Have you ever challenged your own beliefs? It may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes, it is the only way to test their strength and sincerity. During this season of faith, I’m discovering that many of my particular beliefs about the Bible aren’t very strong. Normally, I’d despair over this, but this time, I’m letting go – I’m going back to the basics. I can’t let doubts about the specifics cloud my faith in the Simple Gospel.
Maybe that’s not your story, but this is my story – at least that’s how it seems to be unfolding.
I’ve never really “owned” parts of my faith. The only part of my faith that has really been challenged, refined and “owned” is the basic Gospel message. When it comes to the rest of the Bible, my interpretation depends on whatever my current pastor believes and how intelligent he seems.
I do believe that the Bible (and the manuscripts that formed it), are historically reliable, but beyond that, I haven’t devoted much time to understanding its context and intended application. Haven’t I already expended enough energy researching the historicity of the Bible? Do I really need to research the Greek and Hebrew culture and language as well? That sounds like too much effort. I have a pastor to interpret it for me anyway – a smart, logical, respectable pastor, not perfect but still better than most others I’ve seen.
Occasionally, curiosity compels me to visit other churches and hear other pastors’ sermons. Perhaps I thought, “This pastor could be even smarter than the last!” The first time this happened, I didn’t think much of it. The decision seemed obvious – legalism to grace; feigned perfection to authenticity. However, after several iterations of this, I became jaded. I began to wonder if my current pastor was only to be surpassed by someone smarter down the road. I wondered how strongly I should hold to particular beliefs if they’re only to be dashed to pieces at my next “enlightenment.”
At this point, I had several choices: 1) Blindly accept all of the teachings of my favorite pastor of the month, 2) Study the Bible on my own and pray in order to understand the Bible’s application for today’s believer, 3) Fall into a pit of despair, bemoaning my overreliance on pastors and my tendency to idealize imperfect humans when I’m too lazy to do the work myself.
I’d like to choose the second option, but what if, upon further investigation, I find that the most accurate way of interpreting a certain Bible passage paints a picture of God that I don’t like? The picture of God in the Old Testament, the picture of God in Revelation – what am I to do with these unconventional depictions of absolute Goodness? The easy answer would be, “Reject it!” But, sometimes, it’s more interesting to ponder impossibilities – is it really 100% impossible that the ultimate definition of Goodness could somehow entail so much death?
It can be so liberating to trust something you don’t understand – something paradoxical that extends beyond the reaches of your mind. But where is the line between blind belief and reasonable trust? Well, blind belief has no basis. Reasonable trust, on the other hand, stems from other, more confidently held beliefs, such as my belief that Jesus rose from the dead.
So, should I profess particular beliefs that I can’t wholeheartedly accept with my heart and mind? Does it create distress that distracts from the core message of the Bible? At this point, I don’t know. I can see both the virtue and craziness of it.
In the meantime, I’ll just focus on the Simple Gospel, “. . . that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures . . .” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
However jaded you are this Easter, just remember the Simple Gospel.