No matter how much TV we watch, Facebook we follow, or YouTubes of inane music videos we ingest — in other words, no matter what our level of apathy and willingness to allow others to control our minds — we all get passionate about something.
Among Christians, that passion can lead to heated arguments, especially if we feel that an incontrovertible truth is being stomped on; the problem is, we have a tendency to fight dearly for the wrong thing.
Like, church attendance as a sign of one’s devotion to Christ. (We can thank a major evangelist of too many recent years for the message of, “Go to church, any church — even if one group appears to vehemently disagree with another, it’s being in the group that counts.”)
Or, we are obligated to obey all authorities — secular and religious, including that major evangelist, and his son, and his son’s sons, who for no other reason than that they reached out and grabbed it, demand our allegiance and loyalty.
Other issues are more deep-seated and difficult, because they hearken back to days murky in the past, when some church father or group of fathers set up and developed a doctrine: the doctrine of original sin, the doctrine of hell, the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of the age of reason and accountability; the three-four-five-six steps necessary to achieve salvation. There is a doctrine and pat answer for everything, and when a person observes that the answers don’t adequately answer all the questions, it is never the doctrine that is brought under review, but the motives, intelligence, worth, and value of the person asking the question.
Now understandably, some people ask questions simply to be difficult, and have no real interest in the answers. Their approach tends to be along the lines of, “What about this?” and while we’re musing over an answer to that they interrupt with, “And this? And this? And THIS?” When we realize that we’re operating on the defensive, covering our face from a slap, it’s a good time to stop and pleasantly say, “I don’t have the answer to all those questions, but I’m not sure that you really want them. What do you think about the rain that they’re forecasting for this weekend?”
Some People Really Want to Know
Other people, however, ask questions wonderingly yet hesitantly, aware that when they bring up an issue, it will result in a reaction. Evangelical Christians who have settled themselves comfortably in pews (or stacking chairs) for years know intrinsically that they don’t talk about the teaching that God sends to hell all people who don’t confess the name of Jesus in a prescribed manner AND exhibit faithfulness to that name by following the rules set up by their specific “community.” (It differs, depending upon the denomination.)
For those who can stand up against attack and don’t mind being called a heretic, they eventually get the answer that, “God made the universe and it applies by His rules. Either you follow those rules, or you don’t, and by even questioning the nature of His goodness, you are sinning.”
(It’s no wonder that a lot of people opt to walk away from this system, but quite unfortunately, many — when they do so — turn their back on God altogether, so closely do they align Him with the doctrines and teachings of men.)
There are a tremendous number of difficult passages and stories in Scripture, and rather than say, “That is a tough one — the answer to it is hidden to me, and apparently most people, right now. But I know that any answer given that puts into doubt the love of God — any answer that makes Him look no better than an irritable Greek deity — is missing the mark,” we toss out half-baked solutions and expect reasonable people — many of whom simply want God to be a better parent than what they try to be — to blindly accept what they’re told.
Innocents, and Babies
Recently, I was researching the issue of the Hebrews and their assorted enemies, and God’s command in 1 Samuel 15:3 to “put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” The book of Joshua records multiple occurrences of this Take No Survivors mentality, and one has to ask, “If it was so bad for Pharaoh to destroy the innocents in Moses’ time, or Herod to do so in his effort to eliminate the Messiah, then why is it okay to do this to other people’s children?”
“Because those people were REALLY bad,” is one answer. (Even the babies?)
“Because God needed to wipe out all the bad influences.” (It would be nice if He would do that today.)
or my favorite,
“God was actually doing a favor to these babies, because if they had grown up in their evil culture, they would have been damned to hell for eternity. This way, because of the doctrine of the age of reason, they were saved. Don’t we serve a wonderful God?!”
And then again there’s always, “God’s ways are not our ways because we are sinful and horrible, and you are sinful and horrible for even doubting Him.”
If we’re going to talk about the age of reason, shouldn’t we use some of that ability to reason, once we’re old enough to acquire it?
(By the way, the wisest statement I ran across in various blogs was, “It’s puzzling. But what is more disturbing is, what was the effect on the Hebrew men who killed the women and children?”)
The point is, the questions are there, they are difficult ones, and pat answers that don’t satisfy simply shut people up. Is that what we want, to shut honestly questioning people up?
As Christians, it is not our obligation to argue people into heaven, and attacking people for asking questions, or readily labeling them a heretic, is not our job. We don’t have to worry about defending God, as He is perfectly capable of doing the job Himself: we are to love Him dearly, love our neighbors as ourselves, and trustingly turn to Him with those difficult questions.
Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. I am one of those people who asks questions and ferrets out the answers, but I wasn’t able to do so until I left the environment where questions are frowned upon as sinful doubt. That’s not just in many churches, by the way: the admonition to accept and obey pervades our entire society. One can’t help but think that church culture is a breeding ground for inculcating people into compliance and complaisance.
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