Thursday, August 27, 2015

Too Inquisitive

Even as a child I doubted the concept of a Creator...
...But I knew if he really existed and was really somewhere up there in the heavens looking down...
...And if all this was happening because somehow we were too curious, or too inquisitive...
...Well you know what?...Screw him.
- FBP #20
by Simon Oliver and Alberto Ponticelli

"Doubt, for lack of a better word, is good."  That is how I started my AAR conference paper last Spring, shamelessly (mis)appropriating Michael Douglas' iconic line from the movie Wall Street.  I think this expresses quite well my admittedly contentious relationship with my faith and with God.  I say contentious not necessarily meaning arguing or fighting with God, but wrestling, struggling (as is the meaning of Israel), discussing and questioning things with God.

And the radical idea I have is that I believe this is okay.

I could quote all the expected theologians and writers on the issue of doubt: Greg Boyd, Peter Enns, Peter Rollins, Sharon L. Baker, and even Jack Caputo and Catherine Keller about the undecidability of the Divine.  Or, I could quote relevant Scripture about arguing with God: Moses talking God out of destroying the Israelites, Abraham talking God down about how many good people he needs to find if he was to spare Sodom, and the woman Jesus called a dog persuading him to heal her daughter anyway.

You get the point, right?  It's okay to doubt God and to question him, especially if you do it directly.  Dare to address God and you might just be surprised by the response you receive.

But isn't it blasphemy?  Isn't it heresy?  I mean, what if God really does punish us for being too inquisitive?  What if he punishes us for asking too many questions?  Well, then I have to agree with FBP.  Screw that guy.

But isn't that what the Garden of Eden is all about?  Adam and Eve's curiosity about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (who named that tree?) was disobeying God and screwing up Creation for everyone.  Right?  But seriously, why did God even put a forbidden tree in the Garden in the first place?  What the crap was that about?

Oh, Mitch, don't you see?  It was a test!

Yeah, that doesn't make it any better.  God testing them to see if they will disobey him is like a girlfriend creating a fake email or Facebook account just to flirt with you in order to see if you will cheat on her.  That's not reasonable or rational.  It's downright paranoid and creepy.  Are we to believe that God has the immature emotional insecurity of a psychotic (now ex-)girlfriend?

Again, this probably all sounds blasphemous.  But I don't feel like I'm critiquing God.  I'm critiquing our concept and depiction of God.  Frankly, I think God deserves a better, more mature and complex depiction than how we (especially in the American Evangelical camp) typical portray him.  Is God really so shallow and insecure that he has to test people in order to prove that they will love and obey him?  Does this sound like a God we should love, worship, and unquestionably follow?  I think we can be faithful in our questioning of God (and I believe I could throw in some Derek Flood quotes to add some published credibility to that statement, but I think you get the idea).  I think maybe it's even a better expression of faith to questioningly engage with God instead of blindly following him (or what the pastor or televangelist tells you to blindly follow).

I believe God gave us higher functioning brains for a reason.  I believe we should use such mental faculties and capacities in order to better understand this wondrous universe and our place in it.  What if God, in all his infinite, ineffable wisdom, didn't give us all the answers to life, the universe, and the meaning of everything so that we could embark on the grand pursuit of discovering these things ourselves?

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