Even during my last few years as pastor, it seemed to me we had the wrong goal for the Christian life. My Charismatic friends seemed to think it was all about powerful manifestations of God. Speaking in tongues, prophecies, and healings were all the rage. For evangelicals, it seemed to be mostly about knowledge, believing the “right” things. Neither focus seemed to result in much positive life change or have much of an impact for good or for God upon the world. Interestingly, both approaches feed the ego by having a power or knowledge that others did not have. I came to the conclusion that neither group had God nearly as well figured out as they thought they did.
For instance, our knowledge of the Bible can turn into a very ugly, unkind, and inhumane thing. It was Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi who said, “People of the book risk putting the book above people.”
I have heard propositional sermons, in which the preacher declared, if you do this, God will do that for you. My personal life seldom seemed to bear that out, nor did it follow the patterns the preacher so boldly proclaimed. It didn’t even hold up when I thought through various people in the Bible and their life circumstances.
We have taken the mystery out of God and if anyone is mysterious, He is. How can we possibly, rationally say that we have God figured out and he always has to act “this way”? I mean, I don’t even have my wife figured out. I don’t even have me figured out! How could I possibly figure out the Creator?
If our minds and understanding have limits, and they do, there is a pretty good chance we might be wrong about something concerning our understanding of God. Church history is largely a record of how we got it wrong, but Christians were willing to fight and kill for those things, because we believed we were right. So we had inquisitions, militaristic crusades, torture, and executions over differences in beliefs.
Did we suddenly get everything right?
There needs to be room for questions because anything true can withstand any sort of questioning we can come up with.
People have some very good and very honest questions about God and The church should be their sanctuary from fear and exclusion. Their questions should be welcomed, but it is exactly at this point when people leave the church. They can tell that their questions are unwelcome, since the church already has its axioms that must be embraced to be an accepted member of the club.
From my book, An Irreligious Faith