So often we want people to arrive. We want them to know.
We have our heritage of modernity to thank for this, our obsession with facts and figures, statistics and scientific methods. And lists, endless lists. Many churches have articles of
knowing faith that say in relatively plain language, “Here it is. This is what we believe. These are the theological rules that we play by. Disagree with these and we might kick you out.”
And slowly, subtly, the 11th Commandment oozes into view.
“Thou Shalt Not Ask Questions.”
And this ends up projecting the message, “Thou Shalt Not Seek.” Don’t wrestle with scripture – we have it all figured out! Don’t engage these truths you see in nature or art or inside yourself – take our word for it! Interpret life the way we do! It’s so much easier when everyone agrees!
Sometimes our reaction to questions scares me. I see how the church responds to books like “Love Wins” and it makes me sad about life. Not because of any particular theological response, but because of the way these responses are communicated. The same types of responses are given no matter what the question.
“What if it is God’s will to eventually reconcile everyone to himself?”
“What if what many scientists believe is true, that the world we know now evolved, and that the Genesis account provides us with a beautiful narrative of the truth beyond the physical (ie, the truth that really matters)?”
“What if the New Testament mandates against homosexuality were simply cultural, to be treated the same way many believers now treat Paul’s prohibition of women teachers?”
These are all difficult questions. Well, at least to many people they are. But when the questions are shot down with pat answers and memorized verses quoted out of context, the sides only become further entrenched, and the one doing the seeking quickly realizes that the place in the middle, the place for questions and gathering facts and learning, is actually a rather unsafe place to dwell. There’s a crossfire going on there. Stay too long and you’ll get your head blown off.
* * * * *
We have lost the art of seeking. Arrival is everything. But check this out.
Moses is giving his penultimate speech to the nation of Israel before they cross over into the Promised Land. He explains what will happen if they obey God (life), and what will happen if they disobey (death). And then he makes a curious statement:
But even there [in exile and following false gods], if you seek God, your God, you’ll be able to find him if you’re serious, looking for him with your whole heart and soul. Deuteronomy 4:29
In other words, there’s always hope. Even if you go the wrong way, even if you get totally off track, you can still find God.
The act of seeking can lead to salvation. Now there’s a thought. Wrestling with truth, peering into the darkness, searching for meaning…these are the things that will help those far from God actually find him. It’s like that verse, “
Know Seek and you will find.”
We need to allow more room for seeking, for questioning, for uncertainty. Apparently it might lead us to God.