Thursday, October 28, 2010

We Love Questions, but.....

And we break
And we burn
And we turn it inside out
To take it back
To the start
And through the rise

and falling apart
We discover who we are

~Lifehouse
_____________

I think for questions to truly be questions, they have to be open-ended. They must have the freedom to lead to any conclusion.

However, in most religious circles, freedom is the last thing we want people to have in regard to their questions. Questions are fine.... as long as the arrival to a particular answer is guaranteed. One toe may be dipped in the water, but the other foot must be firmly planted on shore.

Often, the only time religions want deep, meaningful questions asked is when they are being directed at other religions. I read a local Evangelical blog whose writers are dedicated to converting Mormons out of Mormonism. They continually challenge Mormons to question their most cherished beliefs, to look at rational arguments, and to "consider" the evidence. In short, they ask Mormons to do with a sincere effort that which they would never truly do themselves.

It is common among the religiously minded to assume they have dealt with the questions, because they have read their apologist's responses. A Christian reading Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ does not qualify as having dealt with the questions. :)

Unfortunately, much religious questioning has all the sincerity and depth of the following comment, which was made to me by someone who is concerned about the direction my life is taking:

"I do not believe it is wrong to have questions - as long as those questions do not let you stray from your beliefs."

That about says it all.....

4 comments:

atimetorend said...

Excellent post, exactly my problem with evangelicalism. The statement made to you which conclude with is identical in intent to statements I heard from multiple people. And they never understand why I would be upset with that response. To them, the security afforded by avoiding certain questions is more valuable than asking the questions. Fine, but admit then that your faith is not intellectually grounded, and don't expect me to follow.

I had a conversation with my pastor, on my way out, where I asked the question: "Can we even ask the question, 'Is the bible true?'" I was met with apologetics for questions I had never asked. An hour or so later I still had not received an answer to the question, despite having repeated it several times.

I am glad you can write so graciously and peacefully about the topic. Hopefully I can too someday!

curmudgeon said...

Andrew what a poignant question. I discussed this in a blog post that got no comments on my blog but did cost me a few facebook friends including one from our shared circle of friends. Questions are dangerous because the knock us off balance and when we find new footing our feet may not be in the same place.

Here is the post:

http://itsacurmudgeonslife.blogspot.com/2009/09/it-begs-question.html

scmysticstic said...

I do not see the lack of sincere concern in the comment alone that this person made to you. You obviously know of whom you speak better than your readers and so can judge the intent and sincerity more clearly but the comment out of their context appears neutral to me. I do see that by itself, it is void of depth.

I remember once years ago when you and I were speaking about another friend and showing some concern for the seemingly loss of that childlike faith that we had before we even knew to ask questions. We did not speak with our mutual friend about it directly over the next few days and I suspect that you didn't mention anything to him after we lost contact with each other. I didn't, and probably for the same reason you didn't. We instinctively knew then that questioning the early influences on our faith is healthy and that we have more trust in the one who is Truth to lead us if our love for Him is pure (a great place to be!).

I agree, as we leave the age of innocence, questions that challenge our faith are the inevitable path to spiritual and emotional maturity. What troubles most people is not the error in belief that they see in we who question, it is the loss of innocence and swing of the pendulum to that of a cynic that happens in some who do ask. The ones who lack depth simply have not asked enough questions along the way to physical maturity and "getting ahead in life" to keep up with those who have so the combination of ignorance and the repulsiveness to the cynic leads to paralysis.

The real disconnect occurs because there is another, third element that is missing from this discussion. That is, mystery. From Romans to Revelation, the word mystery is used 19 times and although Paul and others shed some light on understanding the mysteries of God, I do not think all that is true can be known this side of heaven. As to the question of Mormon doctrinal validity, I have not looked into it as you have so I must remain silent because that is the only thing a person ignorant on a subject should do.

In the absence of time or desire to flesh out some areas of life, I will opt to focus on those questions that have the most impact on my life, the lives closest to me and those in the area of ministry that I work in and leave the others to mystery.

Andrew said...

ATTR - Thanks. There is a certain level of painful comedy about being sermonized for lengthy periods on questions one never asked. I have gotten long, long, written sermons from complete strangers while commenting on friend’s blogs. Funnier still is how, because I do not hold their views, they will start to address me as if I know nothing of the faith. After a lengthy, scripture infused discussion on hell, the guy came back to me with "I think you just need to open your bible and read John 3:16, it will really blow your mind!"

curmudgeon - the defriending thing fascinates me. I have a number of FB friends who irritate the hell out of me, but it would never occur to me to defriend them. I think we hold our ideas at arms length, so we can observe them. So when someone comes at them, we may be annoyed at times, but coming at them is something we ourselves do... However, some folks hold their ideas so close, so unexamined, that to go at them is interpreted by the holder as a personal attack.

Scmysticsic - Who are you? I think I could make better use of your comparison if I could give it some context.

As to the sincerity of the statement, I don't mean it emotionally. I mean he is insincere the way of a gambler is who is playing with a set of loaded dice. He may put on the look of someone who is gambling, who is taking a risk, but in reality the games parameters have been pre-set, and we are really just going through the motions.

I accept cynicism as a natural part of the questioning process - it is the scar protecting the wound. Anytime there is a removal, there will be a wound of sorts. Depending on the nature of the wound, there may be a lot of scarring; but I certainly do not blame the patient for saying "ouch" and perhaps being a little overly-sensitive in that area for a time. I will be glad for now that the infection has been removed.

I do not (here) make a question of Mormon doctrinal validity; I merely point out the tendency of those within a certain belief structure to berate others for not being vulnerable with their beliefs, while strategically guarding their own. The comical thing to me, as an outside observer, is that Evangelicals are guilty of EVERY point they go after Mormons about.

I don't think mystery is missing from this discussion. I consider myself Agnostic on many things. I think what makes an agnostic an agnostic is that he/she leaves their toe in the door to accommodate mystery. There are things we don't understand, or we mis-perceive, or simply can't know yet; so dogmatic assertions can cut us off from new avenues. Not that I do not have beliefs, or make assertions, but I try to hold them open handedly.

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