How many times has the phrase, “The Bible could not be any clearer about…” been used to manipulate and even abuse people? I will not give examples, but just study a little history. It’s happened one too many times.
Can we just admit: There is a lot that is just not that clear? We are so fearful to admit that…afraid of some slippery slope, flying off some theological rail, or not taking the Bible seriously. I get all of that and there is a place for those concerns.
But there are so many things in Scripture that are not unmistakably crystal clear. It is why I always run back to what I think is undeniable and that is the resurrection of Jesus. Contrary to popular opinion, the foundation of the Jesus movement is not the Bible, it is not Christians, it is not doctrine, it is the resurrection. Without the resurrection, the Bible, Christians, and doctrine do not exist. The only reason we are still talking about Jesus is because, as crazy as it sounds, he came back to life. After two decades of intense study, that is the part that is clear to me. There is overwhelming historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus that validates for me everything that Jesus said and did. But so much of the rest of theology and Scripture is messy, complicated, and unclear. Heck, some of what Jesus said was unclear. I believe his words, but I do not always understand them.
It is why I would contend that one of the marks of a growing faith is wondering, questioning, and investigating. I can tell you that deeper worship is on the other side.
The idea that we can formulate an exhaustive set of theological beliefs that we never revisit and then say, “The Bible could not be clearer about…” is dangerous. The quest to following Jesus requires an overabundance of humility to listen, learn, and question. And, yes, I believe Scritpure is reliable and Jesus is the ultimate source of truth. But I am not the ultimate source of truth. Nor are you. Our interpretations and insights are limited and often wrong. Which means this spiritual journey is a lifetime of seeing previously undiscovered realities, unearthing new questions, and rethinking old paradigms.
That is scary. But I believe it is the invitation of Jesus when he said, “have faith like a child.” In her book Out of Sorts, Sarah Bessey explains how that verse is generally used to shut people down and silence the questions. How many times have you heard that? Just take your sincere, thoughtful, intellectual questions and ignore them and just believe. Maybe that was the reason you walked away from following Jesus. However, the invitation Jesus offers is the opposite of ignoring your honest doubts. Childlike faith is deeply curious. It is unafraid to ask questions with sincerity and find answers. You may have felt on the outside for your sincere questioning and investigating, but you are following Jesus with faith like a child. Your desire for answers and understanding is an act of faith.
My faith is anchored in the resurrection of Jesus. It is why Paul wrote in the New Testament that we could know (strong words) where we stand with God because God did something in history through Jesus – he rose from the dead. But my faith is also evolving, questioning, and changing. As it does, my circle has significantly widened to include new people and new theological perspectives. It has made me realize how big, vast, and beautiful the body of Christ is in the world.
My seminary self had clarity about all the theology. Now more than two decades later, there is more theology that is unclear and murky for me than ever before.
That does not make me nervous, it makes me excited. I am continuing the journey of discovering, experiencing, and following Jesus. I am finally learning what it means to have faith like a child.