The unskeptical questioner
by Barnabas Piper
Posted on Tuesday, May 15, 2012, at 2:25 pm
Skepticism is the preferred belief system of the intellectual. Ever since the Enlightenment brought about the emphasis on empirical evidence it has been on the rise. A general attitude of "prove it" has pervaded among those who are, or would like to be seen as, sharp thinkers. From Daniel Dennett and Stephen Hawking to Jon Stewart and Joy Behar, skepticism reigns
I even consider myself a borderline skeptic. Not the rabid, virulent sort, but rather one who is prone to questions and teeters on the brink of that slippery slope into "prove it." I am insatiably curious and very rarely is the first answer I receive satisfying. There must be more. So I keep questioning things, especially relationship, belief, and aspects of faith.
For many Christians, someone who questions everything is already a skeptic. Questioning is seen as a mark of unbelief. There's a fine line, though, between being someone who questions and being someone who refuses to believe any answers-a true skeptic.
In fact, I don't think many skeptics actually question anything. They may phrase their challenges as questions, but their heart is set on rejection and disproving, not asking. To truly question something is to query it and to ask about it for the sake of greater and deeper understanding. This may lead to evidence that disproves or to propositions worthy of rejecting, but the heart behind it is to learn, to know.
And in this sense, we ought to question everything. And I do mean everything, whether it is the traditions in which we were raised, the authorities over us, the religion we hold to, or the God in which we believe. If the heart of the questioning is to know, then ask away.
It is often frowned upon, especially in the church, to question established ideas, structures, or authorities. It is seen as disrespectful, crass, or rebellious-all attitudes that smack of skepticism. Truly, though, what is more important than seeking every ounce of truth in an established reality? And what is more harmful than abiding in that reality if truth is not to be found there?
Put those dear things to the question, all your theologies and traditions and practices. Why is it this way? How can it be better? Who is this Jesus? What does that even mean? God isn't offended that we ask, even if our deacons might be. God is more offended by meandering minds, and thoughtless followers than He is by a sincere desire to know.
Question asking is not the sole property of secular intellectuals. In fact, they do it a disservice. So let's do it right. Question everything. Just don't be a skeptic.
Barnabas works for Lifeway Christian Resources and is the author of The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity and Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not the Enemy of Faith. He and his wife live in the Nashville area with their two daughters. Follow Barnabas on Twitter @BarnabasPiper.