I need a new sort of questioning, rooted not in doubt but in faith. The tendency is place questioning with doubt and certainty with faith. All of scripture, tradition, reason, and experience has taught me that life is not filled with certainty but questions. When I was in school we were always encouraged to ask questions, this was how we were meant to learn, but at the same time, questions often meant acknowledging that we did not understand what was going on. As a vain academic, the questions I was most proud of were the ones that pushed the envelope of learning far beyond what we were meant to have covered in the class. Now this worked for me, I was an intelligent child, capable of understanding many of the more advanced concepts that were being taught, my deep probing questions were good for where I was at in my learning process. At the same time I wonder if I would have had the courage to ask the questions if they were simple and basic ones that everyone else already knew the answer to. I am ashamed to say the answer would probably have been “no.” Academic vanity and pride have always been struggling points for me.
Often contained in the idea of asking questions is the idea that we will get answers. My experience however is that simply or complex, questions often lead to more questions. I remember in 9th grade trying to understand the periodic table of the elements and generating more and more questions about how electrons worked. The reason I share this is I think faith is meant to be the same way. Sometimes I feel we try to simplify faith too much. Rather than trying to probe the complexity of Jesus, we reduce him merely to the Way, the Truth and the Life, or the Trinity to creator, redeemer, and sustainer. Whatever the question, the temptation is to try and find a simply answer which resolves it for us.
What do I do with this as a pastor? How do I help lead people not to answers, but to questions that will give them a better understanding of the complexity of God. I think an atom is a really good way to look at God. The basic understanding of an atom is a ball. Then if you get more complex it is a series of shells (electron levels) surrounding a smaller ball (the nucleus). If you study more however you learn that electrons spin, and rotate and do all sorts of other things, so that simply to see them as shells is not right, and then you add in the uncertainty principle and learn that the shells we previously used to understand the make-up of the atom only tells us where an electron is something like 90% of the time. Is there an uncertainty principle to God? How do I deal with the human needs for answers when I believe we are better living in the questions? How do I transform the grammatical question mark from an expression of extreme doubt or skepticism into an expression of healthy growth? I know many churches that advertise that questions are welcome, the implication is that they will provide answers. I want to be part of a church that helps people with answers find more questions to ask, a church that peels back the various atomic models to find the deeper uncertainty of God that requires a greater expression of faith.