Saturday, October 25, 2014

On the Questioning of God


My FB friend Bobby Grow and I are thinking along the same line tonight (see his post at http://growrag.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/schooled-in-the-faith-of-christ-thomas-torrance-responds-to-rachel-held-evans-questioning-approach/).  Great minds think alike? :-)  I want to come at what I take to be our similar concern from another direction.  He takes on the matter of what constitutes proper questioning of God.  I will look at another facet of the matter here. 

I have a growing concern that a certain recklessness in questioning God is becoming our default mode of relating to him.  From the Garden of Eden on the central issue between God and humanity was/is the latter inability/unwillingness to trust God.  Even for those who follow Jesus this remains our central struggle.  God accommodates this weakness by allowing us to vent and rage at him, call him terrible names, and hurl all manner of vile accusation against him (see Job and Lamentations).  For people of faith it is necessary and important for us to approach God openly and honestly about what we perceive to going on in our life or our world.  Spiritual, psychological, and emotional health require it.  God allows it, is even pleased, when we practice this.

I fear, however, that in much of our questioning, lamenting, and even raging at God, there is a certain attitude of entitlement that assumes God and we are on an even level.  God must and ought to provide an account of ways with us, so we seem to think.  A presumption that we can grasp the wisdom of God’s ways, or, that God’s wisdom ought to be accessible and accountable to us.  And if we cannot or do not receive satisfactory explanations, we feel free to critique and reject that which we do not understand.

We must remember, I think, that God’s willingness to accept our complaints, laments, and objections about the way he does things is an accommodation to our hardness of heart.  Perfect trust, the way we should relate to God and are moving to relate to him under the Spirit’s guidance, precludes this kind of questioning.  Not all kinds of questioning, mind you.  Read Bobby’s post (noted above) for more on that. But remembering that God is love and absolute goodness, that we are creatures who cannot fathom the Lord’s wisdom or the depth of his love for us, that he deserves only our trust and praise, and that living in a not-yet-fully-redeemed world places us at times in intolerable perplexity and distress, we are free to bring all that perplexity and distress into his presence with all the passion, and even vitriol, that seethes within us.  Yet, having had our say, still perplexed and distressed, we cannot expect an answer that satisfies our minds, calms our souls, or soothes our emotions.  Like Job, the Lord may well answer us.  But that answer will first be a revelation of himself that will put us in our place by re-establishing God in his place in our relationship.  We can then vent our spleen and yet bow in humility before the divine wisdom which we do not and cannot understand.  We can question and yet pray even without the satisfaction of our questions and doubts.  We can rest with our desires, even our most earnest desires to blame God or do differently than what we are instructed to do, because we are in the One, Jesus Christ, who even at his greatest moment of crisis (which we can never ever fully fathom), questioned his Father’s will and yet submitted himself in trust to a crucible more terrible than we will or can ever know to the One who knew to be utterly faithful.

I remember a story about several rabbis imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp.  Once a week they would gather and put God on trial for his lack of faithfulness and care for his people.  And each week they would find him guilty.  And then they would adjourn for prayer and worship.  That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about.

I hope and pray that I am wrong and my concern baseless.  And that our railings and rants at God are not of the presumptive variety I outlined above.  But I’m not at all sure that is the case.  And for the sake of the body of Christ and its witness to God in our world, I hope and pray that each of us will make sure that our complaints, questions, and accusations, while generated by the faithfulness (or its apparent lack) of God ends yet in trustful submission that, indeed, the Lord of the earth will do what is right (Gen.18:25)!

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