Chapter three - Everyone Gets to Play
Much like Sarah I have often struggled with questions in my faith. I tend to want things to be tidy and organized, all fitting in a nice box, Christianity is messy. It's arms reach out like octopus tentacles pulling and grasping at whatever or whoever it can latch onto. Many people have abused it's power, more have silently let their pastor's shepard them, herding them away from questions and experiences that would grow their faith. I personally have struggled most with questions of galactic proportions. I love space and planets and our known universe, and even aliens. What does it all mean? Is there more life out there? Astrophysics is an amazing field of science that teaches us so much about humankind, and our beautiful infinite surroundings. I also studied history, and I don't fully know what I believe about our creation. I know that science can help us understand just how old this earth is, and how amazing the journey of our ancestors was. I do not think that God created the world in seven 24 hour days, I think he could've if he wanted to, He's God and he does what God's glory demands, but when we marry science and our faith together we come out with a richer more complete picture of God's glorious design of humanity. We in fact do share a common ancestor with monkeys! Perhaps we can learn something from them about community, maybe we can better appreciate our evolution to upright bi-pedal communicating complex society homo-sapian-sapians primates by learning more about the VERY long process it took us to get here. We can praise God for his wonderful design of a universe and eco-system.
Somethings that has really pushed the limits of my faith recently were two TV series, both on Netflix: Cosmos by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and How We Got To Now by Steven Berlin Johnson. Both grapple with big huge questions about our universe and our society, they highlight and showcase many discoveries and achievements that only came about because our Christian forefathers (and mothers) continued searching, reaching outward and onwards for the heavens.
What has your relationship been like with theology? Have you felt welcome to "play" with the big ideas and questions in your life? Have you learned to "play" with the big ideas and questions in your life? Have you learned more from scholars or "ordinary" people?
Growing up in children's ministry and youth ministry, I wasn't always encouraged to question, and sometimes was discouraged, being told that I was simply being disruptive or trying to derail the Bible Study. Luckily the pastor I grew up under, Pastor Brent Ferren who past away just the spring of this year, encouraged questions. In the last few years of his life he created a Bible Study of sorts that was open to our whole church family. It was a chance to bring questions and doubts to each other and discuss them. Brent himself even brought questions he had been struggling with, his main question, the one we spent many late nights talking about was this-- "Are you required to forgive someone?" He broke it down into this question specifically, if someone wrongs you, say for example, you were raped, and the man who raped you felt no remorse and refused to accept your apology, are you required to forgive him?
The most bizarre thing happened when Brent opened this Bible study up to the church, the first night we had about 30 people, of all ages, but the next week, when it was time to discuss this question again, only a handful of people returned. They didn't want their faith scrambled up. They were happy to stay in Stage Three of Fowler's Stages of Faith. This is the stage in our faith where "anything that doesn't "fit" with the faith we've been given is rejected. Conflict is feared or ignored."
I am so lucky to have been able to learn from scholars, such as my pastor and through books such as Willard's Divine Conspiracy, but also from everyday conversations with my peers and fellow churchgoers. It's rare that I truly feel push-back from questions that stem from true curiosity, not questions posed simply to play Devil's advocate.
Do you feel free to ask questions -- like a child would-- about what you want to know? Maybe you can share one big question that you truly want to find an answer for.
I think I've done a pretty good job answering this question with my above responses, but I will add my question I would love to know the answer to. Why do so many people find it hard to connect with a God who supposedly has his fingerprints on everything, and supposedly has power and control over everything? Wouldn't that God make himself more known to us?