“I don’t know” is a truth, not a cop-out

This is my weekly conundrum when I meet with my small group for Bible study: do I ask the questions that I really want to ask, at the risk of derailing the discussion and starting a debate? Do I say what I really want to say, at the risk of accusations that I have “bad theology,” or that I lack faith?

It’s my willingness to ask the uncomfortable, and often unanswerable, questions that make me feel more at home among skeptics than with conservative Christians. I took the “Christian” identifier out of my Facebook “religious views” because I know that this term implies certain assumptions about me that just aren’t true. Beyond a shared love of God, I often feel that there’s not much I have in common with the tribe I’m supposed to belong to.

I’ve found that skeptics are more inclined to understand the hurt I’m still dealing with from my seminary fallout and borderline spiritually abusive college ministry. My skeptic friends are more inclined to appreciate my questioning of doctrines that are assumed to be “no brainers” in conservative, evangelical circles. There is no tension with them to be a committed Christ follower or a perpetual doubter, but not both. They understand that it’s possible to be both at the same time.

In Conservative Christendom, I’ve run into scorn for still piecing together a Jewish identity when I’m not “supposed” to seek an identity outside of Jesus. My band of loyal skeptics see no contradiction with my recent purchase of a book on secular Judaism – a concept I once considered heretical, back in my wannabe rabbi days – because one’s familial background can’t help but shape the person you become. Clearly, a spiritual Jewish identity is off the table, but a secular, cultural one beckons me with increasing fervency. It’s how I keep a sense of my father with me.

In Benefit of the Doubt, which I’m reading for the second time, Gregory Boyd writes, “If I am confident that God unconditionally loves me based on what he did for me on Calvary, then wouldn’t I be confident that his love for me does not increase or decrease based on how accurate or inaccurate my other beliefs are?” Those words help ease my fear that “being saved” = “being right.”

Of course, I can’t leave the above thoughts alone without mentioning that the idea of humans being so depraved we essentially murdered God is another concept I struggle with, but it’s not a focus on depravity that gives life to my faith. It’s the knowledge that God suffers with us, and that suffering itself can be redemptive.

Beyond that, there’s not much else I’m certain about. If I had a quarter for every time I’ve been told, “You’re trying to evaluate God by your standards, not his,” and “God’s ways are higher than our ways,” I’d be a rich woman. The thing is, my “human standards” are all I have to work with. I believe that God gave me an inquisitive mind, and that it would be wasteful not to use it.

Therefore, it is one of my few steadfast beliefs that “I don’t know” is a truth, not a cop-out.

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4 thoughts on ““I don’t know” is a truth, not a cop-out”

  1. “The thing is, my “human standards” are all I have to work with. I believe that God gave me an inquisitive mind, and that it would be wasteful not to use it.”

    In His Word (don’t ask me where; I’m one of “those” who can quote a bit but not tell you where in the Bible it is found), God says, “Come, let us reason together.” I agree that God gave you an inquisitive mind and so He intends for you to use it. I’m in the same boat, and I have been chastised for some of the questions I ask.

    This will sound weird, but I am weird, so….I was sitting in church yesterday, and I started jotting notes down that I thought should probably be put into a blog post somewhere, but suddenly I was writing a sermon that the main character of my current novel-in-progress will hear. The jist of it is that the pastor says we all have questions that we’re afraid to ask, and that may not be answerable on this side of heaven. Does that mean we should forget about them, pretend we don’t have them? No. Do those questions mean that we aren’t “good Christians?” Again, no. The point being made in the sermon is that it is possible that God can use those unanswerable questions to draw us closer to Him. If you have a question about some aspect of your faith, and you spend hours searching for that answer in the Bible, or talking to friends or spiritual leaders about it, then you are actually letting yourself get closer to God. The title I gave this little sermonette is Let Your Questions Draw You Closer.

    As much as my friends put me down for the things I was asking, in all honesty, I felt like I was closer to God during those times of seeking because of the time I spent in the Bible. I still don’t have answers to the questions I was asking, but the time I spent looking was not wasted time.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’ve spent a lot of time being the “bad Christian” in the Bible study. I feel for you. I don’t pressure myself to participate in those spaces anymore. I’m lucky to have found a vibrant, thoughtful community of progressive Christians to talk God with. I’m not sure where my faith would be if I hadn’t found that. Would I still be sitting in a small group, knowing that its benefits would be mixed with anxiety, shame, and disdain? Would I try to content myself with my own individual religious practice, gradually losing enthusiasm? Not sure.

    Liked by 1 person

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