give it to God himself. I’m relinquishing any idea that I’m some spiritual guru that has got Jesus or God figured out in any kind of way. The further I get in studying God and the Bible and Jesus the more questions I have and the more confused I feel, and the further I feel from what I’ve always learned.

8 Comments

  • It’s tough to ask such questions especially when your dreams might be effectived somehow. Cudos.

    To answer your question I do think that one ought to settle foundational (yes, foundational) doctrines like the Trinity and the Hypostatic Union before he enters into the capital-M Ministry. In fact the churches to which I belong wouldn’t give communion to a person who hasn’t believe in the Trinity as part of the catholic and undoubted Christian faith as confessed by the church of all times and places. I agree with this stance whole-heartedly.

    As I’ve mentioned before, the one factor that leaves me outside of the conversation, so to speak, more than any other is the way in which Emergent writers talk about faith. I believe that because faith is the gift of God, we can in fact not doubt and I believe that doubt is totally unrealted to faith. Does this mean that people can have no doubts? No. It means though that doubt isn’t good. If someone, for example, were to tell me that they doubted the fact that Christ died for their sins and that the Father rose Him from the grave I wouldn’t tell that person to embrace their doubt. To do so would leave the person hopeless or with a weakened faith. Instead I would tell that person that God loves them, and always has their best interests in mind. As such God’s promices need not be doubted.

  • Tom,
    I dont know if I am feeling this know your doctrine thing. Could you please tell me why you agree with it? I am curious to understand.

    And I dont know about this whole doubt thing you speak of? I think doubt is a strong thing that God uses with people (Although I cant speak on his behalf.) I would categorize having doubt and being cautious in the same field. I would rather someone have doubt and be cautious, than have a person so sure of themselves and prideful.

    With the answer you would give to a doubter. It left me in doubt. You would tell the doubter that God loves them and always has there best interests in mind what if they doubt that? Are they allowed to? Is it wrong? How can they be sure God is looking out for their best interest? How can he look out for everyone?

  • Is doubt really a choice we have? Like can I just choose not to doubt in something?

    That’s what I feel this post was about, being remarkably honest with myself on everything, and when I am, I feel a lot less confident on some issues than I thought I was (of course I just listed randoms above, but there are some like the Bible that i have a hard time concluding on what I actually beleive about it). I find myself extremly confident on other issues that I may have doubted before.

  • Ron,

    Good questions, thanks.

    By knowing your doctrine (though I never used this phrase) I meant to say that one must believe those things which are foundational to the Gospel, not nessessarily that one must have a stated opinion on every possible doctrinal subject. Personally I have yet to make up my mind on a number of topics, lately for example I’ve been wrestling with Baptismal Regeneration and I don’t think I’m going to land anywhere on the spectrum soon. Hope this is helpful.

    I used to think that doubt was a good thing. I used to even go so far as to say that doubt was part of the substance of faith. However I don’t think so anymore. How do you think God uses faith? Cautiousness is important, I agree. Not making up your mind on doctrinal issues before all options can be adaquately considered is part of this, I think. With all the theological fetishism going around the churches these day (especially in Reformed circles) I think that we would do well to recapture this. However I still maintain that there are things that need not be doubted. If God has planted the seed of faith in us and has watered it, why doubt? If we understand that Christ’s death and ressurection are for us, why doubt? In other words if God has allowed us to believe then we presuppose God is faithful inasmuch as He’s proven it to us in the Cross. Again, why doubt?

    I wouldn’t worry if someone still doubted after I reasoned with them as I illustrated earlier. The working of faith is God’s work and isn’t the product of answers.

    Is this helpful?

  • Nate,

    Actually I do believe that the Christian, whose faith is given to him by God, can choose not to doubt. This, I think, is part of regeneration.

    I also don’t think that not being 100% sure about something can be different from doubt. To use the example of Baptism again, I’m unsure if the Bible teaches that we are regenerated through Baptism or it the Bible teaches that it is merely a sign of that regeneration given to infants. This isn’t because I disbelieve God or think that He has misled us in His infallible word but it is because I’m not sure weather it Baptismal Regeneration is Biblical. If the Bible teaches it then the believer is free to believe that with no doubting, if not then she/he must disbelieve it.

  • Although I disagree with your views on the Canon, I think we ought to chat about that another time. This discussion on faith is interesting.

    If a Christian, regenerated by the Spirit of God, doubts then it isn’t a case of not having enough faith but a case of not excercising that faith. Calvin would call this a lesser operation of the spirit but let’s not open that can of worms.

    If you didn’t believe in something deemed “non-essential” (although I intensely dislike that name) then it doens’t mean you’re unchristian. It merely means that iron should sharpen iron.

  • Ok, that makes sense. Not sure if I agree or not, guess its harder to agree on something like that because that would mean that God hasn’t given me ‘enough’ faith.

    What about things that the bible doesn’t teach, like beleifs about the bible itself. Because the bible doesn’t teach that we need to accept the canon as it is today as the infallible word of god. Essentially we have to take something like that by faith. What if someone doesn’t have that faith?

  • you got served!!!

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