“And frankly, the church sounds so certain about everything. There seem to be no maybes at all. We act as if we have it all down. We’ve got all the answers. If you’re confused, just come to us because we have it all mapped out. Sometimes it’s as if there is no mystery to God or the gospel, yet Paul speaks of it as a mystery. And the last time I checked the God of the Bible was still the invisible God.”
Erwin McManus, An Unstoppable Force, p. 59
Christians worship a God of truth. Jesus claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life. We can’t escape the reality that there is truth in this world waiting for us to discover. This truth about God, the universe, and life is all around us and comes at us in many different ways.
Yes, truth is discovered in the Bible. It is also found through the use of the scientific method and philosophy. We encounter truth through relationships, songs, and stories. It is possible to discover and know truth.
The reason I remind us of the reality of truth is because I don’t want you to misunderstand what I am about to say. It is okay to be uncertain, to not know the answer, and to struggle with doubts. In the end you might even discover that there isn’t an answer to every question and that mystery pervades much of life.
I think churches in the United States need to do a better job at being safe places where people can voice their questions, their struggles, and their doubts. Too many churches are not very accepting of people who come in with differing viewpoints, with hard questions, and with lingering doubts. The quick and easy answers many preachers and teachers give to these questions and doubts often fail to meet the needs of the questioner. If you come in with a different view of the age of the earth, the nature of the atonement, or what heaven and hell are like, you can be quickly branded a heretic.
The reason for this is because Christians are told, rightly so, that they are saved by God’s grace through their faith. The problem lies in the fact that people equate faith with belief. If we are saved through what we believe then it is essential that we believe the right things. If a person comes with a question it is the teachers duty to give them an answer so they can know the right thing to believe and help solidifying their faith.
Yet, the reality is that there are many things we don’t know and there are many doctrinal issues that have more than one viewpoint. While there are certain non-negotiable truths, such as Jesus being the Son of God who came to save us from our sins, there are other things that we should regard as opinions, such as the age of the earth.
Faith is greater than our beliefs. The foundation of faith is belief, but faith also includes trust, commitment, and action. The reason we are saved by faith isn’t because we possess all the right beliefs, but because we trust the right person.
Since faith is about trusting the right person rather than possessing the right beliefs then we should be able to cultivate church families that allow people to struggle with the Biblical text, to have periods of doubt, and to even come to a different doctrinal conclusion.
Creating such an environment requires the humility to admit that there are things that we don’t understand and to acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers. This is okay because our job isn’t to give people the right answers, but to point them to Jesus. Remember, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will lead us into truth. Can we trust the Holy Spirit to lead people to the truth that they need?
The older I have become the less certain I have become about life. Things that I thought were so clear when I was younger no longer seem as clear. In the process I have become more accepting of people who have different doctrinal views than I have. I no longer try to give quick easy answers to people’s questions, because I know the struggles I have gone through to arrive at the conclusions I have now. It is a process, and I need to honor that process by giving them room to process their thoughts.
To be effective in making disciples doesn’t require us to be certain about everything. What we need isto point people to Jesus, walk with them through the Scriptures, and pray that God would fill them with spiritual wisdom and understanding. After all what matters in not right beliefs, but trusting the right person.