March 28, 2011: What does the Bible say about questioning God?

Posted on : Mar 28th, 2011 | By | Category: Still Speaking

Many of us have been taught that questioning God is taboo. Don’t question, just accept – even if it doesn’t make sense! You don’t want to go down that rabbit hole – that slippery slope. In Sunday school I was taught that faith simply involves unthinking trust and acceptance of God and the Bible. Maybe you grew up in a church that didn’t permit open, honest inquiry about the things that are foundational to our Christian faith: Does God really exist? Is the Bible true? Will only people who believe in Jesus be saved? Is there a hell? Is God in other religions? Why does God allow suffering? Can prayer change God’s mind? Lots of people have voiced a concern, expressed a doubt, or raised a question, only to be told by their family, churches, and friends: “We don’t discuss those things here.” (Rob Bell)  To raise such questions is seen as demonstrating at the very least a weak faith, if not a blasphemous heart.  To question is seen as suspect.

It wasn’t always like this. Rather, we are the heirs of an age-old faith tradition of questioning, and yes even arguing with, God. Regrettably, as someone once said, the Jewish spiritual tradition of arguing with God, depicted in memorable accounts of Biblical quarrels involving Abraham and Job, among others, has largely disappeared in Christian spirituality and prayer.

Regrettably yes, because to “quarrel” with God is rather a typical thing in the Bible, in story after story people of faith “wrestled” with God. The poet of Psalm 44 accuses God of falling asleep in a time of desperate need. Many times over, Scripture gives voice to people feeling abandoned by God – whether it is the Psalm writer who calls out, “my God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (Psalm 22) or Jeremiah, who curses the day God created him.

The Bible does not hide or judge people’s feelings of anger, resentment, hurt, and disappointment with God. People in the Psalms didn’t hold anything back – they told God exactly how they felt. Gideon tested God and Jacob literarily wrestled with God. Moses and David boldly interacted with God. The Bible is bursting at the seams with people questioning God; many challenge God, others cry out in anger – people like you and I, just being honest with God. The message from Scripture is loud and clear: God can take the heat.

Many Bible characters have faith questions.   Lots of people express doubt.  We all have that one question that gnaws at us. You are not alone. Abraham does his best to bargain with God, most of the book of Job consists of arguments by Job and his friends about the deepest questions of human suffering. God is practically on trial in the poems of the Lamentations, and Jesus responds to almost every question he’s asked with … a question: “What do you think? How do you read it?” he asks again and again and again. There is no question that Jesus cannot handle, no discussion too volatile, no issue too dangerous. (Rob Bell)

It seems that somewhere along the way, we as Christians have forgotten about this Biblical tradition of being honest with God. God is not some tyrant master we have to submit to and obey. Far from it! Scripture gives us a totally different picture. In story after story we hear the message: spiritual growth does not require blind and unthinking submission. Rather, faith and trust grow through the process of questioning and understanding.

If in Christian life we cannot express our doubts, our faith will be half-hearted. If we cannot shed tears over loss and waste, our laughter will be hollow. If we cannot express our outrage against injustice, our commitment to God’s reign will be lukewarm. If we cannot argue with God, we cannot be brought to deeper understanding. (Daniel Migliore)

Maybe it is time we reclaim this age-old tradition,