Woensdregt column

Being Christian and asking questions

Yme Woensdregt

“Is it okay,” she asked, “for a Christian to question her faith?”

I invited her to tell me more about why she was asking. She told me a sad story about growing up in a church which discouraged questions of any sort. “Real Christians don’t question their faith or have doubts,” they told her. “You just have to try harder to believe.” She ended up thinking she was a second–class Christian; she just didn’t have enough faith.

They told her that if she was learning something about science (or anything else) in school which disagreed with the Bible, then she must believe the Bible and ignore secular knowledge. They told her that the Bible (understood as literally as possible) is the only and final arbiter of truth.

They told her that creationism is the only explanation for how the world came to be. According to Genesis, God created the world in six literal days and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, evolution is wrong and dangerous because it undermines Christian faith. They must fight it every step of the way.

They told her that Jesus was born of a virgin, and even though that didn’t make sense to her, she had to accept it by faith.

They told her that if people didn’t accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour, they would go to hell. That’s why all other religions are false. It doesn’t matter how good or kind other people may be, if they don’t believe in Jesus, they are unbelievers and destined for eternal torment.

And because she was not allowed to ask questions, because she was just supposed to accept everything on faith, she just gave up.

She could not accept a worldview divided between those who are being saved, and those who are condemned to an eternity of hellfire. She had so many questions and she wasn’t allowed to ask them. She started to think that she didn’t have enough faith and that it was all her fault. She got tired of feeling deficient and left church. She gave up on faith. She tried to live without God.

Except … God wouldn’t let her go. She had been reading my columns, and she got in touch with me and asked, “Is it okay for a Christian to question her faith?”

And I said, “Of course it is.” We went on to have a wonderful conversation about the life of faith and our relationship with God.

For me, being a Christian has to do with growing and learning and discerning answers to some of the most important and significant questions in life. Brian McLaren puts it this way in his book, Generous Orthodoxy: “To be a Christian in a generously orthodox way is not to claim to have the truth captured, stuffed and mounted on the wall. It is rather to be in a loving community of people who are seeking the truth on the road of mission, and who have been launched on the quest by Jesus, who, with us, guides us still.”

I like McLaren’s take on it. Two phrases stand out for me.

Firstly, being a Christian is to “be in a loving community of people”. Christian faith is a communal faith. The Bible knows nothing of solitary Christians. Rather, we live and work and praise the God of life within community. Jesus commanded us to “love God with all that we are, and to love our neighbours as ourselves.” It’s not just about me and Jesus. It’s about you and me and you and you and you and God and you. To be Christian is to be in community with others.

Secondly, this is a community of people “who are seeking the truth”. We are always seeking. None of us ever possesses the truth. Life is not static and fixed. It is always changing and growing, and we grow and learn along with it.

The same is true of Christian faith. There isn’t only one way of talking about our faith which is good for all times. Rather, Christian faith is dynamic. The Holy Spirit continues to blow where she will, and as human knowledge changes and grows, Christians are always seeking to find new ways of talking about God in the light of those new discoveries. We are always growing in our understanding of faith, and we grow best when we can ask questions about what’s central. We continue to grow in our knowledge and in the way we can speak about the God who is involved in creation and who continues to create, who continues to bring life out of death and order out of chaos.

The church is at its best when we are trying to discern where God is active in the world today, and when we are trying to find ever new ways of speaking about God’s presence. As we seek truth, we also listen to others who are also seeking truth, whether they are Christian or not.

One of my favourite aphorisms is that “Christian faith is not about finding the answers; it’s about learning to ask the right questions.” Faith is a journey. Faith is a process of growing and learning and changing and evolving. It’s about being on a way in life. We ask questions because they are a necessary part of growing. We are on a journey, in which we humbly continue seeking truth wherever it is to be found.

In this way of understanding Christian faith, asking questions is a necessary and critical part of how we live. When we question, we acknowledge that we are still learning, still seeking to grow. When we ask questions, we imply that others have answers that we may not be aware of. We live together with others who know something of the truth. When we ask questions, we open ourselves again to the mystery of life, and seek to embrace truth and compassion wherever we find it.

Yme Woensdregt is a retired Anglican priest living in Cranbrook

Just Posted

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

It happened this week in 1914

June 6 -12: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers held at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, June 10, mentioned Grand Forks among two other COVID “hot spots” in B.C. Photo: Screenshot - YouTube COVID-19 BC Update, June 10, 2021
PHO Henry says West Kootenay city is a COVID ‘hot spot’ in B.C.

There are 11 cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks local health area, according the BC CDC

Supporters — and shoppers — lined up waiting at the Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Store on 8th Avenue South, waiting for the doors to open on the store's first day of operations since the pandemic forced its closure. (Photo courtesy Kate Fox)
CHCA Thrift Store re-opens in Cranbrook

After a closure of 15 months, due to the pandemic, the Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Store on 8th Avenue South has once again opened its doors for business.

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Denmark soccer player Christian Eriksen collapses during game against Finland

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

Most Read