3 Benefits We Receive From Questioning Our Faith
It always saddens me when someone tells me what they believe "because they've always been that way." That's the best you got? Certainly we can do better than "I'm (insert system of belief here) because I grew up that way!" Whatever happened to questions and honest inquiry? Whatever happened to openness and debate? Somewhere along the way, much to the chagrin of our three year old selves, we lost our inquisitive nature, trading in our questions for apathetic acceptance of the religious status quo.
It's not enough that we wear the moniker of "Christian", we must question our faith. That may sound like a dangerous proposition to you, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. Questioning our faith actually benefits Christians (and every person of some kind of belief) in these three ways:
Questions Make Our Faith Our Own
Ezekiel 18 is a popular passage many turn to when seeking to refute some tenants of Calvinism (something I won't be doing in this article). We point out the words of God when He says "the soul who sins shall die" and "the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself" (18:20). In between those statements we often miss God's comments about the righteous when He states that "the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself". Not only are we responsible for our sinfulness, we are responsible for our righteousness as well (the blood of Christ is not forgotten in that statement).
We understand punishment for our wrong actions, but do we grasp the idea of reward for our actions? It's not enough that you had a spiritual giant for a preacher. It isn't enough that you grew up in a godly home. Those things may help you with the foundation of your faith, but their spiritual fortitude can't be worn by us as a heaven-bound hand-me-down garment. We must develop a faith of our own. Study and inquiry forces us to own our faith, changing it from "something we were taught" to "something we developed through our own study."
Questions Make Our Faith Grow
Growth is an important theme in Scripture. Over and over again the Bible writers push us to grow. The Hebrews were rebuked for not becoming teachers after having already been exposed to the elementary principles of the oracles of God so long ago (5:11-14). To those Christians who had been scattered Peter wrote that they should grow up into salvation by longing for pure spiritual milk as newborn infants (1 Peter 2:2). Jesus spoke about growth when he encouraged the crowd to have a righteousness that exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees (Mt. 5:20ff). Even those that are doing well in Scripture are told to grow more (1 Thess. 4:1, 9-10)! When we question our beliefs we will find that either: 1) our initial belief was right or 2) our initial belief was wrong and we need to change. In either case our faith becomes stronger from questioning.
Questions Help Us "Prepare to Give A Defense"
For the dispersed Christians in Peter's first letter things were going to go from bad to worse. They had been through trials (1:6-7) and those trials were only going to intensify. At every turn they'd be mocked, reviled and shamed just because of their Christian faith (2:12; 3:16; 4:4, 12; 5:9-10). Peter doesn't mince words with them, they are going to "suffer" (used 14x in the book). However, Peter not only encourages them to keep living for Christ, he also tells them to be prepared in the event that they are questioned about their faith (3:15). As a result of constant questioning these Christians came to know more fully the faith they had, so much so that they were able to give a defense and even convert those that persecuted them (2:12). We may not face the persecution that they did but we can certainly put our faith under the same amount of scrutiny. When we, or others, question our faith we become more capable of defending it by giving reliable answers.
Christianity isn't an untouchable belief system, no belief is. Whether Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist or Christian we need to constantly examine what we perceive as true, from the broadest generality to the minutest detail. There is too much at stake for us to simply ride the faith of our fathers or follow the musings of a majority. Do not be content with "so and so told me" view of the world, but compile and follow the evidence for yourself. Your faith will be stronger for it.