Last night I was out having wings with a young guy who had a barrage of questions …
How do we know the scriptures are authoritative? How can we claim the resurrection actually happened? I heard God blesses people who give money & curses those who don’t- does the bible teach that? What about miracles? If Adam and Eve were created in perfection, how did they sin? Hasn’t science already disproved the existence of God?
… it was quite the convo.
Millennials aren’t afraid to ask questions – which is fantastic. Christian faith is not a check-your-brains-at-the-door belief system.
Christian faith engages both the head and the heart. It is intellectually stimulating and emotionally satisfying because we humans are more than just brains on sticks. To borrow from James K.A Smith, professor of philosophy at Calvin College,
“We have been taught to assume that human beings are thinking things … like French philosopher Descartes, we view our bodies as extraneous, temporary vehicles for trucking around our souls or ‘minds’, which is where the real action takes place … What if, instead of starting from the assumption that human beings are thinking things, we started from the conviction that human beings are first and foremost lovers? What if you are not defined by what you know but by what you desire? What if the centre and seat of the human person is found, not in the heady regions of the intellect but the gut level regions of the heart?” 
While intellectual satisfaction is often sought in asking, debating and exploring the question, “how did I get here?”, emotional satisfaction is found in answering the question: “why am I here?”
My convo last night was a great reminder that those who explore faith, have questions about faith or have doubts about their faith, are both inside and outside our churches.
If Christian faith is as robust as we claim that it is, then the things that we teach should not be threatened by criticism. The gospel should be big enough to handle the life and death stuff. The hope that we claim the gospel offers should be able to speak to the largest areas of our concern and address the most devastating aspects of our lives. If it doesn’t, our hope is too small.
If the doctrines of God’s grace are as massive as we claim, critical thinkers who fact check our sermons or question our teaching should be welcomed, not sidelined.
Consider for a moment the confidence and humility in the apostles. They preached about the resurrection of Christ knowing that in doing so, they were taking their lives in their hands under totalitarian Rome.
After hearing the apostles teaching, the church in Berea went home and searched the scriptures for themselves. Luke, the author of the book of Acts, didn’t condemn the church for fact checking the apostles teaching – he commended them.
“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” – Acts 17:11
Maybe you’ve been in church your whole life and you find yourself with questions wondering if ‘these things are so‘. Be encouraged: your doubts, your questions and wrestling with what you believe is good. Christian faith does not require you to abandon reason because it is so weak that it requires your blissful ignorance.
Admittedly, Christian faith requires that we embrace some mystery. God has revealed Himself fully in Jesus Christ so that He can be understood – but He cannot be understood comprehensively. I’m not sure it’s reasonable to assume that an infinite God can be comprehensively understood by finite minds.
At the same time, it might be worth noting that a non-faith position also requires embracing mystery. While I believe in the virgin birth, those who assert that everything evolved from nothing, for no reason at all, believe in the virgin birth of the universe. We’ve both picked our miracles.
If you are looking to explore the arguments for and against Christian faith in a systematic way, here are two great books for your consideration. Both authors arrived at their convictions about Christian faith by deploying critical thinking and taking scalpels to both sides of excellent arguments.
Making Sense of God: an invitation to the skeptical – Dr. Timothy Keller
In this book, skeptical arguments against the existence of God and the resurrection of Christ are treated respectfully, and comprehensively.
Mere Christianity – C.S Lewis
Lewis was an atheist, a philosopher and writer. His philosophical inquiries drove him to disprove God and the process caused him to deeply re-evaluate his worldview.
For all those reading this who teach the scriptures, I’ll conclude with both a challenge and an encouragement for your consideration.
Notice the generous term that the bible uses to describe the Berean church that went home to fact-check the teaching they just heard. They are called ‘noble‘ not ‘a nuisance‘. They didn’t go home and mull over their own subjective opinions and ideas on the matter – they searched the scriptures daily.
They questioned the teaching, they searched the scriptures to see if it was true, and the bible called that noble.
While those of us who teach must be competent to teach, we cannot afford to be driven by an insatiable need to be seen as competent. If our identity as preachers is rooted in our reputation, we will only engage with those we know will affirm what we teach because they are the ones who validate our self-view. We will avoid or vilify those who have questions about what we teach because they pose a threat to our self-view. I’m not being theoretical here. That sinful pattern rears its ugly head each time my ego finds itself threatened and shifts into self-protect mode.
May the grace of God continue to do a deep work in the hearts of those of us who teach, who are put on theological hot seats. May we check our egos at the door. May we welcome the those who question and not sideline them. May we resist running or winning and be liberated by the gospel for serving.
May the grace of God continue to move toward those of you who are exploring faith or are in churches and find yourself with more questions than answers.
If you live in KW, consider joining us for one of our symposium events. Whether you’re a Christian with theological questions, or you’re exploring faith, come and enjoy some engaging discussion over drinks and apps. We can seek after the truth claims of the gospel together. Faith and reason are friends.
 You are what you Love, James K.A Smith