For many people, faith is about believing what they are told to believe, with no questions asked. For me, it is about searching for the best and not just the accepted in every religious tradition.

It is about bringing our own best judgment to what others ask us to believe for their own reasons. This means that coming to genuine faith involves asking questions — a lot of questions. The most helpful answers will be those we discover for ourselves, after struggling honestly with others’ answers to the very same questions.

A life-long member of a small but lively church, distraught over the possibility that her best friends may leave it over the issue of homosexuality, is told: You just have to trust that our leaders are telling us what God is telling them, that we should leave. A father of two severely troubled teenagers, painfully second-guessing his decision to divorce their mother, is comforted with the proclamation: You don’t have to worry about your sin if you trust in the Lord; he already paid the price for it in full on the cross. A staunchly pro-life advocate, still in shock over an unexpected pregnancy at age 44, is advised by her Catholicism-bashing good friend: Abortion is your decision and yours alone to make.

Any one of these affirmations might be true for any struggling believer at one time or another. But it would have been better had these particular strugglers been listened to more, and encouraged to seek answers that make the most sense to them on their own terms.

About this approach, though, one pastor I know raised an important question: But shouldn’t a genuine believer answer someone’s faith-question the way their own religion answers it? To me, this listening approach says that whatever answer the questioner comes up is ok, as long as it is sincere.

No, sincerity is not enough. But neither is insisting that a religion must present its message the same way at all times and everywhere. No religion has anticipated and provided for every changing circumstance across history, and none ever will.

If our faith is to grow, we must be ready to question and disagree about what religious ideas and beliefs can mean in and for different times, places, and circumstances. Hopefully, in the process we will have the support of fellow strugglers who understand. We deserve them.



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  1. e frances long says:

    I think with wisdom comes the common sense that I need to ask more questions. Not to be afraid of the higher ups so to speak, just because they have written lots of books, spoken at all the great venues or taught at the best theological schools in the country.

    This is hard though, because we are brought up to believe what we are told. Not to question the idea, not to struggle with change, just accept it. I have a feeling this world would be in a lot of trouble if we never questioned ideas or thoughts that we hear every day and even read in the Bible.

    I also believe, that no one has the right to tell me how to believe. That my thoughts and feelings are just as important as any one else. That no one has the right to tell me I am going to you know where if I don’t do what they say or a book, or even my best friend. I have had someone tell me I have to accept some things in this new world around us, but there are some things I do not understand, and I feel free enough and self confident, that if someone is doing something I do not understand, I tell them. In a nice way, but my right and wrong may not be someone else’s right and wrong.
    God love’s me no matter what I think. That is all that matters to me and I just keep listening. .

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