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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Greater Faith

God is evil, and I don't want anything to do with him.

Because how could he allow bad things to happen? How could he allow people to kill each other? How could he allow children to die of diarrhea every day around the world? And in my own life, why did I get sick last year? Why did I need surgery, and I'm not the same as I was before?

This is the line of thought I've been going along lately. How can God allow evil? If I can't trust him to protect me, then what's the point of him?

And why should I pray? How can I ask this God for mundane things in my life- finding a job, etc- when he's not helping other people with even bigger problems? How can I think that God will listen to me, when he's busy not saving people from dying in car accidents?

Wouldn't it be kind of EVIL for me to pray? For me to think that God should listen to me and help me, when he's ignoring so many other needs in the world. Isn't it immoral for me to even ASK for help from a God like that? As if I deserve better than every innocent person who is suffering or dying from some preventable cause.

Like, I'm a Christian, I still believe it all, it's just that... God seems evil...

Overwhelmed, paralyzed, thinking that I'm alone and God will not protect me- this is where I've been lately, and this is how I arrived at Urbana (huge Christian missions conference for college students).

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Over the past 1-2 years, my views on women in the church and marriage have changed completely. Now I believe that the same rules apply to both men and women. Virtues like love, gentleness, and courage do not belong to only one gender, and ALL Christians should use their talents to serve God. (Many thanks to Rachel Held Evans for making the case for egalitarianism.)

And I believe this because it MAKES SENSE. Arguments from the bible, historical and cultural context, the testimonies of women who are called to be pastors, and women who have been held back and mistreated by the asymmetry in the church's understanding of men and women.

But I've always felt a little uneasy about the fact that I changed my opinion from what didn't make any sense but the bible seemed to be saying- that God wants women to be limited- to something that made a lot more sense, but that I came to by thinking it through myself and being convinced by the arguments...

Like, is that legit? To reject what God seemed to be saying because seriously, it doesn't make any sense at all? We look at what the bible says, and then only obey it if we determine that it seems right?

I mean, that's really the only reasonable approach- to question and not accept the things that just seem really messed-up and inconsistent- otherwise church leaders could just make up stupid stuff and tell you it's in the bible and it's important to obey what God said even when it doesn't make sense. No, we have to question this stuff and reject whatever is inconsistent.

But it still bothered me. What about the value of trusting and obeying God even when his commands don't seem to make sense? Instead we just trust our own understanding?

Like, I really do believe the stuff about equality for women in the church. I really think that is God's intention for men and women, and it's a crucial part of the reconciliation that comes through the resurrection of Christ. But it kind of bothered me how I'd come to this conclusion by thinking through it myself, rather than trusting in some supposed "command of God" that I didn't understand.

What is the role of questioning and thinking logically, and what is the role of trusting and obeying when God says something that seems to not make sense?

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And somehow, at Urbana, God gave me the answer. I guess it didn't really relate to the general theme of Urbana- it's a missions conference- but hey, God is there speaking to a lot of people.

On the one hand, I was discouraged and questioning and accusing God of evil. How can God allow so much violence in the world, and why should I even associate with a God who's like that? But on the other hand, I am a Christian, and I have seen and experienced enough of God to be confident in my belief. I'm not questioning Christianity- I believe in God, I believe in the bible, I believe in the resurrection, I believe in God's power working in the world.

I'm not questioning Christianity this time- I did all that a while ago, and I'm done. (Definitely something everyone needs to go through, by the way- how can you say you really believe what you believe if you've never questioned it?) I know I'm a Christian and I follow Jesus.

Nope, not questioning Christianity. I just think God's evil, that's all.

This is where I need to have faith. This is where I need to trust and obey even when it doesn't make sense. Because before anything else, I am loyal to Jesus.

Faith doesn't mean you don't question. Faith means after you question and object to everything, after you challenge every detail you read in the bible, after you call God all the names you can think of (and I don't mean the nice ones like "King of Kings"), you come back and say, "I still believe in the goodness of God."

Faith means I am looking for answers to all this, but in the mean time I'll just go with what I know. It means I won't stop praying, even though I don't get why God would answer some prayers and not others.

And I know, without a doubt, that this is a greater faith than what I had before I questioned. A greater faith than when I thought "God has put these limits on women, and we don't get why but we have to go with it." When I thought "well these Old Testament passages about killing the residents of other cities are kinda scary, but they're the bad guys so it's okay, just don't think too hard about it." When I thought the answer to why violence exists in the world would be some one-liner about sin and free will.

To "believe" because you never let yourself really think about it- that's a little bit of faith. A little bit of overly naive and unjustified faith, in my opinion. But to believe because you have faced every question, every uncomfortable detail, and you feel confused and discouraged... but all of it cannot outweigh what you already know about God, what you have seen and heard and felt- that is faith.

I question everything, and somehow it has led me to a greater faith.

2 comments:

  1. About the Bible-- the way I see it, is that I have to look at the revelation of Christ first. What kind of Father did Jesus reveal to us? And then if a doctrine (such as the arbitrary restriction of women) doesn't fit that image of the Father-- then there's something wrong with the way we're understanding the Bible and we need to look closer. It's not about setting human intellect and reason over the Bible. It's about not setting the way we read the Bible over what is most clearly revealed through Christ. If we don't do that, then what we're doing is assuming that every time we read the Bible for what it appears to say to us, we're getting it right. And I think my own ability to understand a several-thousand-year-old book, is well worth questioning. Why should I assume that just because something looks plain and clear to me, that I'm really understanding it?

    About the problem of suffering (also known as "theodicy") -- this is the best thing I've ever read on the subject and it helped me a lot!

    http://www.doxa.ws/Theology/Theodicy1.html

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  2. I like the idea of interpreting the confusing stuff in the bible based on what Jesus reveals about the nature of God. It seems like that's the only straightforward and logical way to address it. But I'm still a little paranoid... paranoid that I'm just making stuff up rather than following God's clear and illogically sexist command. But actually I think that's what faith is- to believe these things that MUST be true about God- how he values both men and women and wouldn't arbitrarily restrict us- even though I've been told otherwise, and even though it feels kinda wrong for me to just reject all that.

    Also thanks for sharing the link about the question of suffering. :) I think there are a lot of good things that have been said about it, but I also understand being at a point where no answer is satisfying.

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