Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Why "Asking Good Questions?"

I was watching "Contact" this morning. Fabulous movie, written by a man I loathed 9 years ago. But that's not the point. As Ellie and Palmer are talking after their first "romantic" encounter, and Palmer is telling her about His passion for God, Ellie recalls attending Sunday School as a child. She would ask tons of questions, hard questions, lesson-stopping questions that break up the carefully crafted moment the teacher had prepared. Questions like "Where did Mrs Cain come from?" The pastor eventually contacted her father, and asked him to stop bringing her, because she was "disrupting" the Sunday School. As she said this, I uttered a word which is not fit for print. That teacher had betrayed their calling.

Ironically, the reason I loathed Carl Sagan, the author of Contact and Demon Haunted World, was because the latter book made me question my faith. Put me in a three-month tail-spin, actually. Yet it is the very ability to question that allows us to learn and grow.

Most of us church people don't like questions. We fear that if we can't answer, then it means God doesn't have the answer, or can't answer, and so we cast aside those who ask good questions.

But my God is bigger than my questions. We fear that questioning God is heresy, the kind of thing that gets you struck by lightning or something, We point to stories in the Bible (somewhere) in which people who test God are killed.

But then there's the honest seeker. Gideon. He questions God not out of arrogance, but submission and humility. And God honors him with a sign. And that's the difference. Not approaching God in arrogance and pride, thinking our questions void His existence, or that we are owed an answer, but in humility and honest seeking, knowing that the Answer to all good questions will lead us into truth, if we will let Him.

So don't fear the questions. Ask them. Not to me, per se, though I'll be glad to ask them with you. Let's join together, and take them to God. Be willing to live in the tension of not-knowing-and-yet-still-believing. And trust that even if we don't get to know the answers, our questions will still lead us to the Answer.

May God bless our humble questioning, remove our pretense, and bring us into honest truth. Amen.


Smiley said...

At the same time, Gideon was questioning God because he doubted Him. When the angel of the Lord (aka, Jesus, second member of Trinity often mentioned in OT as THE angel) first finds Gideon, the man is threshing grain in a winery because he is terrified it will be stolen by the Midianites overrunning the land. Yet the Angel promises God's presence and deliberately calls Gideon a "mighty warrior." Part of why Gideon is asking questions is because he, a self-professed coward in the winery, is questioning the new identity God is calling him to. "Mighty warrior? Are you kidding?"

The angel of the LORD's response is "Go in the strength you have," meaning Gideon had what it took all along and didn't realize it. Just like we have what it takes for God's plan all along, no matter how weak, defeated, lost, confused, or terrified we are of it.

David Mullins said...

Very true. I think what still sticks with me is that God worked with Gideon, whereas Saul (OT) would have probably gotten the holy smack-down. Not to get into a Cain/Abel situation, but I look at how Gideon responds to the Angel, and even to the point of letting God choose the sign for him. And God's gentleness continues in the next chapter as well, when he gives Gideon the option of taking his servant down to the enemy camp with him if he is afraid.

I think it's all in how you question God. Are you being proud or humble. Even a "Where have you been, God," kind of prayer, like the beginning of ch6, and Psalm 22, is honored in it's own way, as long as we check our pride at the door.

Anonymous said...

In light of why ask good questions....

I just received an e-mail today about an evangelist speaker talking about the Da Vinci Code.

I sent the following response:
In this really amazing set of events where a fictional novel has made so many people look further into the facts and reassess their faith. People's faith have been impacted from a miniscule or no extent to becoming a doubter of Christianity. The real impact ofcourse is secondary rationalized reaction after the impulsive first reaction.

So the real impact is....:

1) People are more inclined to ask questions
2) People are more strongly embedded in their faith.

What better result could you ask for? Isn't this exactly what the bible encourages?

1) Do not be a blind unquestioning follower
2) Knowingly follow with love and fear.

I am just a bit wary that these fortuitous circumstances are not going to be fully capitalized by really evangelical/fanatical believers. In fact they are just going to turn away people and undo the real effects of this book.


Greg said...

I believe that being afraid to honestly question God shows a serious lack of faith in the Holy Trinity. Mankind does not need to prove God because He proves Himself. Mankind does not have to be God's defender because God is greater than any attack His creations could muster.
A god that can not stand up to honest questioning is no God at all. He certainly wouldn't be the God of Abraham and Issac if mere human logic could unravel Him so easily.

Like David, I don't agree with a lot of Carl Sagan's personal beliefs. I don't think the Da Vinci Code has any theological merit. (Even though it was a good novel/movie.) I think the spirituality George Lucas created is a bunch of b.s. I don't share Gene Roddenberry's belief that lots of technology and no money will save humanity.
However, there is value in the questions these works produce. If it wasn't there, no one would care.