This blog is about the big questions that keep me up at night, especially the ones that have to do with God. Here, I write about the books I read, the questions I ask, the podcasts I listen to. Most of the time, it’s pretty heady stuff.
But who cares? Why spend so much time thinking about faith? To many Christians, my project will likely seem unnecessary, overly intellectual, an exercise in missing the point.
Imagine a guy who loves hats more than anything in the world, but has an unusually large, oddly shaped cranium. Let’s call him Fred. Fred joins a club for other hat enthusiasts, but he has trouble fitting in. (Pun intended.) At their meetings, while the other club members are admiring the lovely shapes and colors all around, Fred is looking a bit too closely at the stitching on his favorite noggin-toppers. He’s always asking questions about materials and stitching. According to the rumors, Fred spends a lot of time researching hat-making techniques.
The others don’t get it. Hats are about looking fabulous, not techniques and analyzing and materials. Fred is missing the point!
Fred is a genuine hat-lover just like all the rest, but the already-assembled garments that the others purchase never fit Fred. He can’t wear the hats he loves unless he learns to fashion them himself. His passion is for wearing hats, but his peculiarities force him to pursue this passion in a more technical, heady way than his friends. (Again, pun intended)
In this very forced analogy, Fred represents me. Hats represent faith. Like Fred, what works for many people in my club (church) seldom works for me. The pre-assembled belief systems that are distributed at Evangelical (and even Mainline Protestant) churches do not fit me. I have too many questions which they ignore or only superficially answer. My BS tolerance is low, and I have trouble trusting the unexamined judgments of everyone (including myself).
But faith is about action and relationship, not beliefs, so why do I get hung up on the beliefs? Am I missing the point?
I still hold the conviction that faith is about far more than mere belief; faith grips at the heart of a person, going deeper than mere intellect and opinion. This gives me some freedom when it comes to beliefs: If faith isn’t about beliefs anyway, then my faith needn’t be threatened when I consider different beliefs.
But faith-in-action, like all actions, involves beliefs. You can’t pray the most basic prayer without making a bunch of assumptions about how God listens, if God listens, if God cares, how to pray, who God is, what God might do, etc. An even marginally reflective person will notice that none of these questions have obvious answers that everyone finds persuasive. The same goes for participating in church, sharing in a small group, and reading the Bible.
Faith demands action, and actions are always guided and given meaning through a network of belief, no matter how tentative those beliefs may be. Christians who do not realize this probably have an easy-enough time taking truth-claims for granted. If something seems true, and/or if the pastor says it’s true, then why question it? Indeed, for them it would be a distraction to bother thinking too hard about beliefs.
But that’s not who I am. I’ve been asking Why? since I was a small child. I have trouble trusting my intuition. I have doubts. I cannot trade in my mind for a more cooperative one, just as Fred can’t trade in his skull for one more suited to hats. In order for me to live a life of faith, I must take my questions seriously and pursue answers on my own time. Faith requires action, action requires beliefs, and for me, beliefs require lots of research and reflection.
The reason why I question and search is because my faith matters to me. As much as it may puzzle Christians who have an easy time trusting themselves and their pastors, I dive into challenging questions because I care so much about the practical matters of faith, not in spite of it.