It’s one thing to be willing to ask yourself life’s tough questions. It’s another to be willing to live with the consequences of life’s tough answers. I might just be equally terrified of both. I think KR Morris did a good job of opening up the subject for us last week but I’d like to take it one step further.
If you didn’t catch his post, check out Pointing Fingers in the Right Place. His basic premise, just as a recap, was that many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, blame others for the pain in their life and point fingers in all the wrong places, rather than turning the scrutiny on themselves and having the balls to ask themselves the tough questions.
This week I’d like to navigate away from the original path and follow a rabbit trail for a bit to see where it takes us.
I’m convinced that there are certain ideals in every circle of influence that you just don’t question. They are debates that have long been decided and it’s just understood that it would be counter productive to continue revisiting them. I can speak best in regard to Conservative Evangelicalism because that’s what I know. For conservative evangelicals the list of things that you just don’t question is quite extensive. The nature of the Trinity, the full humanity and full Divinity of Christ, the Inerrancy of Scripture.
Depending on which brand of evangelical and the severity of the fundamentalism that exists, the list can get longer. The virgin birth, literal 7 days of creation, biblically defined gender roles and the restriction of women from Church office, alcohol consumption, sex before marriage, and the list goes on. In these, and countless other issues, you just don’t ask why. And if you do ask why, you answer it quick and move on.
About a year ago the shit hit the fan and I got pissed. I’d had enough. I was sick of the stereotypical answers. Sick of the don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy that raged in the circles that I found myself in. So I started asking the questions, privately at first. Why is sex wrong? Is it really only for marriage? Can I legitimately back that up in Scripture? Why can’t a woman be a pastor? I wouldn’t settle for the typical, “because the Bible says so” answer. I wouldn’t even settle for finding the answers in scripture. I began to ask questions of the Bible itself. Why does Paul not permit women to teach or exercise authority in the church at Ephesus? Why does the Bible seem to call Christians to a life of celibacy?
The questioning spread and got progressively scarier. I started to question the legitimacy of canonicity. I started to question the doctrine of inspiration as well as inerrancy and I found that they lacked a certain “set in stone” quality that I had just assumed for the last lifetime. When the day came that I finally began to legitimately question the authority and legitimacy of the Bible, I was terrified. I realized that the answers to my questions might lead me away from classical evangelicalism. They might lead me away from Christianity. It’s a type of fear that’s difficult to verbalize and almost stopped my journey of questions.
I’ve always said that my goal in life is to seek truth and I’ve more than once dropped the line that “if you can find the body of Christ and prove that it’s him, I’ll be an atheist tomorrow.” but did I really believe that? Was I really willing to follow-through with such a life, career, and paradigm altering switch. Was I willing to abandon Christianity, if in fact I found that it was not true? Some might call this a lack of faith and if you really feel that’s what it is then fine. The relationship between faith and reason is a different blog for a different day.
The honest answer was that I wasn’t willing to walk away, but I felt that an honest search for truth mandated that I be willing to follow truth no matter what that truth ended up being.
Fear set in. “I work at a church. If I decide that the bible is not inerrant, that creation actually took billions of years, and that women can and should be pastors… They may not want me to continue working for them.” I was terrified.
I’m still working through many of these issues so I don’t have the ending to the story yet. I can say that as of right now I haven’t found anything that will put me outside the scope of evangelicalism or get me fired. I do however hold several views that are different than those of the leaders at my church and I’m aware that those views may lead us to part ways in the future but for now I strive for unity, for tolerance, for grace, and for love.
I cannot and will not abandon the questions and the potential implications of their answers. To do so would eat me alive from the inside out. My conscience simply would not allow it. Maybe this is where faith comes in to play. I have faith that the questions that I ask, though their answers may change the way I think and live, will lead me to truth. That if God exists, and I believe that he does, this truth will lead me to him.
I believe that faith should constantly evolve and grow. We have done something wrong when we stop asking questions and dealing with the implications of the answers.
So far my journey has been more liberating, confirming, and inspiring that I could have imagined. I hope that you have the same luck.