For many people, the Bible is a downright dangerous book. For others, it is a holy book but hardly the Word of God. For others, it is a mixture, with its value determined by human interpretation alone. For many Christians, it is the inspired Word of God from which much direction, encouragement and faith can be found.
The bottom line is that people have questions. Questions about the problem of suffering and evil; the goodness of God; faith and unanswered prayers; integrity of Scripture and human existence and purpose. Lots and lots of questions.
And that means that we need to have answers. Solid answers. Answers that will withstand scrutiny and rigorous thought. Answers that are anything but cheap.
Be assured that Almighty God is not put off by our questions!
Within days of my coming to faith in Jesus in 1971 as a heavy drug-using, rebellious, Jewish rock drummer, my dad asked me to meet the local rabbi. (I should also mention that my father was the senior lawyer in the New York Supreme Court, so he had his own set of questions for me and was the opposite of an intellectual slouch.)
The rabbi, in turn, brought me to meet other rabbis, some of them very devout, all of them very sharp, and every one of them with serious challenges to my faith.
Then, during all my years in college and grad school, not one of my professors shared my faith. And while were some quite friendly and even supportive of my studies, others were openly hostile.
On top of this, through my first 15 years as a believer, I knew very few Christian intellectuals, other than by reading their books. I had no contact with them directly and no ability to pick up the phone and call them. I had no access to their lectures and no way to pick their brains.
The good news is that the more I studied and dug and searched and probed, despite some really difficult moments along the way, the more I found confirmation for my faith. It was not a matter of turning off my mind in order to believe. Instead, it was a matter of renewing my mind to the truth, of recognizing that my experience in God – which was ongoing and not one-time – was based on the reality of God.
Unfortunately, millions of young people today have not experienced God for themselves. I’m also talking about kids raised in church. This means that the questions about God are all the more challenging to them. Why should they believe? What’s so important about the Bible? What makes Jesus so special? What about other religions? And why believe in such a “mean” religion, especially when it comes to its supposed treatment of those who identify as LGBTQ?
All this makes for a toxic mix of unbelief, but one which is also perfectly understandable given the many secular influences on young people today, coupled with their lack of deep, spiritual experiences. To browbeat them for their lack of faith is to do the devil’s work.
Instead, we need to provide an environment where people of all ages and backgrounds can ask their questions about God and faith. Provide a place where they can feel secure in their searching and where they can be honest about their doubts. We also need to provide an environment where they can truly meet the Lord and experience Him for themselves. Without a deep, strong spiritual experience in my own life during those times of intellectual testing, and before I had discovered solid answers, that testing might just have pulled me away.
I simply want to underscore the importance of us welcoming questions about our faith and challenges to our faith. In order to do this, we need to know the Lord for ourselves and have a strong foundation in our own lives, both spiritually and intellectually.
Only then can we love God with all our hearts and with all our minds. And only then can we help others love Him fully for themselves.