Why we should practice the art of faithfully questioning everything

Question_EverythingOne thing I ‘ve found fascinating from studying human nature, teaching, writing and having conversations with people, is our innate ability to disregard anything that is different than what we already agree with. This amazing mental disconnect is especially prevalent with true believers, whether Christian or otherwise. 

Whenever our illusionary world of certainty is put into question, we will run to the safety of those we agree with. We will pore over our favorite Bible passages and commentaries, read blogs and books we agree with, watch videos…all to reassure ourselves once again of our certainty.

Please understand that when I say “illusionary world of certainty,” I’m not saying that there is nothing to be certain about, or that there isn’t objective truth. I’m saying that our understanding of objective truth is often subjective. To imagine that we’ve got all our doctrines pristinely perfect is the very height of elitist arrogance…or just a plain mulish unwillingness to let anyone get through to us.

I find this phenomenon especially interesting in blogging. For instance, I know that whenever I write on something non-controversial, or what most Christians already agree with, I will get lots of “likes” and comments…mostly, people saying how they already agree with what I said. And this is encouraging and reaffirming to me.  But whenever I write something that’s not reiterating the popular “evangelical” fare (which is a lot of my writing), not as many “likes” and comments. (This is why we should get our need for affirmation primarily from our heavenly Father, not from popular agreement.)

Of course, I don’t want you to “like” something I said if you don’t actually like it. But we should all be asking ourselves in this situation, “Why don’t I like it?” And more importantly, should this affect my relationship with this person?

We don’t seem to know how to have relationships with people we may have some disagreement with, so we leave the relationship. We leave marriages, friendships, churches, or any other group we don’t agree with. Strangely, we find more comfort from dismissing or demonizing these opposing views than learning from them.

There is also a dangerous side to this mental disconnect, especially with something so passionately held as religion. As Blaise Pascal once said, “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” 

Dr. Daniel J. Seigel (Mindsight Institute) shares how concentration camp guards during World War II could kill or brutally torture their prisoners in inhuman and horrific ways, yet they were very kind to their dogs. Studies in neurobiology have shown that if we encounter someone NOT like us (religion, race, politics, social standing…), that we can actually shut off the impulses in our brain that provide compassion and empathy, allowing one to compartmentalize these people, who probably have families and hopes and dreams and dogs just like we do, into this rationalized hell of being treated as “less human” or unworthy of love. This myopic perception is what Einstein called, “An optical delusion of our separateness.”

SacrednessofQuestioningEverythingDavid Dark, in his book, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything, sums up this danger quite well.

Of course, when religion won’t tolerate questions, objections, or differences of opinion and all it can do is threaten excommunication, violence, and hellfire, it has an unfortunate habit of producing some of the most hateful people to ever walk the earth. (p. 34)

In my own book, Sonshift, I make the point that we should always be growing and changing. This doesn’t sit well with many “Bible-believing” folk. It’s often likened to raising doubts about the validity of the Bible—or worse, falling into an apostate condition. The honest truth is, we all just don’t like change, but change is the only way we will grow—especially when it comes to growing in the faith.

Isn’t being humble and teachable, by definition, being open to changing what we’ve previously held with at least some conviction? Actually, the very word we translate into English as “repent” (metanoeo) means to “undergo a change in frame of mind….”

I seriously think that to stay stuck in what we’ve been taught leads to spiritual arrested development. It’s actually not healthy at all. This come from what Derek Flood (Disarming Scripture) calls “unquestioning obedience” to what we think Scripture is saying, instead of the way of Jesus’ “faithful questioning.” Jesus certainly confronted the fundamentalism of His day—not to tear down biblical truth, but to make it good and whole.

As David Dark asks, if there is no soul-searching, is the soul even there?

While it seems counterintuitive, we understand that living things must be pruned back for them to keep growing and bear more fruit (See John 15:2). Likewise, before there can be a re-formation, there must be a “cutting back” of our current formation. It’s only by being courageous enough to question our current knowing that we move into better knowing.

Yes, it’s risky…but so is being alive.

Dark calls this fear of change spiritual “zombification”….

If we aren’t reaching toward a fresh understanding of the world through the questions we ask, we remain pretty well zombified in the cold comfort of dead religiosity. (p. 42)

I would further make the case that stubbornly clinging to what we’ve always believed without considering a different view is a hallmark trait of “Zombie Christianity.” This is the fruit of fear-based religion rather than a love-based relationship with our heavenly Father as fully affirmed sons and daughters who aren’t afraid of truth, even if it’s not our truth.

Being afraid to think for ourselves because of what might be the consequences of going against the grain of popular “Bible-speak” is Orwellian in nature and not a healthy way to live at all, as Dark said earlier in his book…

Having faith in this brand of God is akin to Orwell’s “doublethink”—a disturbing mind trick by which we don’t let ourselves know what’s really going on for fear of what might follow. (p. 12)

I could make a strong argument that neither Jesus nor Paul would be received very well in our current evangelical world of doctrinal certainty because of this Christianized “doublethink.” We don’t realize just how subversive they were in their teaching, constantly overturning the tables of the “solid teaching” of their day.

For instance, we see the contrast in Acts 17 between the unquestioning obedience of the Jewish leaders in Thessalonica (vs.1-9), who wanted to kill Paul, and the sacred questioning of the Bereans who received Paul’s strange teaching…

These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. (Acts 17:11 NKJV)

Asking faithful questions is a sign of a healthy soul, even when we think they might be dumb questions. As an old saying goes, “A wise man can learn more from foolish questions than a fool can learn from a wise answer.”

All reformations in Christian history came from faithful questioning of the status quo. If we do not continue on this trajectory, we will not continue to “grow up into in all things into Him who is the Head—Christ.” (See Eph.4:13-15). I don’t think we’re there yet, do you? For it’s in the tension between what we’re sure about and what we’re afraid to question where God brilliantly brings us into greater biblical self-discovery, which is where we become more spiritually, emotionally, and relationally healthy and whole as believers.

I am certain of one thing: our faithful and humble heart of uncertainty will lead us together into the very heart of Jesus—who is our way, our truth and our life in the Father’s embrace. Amen.

 

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 36 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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33 Responses to Why we should practice the art of faithfully questioning everything

  1. nancyteague says:

    Reblogged this on Growing In Fullness and commented:
    It is amazing how we box ourselves in because of religious tradition. God is so beyond that! Jesus certainly proved that point. Thank you Mel for stirring the pot. Let the savor of questioning arise!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks Nancy. The word “religion” is instructive in what you’re saying. It’s a combination of Latin words, meaning to “bind again” or to re-bind. So religion and boxes are pretty much synonymous. 🙂 Blessings.

    • nancyteague says:

      Wow, didn’t know the Latin meaning of religion! Thank you! That explains a lot!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Latin word religiōn– (stem of religiō) equiv. to religare = re (“again”) + ligare (“bind”). To “bind fast” or, as some of the Ancient Fathers like Augustine interpreted it…”to place a moral obligation on.”

  2. Lance says:

    “I’m saying that our understanding of objective truth is often subjective…. Strangely, we find more comfort from dismissing or demonizing these opposing views than learning from them.”

    If we are the divine manifestation in this temporal reality, then the one we disagree with and demonize is just another version of ourselves. We are all His children. A deeper way to say it, maybe, is we are all his expression on this earth. Jesus reveals that objective truth and removes the fallen human need for religion that so often opposes that objective truth. To be a follower of Christ is to love your enemy and in doing so realize you feel enmity towards no person because they are just a different expression of you. Love your neighbor as yourself…has a different feel doesn’t it? Love you Mel. Your awesome and I liked your post and I’m not on your speed dial.

    • Mel Wild says:

      I love your take, Lance…”the one we disagree with and demonize is just another version of ourselves.” That is exactly it! And remembering this keeps us from the delusion of our separateness, as Einstein put it. It keeps the love on, if you will.

      On friends and speed dials, I think it’s actually very healthy to have relationships with people who don’t think like you do at all. I have a mature Christian friend, who I consider a dear brother in Christ, yet we don’t doctrinally agree on just about everything! We’ve have debated and had extended conversations on our positions for many years, and in doing so, have helped each other immensely. As I said in the dedication of my book, my sons helped me out of my own religious myopic viewpoints when they faithfully questioned my Christian assumptions. I also have an agnostic friend who I have wonderful conversations with, about the cosmos and the world around us. We have mutual respect and grow as human beings because of it.

      It’s good to not be afraid. 🙂 Love you, too, bro!

    • Deb says:

      Love this post–so full of wisdom and revelation!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, Deb. Much appreciated. Blessings

  3. Florian says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Great article! I think it was Thomas Merton who once said, that if the me from a year ago doesn’t consider the me today a heretic, I have not grown. Maybe a bit exaggerated, but he’s got a point…lol. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Lydia Thomas says:

    Over the past several years, I grew up in a subculture where asking questions was not okay or encouraged. I was expected to just accept what we were taught; after all, if God said it, I was to believe it. Problem was, there were many things that God didn’t say, and I couldn’t tell where they came from. And because other people had issues with my questions (I was labeled rebellious and even rebuked for having a Jezebel spirit), I began to believe God took issue with them as well.

    Although I have long since realized that our Heavenly Father welcomes my questions, welcomes me, I walked away from Him and the Church for a long time. Sometimes, I still have difficulty with the Church, but I’m trying to stick it out, knowing that none of us are perfect.

    Grateful for this post.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks for your comments, Lydia. Ugh! The “Jezebel spirit.” I’ve heard that accusation too many times. That label was often used as a club to shut people up (especially women) who dare have an opinion or think differently. Your story is, sadly, not uncommon. This is one of the many reasons why C. Baxter Kruger said that the Western Church needs a hug from Father God for about 30 years! 🙂

      I definitely understand where you’re coming from on “church.” I would encourage you to keep “sticking it out” and not give up on church. Hopefully, you can find one that understands the Father’s love and walks in love together. It may just be a house church or a home group. As I said in my post, “Rebuilding our cities in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse,” I think we’re in the beginnings of a whole new breed of local churches (whether big or small), who don’t use God’s Word as a club, who don’t move in an “us vs. them” mindset, but desire to live humbly together in community, encouraging one another, living from a love paradigm rather than one based in fear and control.
      Blessings to you.

  5. Anonymous says:

    If I am illuminating the Holy Spirit’s light in me, my actions will be one in the same each time–love–the greatest commandment from my Father. Many times I stop and think about how our Heavenly Father loves people–even those who may not share the same view as myself–and I am in complete agreement with a reader above; walking in complete humility as Jesus did is essential! I love you Mel and Maureen:).

    • Mel Wild says:

      “If I am illuminating the Holy Spirit’s light in me, my actions will be one in the same each time–love–the greatest commandment from my Father.” Amen. We love with the Father’s love. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Thank you for your comments and love for Maureen and me. 🙂 The same back to you! Blessings.

  6. Ann Koplow says:

    Beautifully written, Mel. Thanks so much!

  7. Heidi says:

    Love your post, Mel. Thank you for all that you wrote. Jesus did say, “unless you change and become like little children…..” And what’s one thing that little children love to do? Ask tons of questions! 😉 A big part of learning is understanding, and a bit part of understanding is asking questions.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, Heidi. Great point about children asking questions. Such an important part of the Kingdom. Why did we “grow up” and forget this very important thing? Time to learn how to be children again! 🙂

  8. Justin says:

    Wow, you’re speaking my language Mel! God wants us to ask questions. A United church will come through humility. I believe that when we see Jesus face to face in heaven we will all realize we had a lot of our theology wrong.

    • Mel Wild says:

      I’m sure you’re right about that, Justin. There is so much we probably don’t even know that we don’t know! 🙂 We don’t have a mental grid for it yet. Paul called them mysteries. And that shows how patient and kind and loving God is toward us. He meets us where we’re at, even when we’re wrong about Him. The Bible gives us a history of how God has progressively brought man into greater understanding of Him, until He revealed what He was really like through His Son, Jesus. And we really only know Him through Jesus. This is why our relationships can’t be based on lockstep doctrinal agreement. We love each other because we are loved by Him. That’s how the world will know Him, too. Through our love for one another and our union in Him (John 13:35; 17:23).
      Thanks for your comments. Blessings.

  9. Justin says:

    http://bible.com/114/1co.13.12.nkjv For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Melster! What are you (us) currently faithfully questioning??

    We are questioning….
    1) The limits of “Greater works” (John 14:12)
    2) A treatment facility called “Gillis” in Kansas City where we believe the facility is called greater from a treatment facility to a TRANSFORMATION CENTER!
    3) Unique Divinely inspired “Ideas” for Universal Transformation!

    Among many others….

    Endless Love!

  11. Mel, thanks so much for your take on this. This same digging in of heels and the David Dark quote from “Questioning” is played out in our country every election year. So sad, especially when self-proclaimed ‘evangelicals’ cast blame and shadows instead of love and light.
    BTW, thanks for the Latin deconstruction of the word ‘religion.’ Definitely going to use it in a future post! 😉

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, Susan. Always appreciate your input.
      On your comment, “So sad, especially when self-proclaimed ‘evangelicals’ cast blame and shadows instead of love and light.”
      This is sadly true with those stuck in the shadows, but I think you’ll like my next post (Friday). It’s a reprint of a prophetic word for 2016 that indicates that God is quite likely up to something very different than the tiresome “doom and gloom” stuff we’re getting from the same people who told us the four “Blood Moons” were the sign of the end. 🙂

  12. Gahigi says:

    Hey Mel,

    I remember one time I tried to have a conversation with my brother along these lines. The only thing is it was somewhat difficult for me to have that conversation because I didn’t know how to let him know I disagreed with some of the things he said without it becoming an argument. It’s been my tendency to argue for a very long time but a long time ago I also stopped doing it so much after reading something in Proverbs. With my brother I felt like what I had and still have are pearls and there’s a verse where the Lord says “don’t cast your pearls before swine”. Not that my brother is a “pig” but I think you get the point. In another instance the Lord said “agree with your adversary quickly” (again not that my brother is my adversary) but maybe He wasn’t even talking about anything I’ve mentioned but I think some have the idea that it means to let someone think you agree with their viewpoint. However it’s a huge leap to think “in the frame of mind” I do now as opposed to what I thought 5, 10, 15 years ago. And as you said (referring to Jesus and Paul) the way I think now would get me kicked out of many churches and maybe even my own church (my father looked like he was about to “have a fit” when I said something contrary to how we’ve been taught). I guess I’m wondering if you think when I’m talking to my brother or anyone else that I voice my disagreements and let them know we can agree to disagree or say nothing at all? Also do you think there are times when you feel something is right in your spirit that you don’t need to debate about because it’s possible that it makes no sense logically speaking or maybe even “scripturally” speaking (at least not yet)?

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