Faith is not the opposite of doubt. The two go hand in hand.
For many of us who grew up in the church, it can be a little awkward questioning the things we read in the bible. After all, we don’t want to be irreverent. We believe that God spoke to his people through his written word, and we trust that is how he most often speaks to us today. If we question anything in the text, it can seem tantamount to questioning the authority of the text. This is simply not the case. Throughout the text itself we encounter people who questioned God’s word to them. What’s important to note is that their questioning/doubting drew them closer to Father. In order to question appropriately we must be clear that what we question is our understanding of God, not God himself. In order to do this, we must be honest about our presuppositions and the things we do know about God. I am going to lay out a few of my own personal presuppositions (these are not official stances of our church…yet). I had a seminary professor that would say when we pressed him for his position on controversial issues, “This is where I stand today, but my feet are not in cement.” Part of being a Christ-follower is being a listener and a learner. As we grow, he reveals more about himself to us and we may see things differently tomorrow. Our understanding changes about the Unchanging One. So here is where I start:
- Jesus is the exact representation of God. Hebrews 1:3 “This Son perfectly mirrors God, and is stamped with God’s nature. He holds everything together by what he says—powerful words!”
Everything for me is seen through the lens of the life of Jesus. With Jesus, we get a closer to perfect understanding of God. That said, everything I read in the bible is filtered through what we saw in Jesus. If I view God as vengeful in the Old Testament, but see Jesus absent of vengeance, then guess what? My view of God as vengeful was a distortion. I was missing something. Jesus came to show us the Father and in so doing, corrected many of our misconceptions of God.
- I don’t have to like what I read in order to trust God. Matthew 26:39 “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”
No doubt that Abraham didn’t like what he heard when God told him to leave and go to a land he would show him. No doubt Joseph didn’t like God sending him to Egypt as a slave, or sitting in a jail cell for something he didn’t do. No doubt Moses didn’t like it when God told him he would not set foot in the Promised Land. No doubt that Joshua didn’t exactly like it when God told him to go in and take cities that had much larger and much meaner armies than he had. Jesus is my foundational expression of this. He did not want to go to the cross, but he trusted his Father. I read passages that I don’t like, passages that I don’t get, but I trust Father.
- The same God who sent his Son to die for me, is the same God who I read about in the Old Testament and the same God my kids pray to at night before bed. Hebrews 13:8 “For Jesus doesn’t change—yesterday, today, tomorrow, he’s always totally himself.”
My beliefs are like a set of concentric circles and Jesus is at the center. No matter what everything in my life gets interpreted through him. He never changes. He never wavers or shifts. Jesus is Jesus now, was Jesus then and will be Jesus tomorrow.
- I believe the bible is the Word of God and has the right to command my belief and action. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.”
Next ring out is my understanding of the Scriptures. I believe the Bible was written by people guided by God’s Spirit and affirm what it says about itself: authoritative, inspired, illumined by the Spirit and useful for teaching, correcting, and wisdom (Psalm 119.105-112; John 16.12-14; 17.17; 2 Timothy 3.16-17).
- God knows what he is doing and has a plan for me that is good. Jeremiah 29:11 “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”
This was true for Adam, Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua and is true for you and for me. I can trust this.
The next ring is the historical doctrines of the church. And the outer ring is what others are saying, writing and teaching. At any point in the process that an outer ring violates an inner ring, I have to check myself.