I finished editing another bit of OLF audio. Some folks went outside for a smoke break and a talk on religion broke out. I thought it was interesting enough to record.
Participants are, from left to right, Linc from TLLTS, me, Joel from TLLTS and Dave Yates. If you’re very religious or very anti-religious this might bother you. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy it. The MP3 is here.
I was listening to the latest Wired Jesus podcast where Tom was talking about faith and doubt. One of the things he said was “…our parents tried to tell us that doubt was a sign of weakness of faith, and we weren’t supposed to talk about it...” and that doubt was a “virus that would affect all the faithful.”
I can agree with this and it really strikes a nerve with me. I remember being told that I shouldn’t doubt because it would lead me to believing in my doubts and turning from God. But what do I do with doubt? Can I just ignore it and make it go away? Am I screwed up and broken as a Christian because I have doubts? It certainly seems that way if I believe what I was taught. Tom talks about the “answer man” church where the pastor and the church are the sole source of answers, and we are to look only to them.
One of the reasons I rejected the church for so long was this type of attitude. If God is who he says he is, I should be able to doubt and question. I don’t want to trust in a God who can’t handle my questions. If the truth is there, I should be able to find it by honestly seeking. I returned to the church and my faith because of people who told me that God wanted to hear from me even if I was angry at him. They told me God could handle my anger and questions and fear. They taught me that if I had questions and doubt I could find answers and security.
So what does scripture say? I don’t have specific references to give, but all you have to do is start reading the Psalms for an answer. David was not afraid to express doubt and ask God “why have you forsaken me?” (A sentiment Jesus himself quotes on the cross) Jeremiah is also not afraid to yell at God when he’s alone and afraid.
So I reject anyone who tells me not to question. I think God is big enough to deal with my uncertainty. I’ve found him willing to be patient with me, although sometimes it takes a lot of searching and humility on my part before I can accept his answer.
I’ve started studying Deuteronomy lately. I like the old testament a lot and this is one of my favorite books. It does a good job of summarizing the first 4 books (which can get long and boring in places), and finishes up Moses’ story before he passes the torch to Joshua. I journaled a bit this morning on what I read today, and figured it was worth putting here.
Deuteronomy 1:41-46 Realizing what they had done, the Israelites tried to make it right. They got their weapons and went to the hill country where God had originally commanded them to go in order to take the land. Moses gave God’s warning that they should not go because God was not with them, but they didn’t listen. Because God was not with them, they were severely defeated.
The people of Israel seemed to want to make things right, but they still didn’t understand. God told them that they would not take this land because of their disbelief, and he meant it. Often we think we can take things into our own hands and fix them, but without God it doesn’t work. It seems to me that God gave them an opportunity and when they failed to obey he took the opportunity away. This seems harsh, especially since God decreed that no one of that generation would enter the land (except the 2 who were faithful), but God must have had good reasons. This was the culmination of a long journey. The whole purpose of the people being in the desert was to leave Egypt and go to the land God would give them. He had demonstrated his ability to provide for them. He had defeated kings for them, he had destroyed the army of Egypt for them. Now was the time for God to fulfill his promise, and he gave the command to go take possession of the land. The people sent scouts ahead to be more certain about what they were walking into, but when they believed the fears of their scouts and started disbelieving God, that was their error. After his repeated demonstration of his faithfulness, the people not only didn’t believe he could help them take this country as their new home, they accused him of bringing them here to kill them.
We all doubt and fear, and God demonstrates his ability to be patient with us. Moses is just one example. When God called him to go down to Israel and bring the people out, he made excuses 4 different times. Still God was patient and gave him assurances and helped him get over the fear. It’s obvious, though, that at some point our disbelief that leads to disobedience has to be punished. God understands our fear, but he wants us to trust him. He demonstrates that he is worthy of trust, but he expects us to trust him in a way that’s dangerous to us personally. If the Israelites had gone into the land and God wasn’t worthy of trust, they would have died. If Moses had gone to Pharaoh and God wasn’t with him, he might have been killed. It’s not really faith if you have a plan “B.” We have faith in something that’s worthy of trust, but at some point we have to lean on that faith in a way that’s final. We have to take steps that demonstrate that we believe strongly enough that if what we trust fails, we’re ruined. And when we do come to those times, depend on God and he comes through, there’s no better feeling.
I’m studying Galatians right now and trying to journal a bit on what I’m reading. My eventual goal is to compile all this stuff and post it or something. What I read today especially impacts where I am right now, so I thought I’d put it up. See what you think.
Galatians 4:8-11 Paul again addresses his prime concern: that the faithful in the Galatian church were turning back to their old ways and falling away from his teaching. There must have been strong pressure to go back and give up this new way of life. Paul points out that the things they worshiped before were weak and powerless, and now they have known the power of the true God. How can they now wish to turn back?
I guess it’s easy for me to sympathize with their confusion. It’s easy to long for the old way even though the old way is bad. Giving up old habits to live the life of a Christian certainly isn’t easy. The things I put my trust in before, and the things I looked to for comfort may have been worthless and destructive, but they worked well enough. Drinking and drugs and sex got me through, and brought me what I needed at the moment. When you’re in pain or under pressure or just looking for a way out, it’s hard to remember how destructive the old lifestyle was. It’s a lot easier to remember how good those things felt. It’s hard in the moment to remember the despair that lifestyle brings when all you want is relief right now.
So I can see why the Galatians were so tempted and so ready to turn back. Sometimes it gets to the point where it seems like too much work to change. The old way worked and I can trust it. It’s predictable. God promises change and lasting satisfaction. He promises to make old things new, and complete the good work he has begun in us. He promises to never leave nor forsake us. I guess it just comes down to one question: do we really trust him to keep all those promises?