Growing up, I interacted with a lot of Christians who seemed like they had an unbreakable connection into God's mind. They could quickly answer any question about their beliefs and spoke with a steadfast authority on what God would do or want in a given situation. I always assumed that these Christians had gone through some sort of divine transformation to receive this gift of insight and understanding; I also assumed that I would never be able to attain this gift for myself.
In thinking back on conversations I have had with friends and family who held fast to unchanging ideas about God’s nature, it has become evident that their aversion to doubt posed a huge threat to their spiritual well-being. By cutting off access to avenues for constructive doubt and exploration, we cut off opportunities to grow into a more wholesome understanding of God. It's no coincidence that Jesus often spoke in parables and answered questions with more questions. He was allowing for conversation, interpretation, and disagreements to take place. These processes are essential for building true faith because they allow us to consistently observe the word of God in practice rather than blindly accepting our beliefs as fact.
Our faith is like a muscle that we must exercise. With each repetition and introduction of stress, the muscle gets ripped apart and is therefore made stronger. In the same way, we must consistently repeat and re-learn lessons in order to stay spiritually fit. We have to continually re-assess our beliefs and value systems and stress test them against new information and observations. By taking this approach, we allow ourselves to be in consistent dialogue with God rather than participating in a one-way conversation.
Think of all the ways the Bible has been used to promote ideals that we no longer hold true. In just the last several generations in America, we have seen slavery and the inequality of women, for example, being upheld by religious leaders who understood without a doubt that these social institutions were God's will. What will future generations say about us? How will they justify and grapple with our unmoving claims about who we understand God to be?
Allowing for doubt and critical reflection within a church body means that more voices can be heard and accounted for. When the congregation blindly believes what they are being told without question, they cut themselves off from a diversity of thought. One of the most beautiful gifts that we have been given as humans is our diversity. People from different backgrounds and lifestyles are bound to think and process through issues differently. When we share questions and doubts about our own ideals and beliefs, we make room for others to share their stories as well. It is through this sharing that we can truly learn from one another and ultimately love each other more fully. It seems fitting that love is the one thing that Jesus is very clear about - leaving no room for doubt about the meaning:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34.
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