Is it okay to question the Church? I personally would have to answer this question yes, especially if I consider myself part the Church. In the past I have been taught a lot of doctrine from the Church that has never really been questioned by those who taught me. When I began to question this doctrine I found out quickly that I was not supposed to. With some friends it seemed that every time I asked a question I was accused of “arguing” and told my questions were not legitimate.
Throughout Churches history we slowly treated doctrine (our theories about what the Bible says) as if it was actually what scripture says, or “the infallible word of God”. When I get into a debate about a doctrine, such as the existence of eternal Hell, the main argument I hear is something like, “The Bible clearly says that there is a eternal Hell”. However, when I point out verses from the Bible, that counter what my debaters say the Bible “clearly says”, I am told, “I guess I will need to trust God with those verses”, even though the verses clearly contradict each other. It is not a matter of not understanding. It is a matter of choosing to give a specific interpretation of a verse more weight because it lines up with what we have been taught the Bible says AND saying the contradictory verse just can’t be understood and therefore must be left to God. This makes me quickly realize that it is not the Bible that most are using to support things like eternal hell. Besides, there are many other things that the Bible “Clearly speaks against” that a modern day Christian is just fine doing. Things like: cutting your hair, women speaking in Church, or people getting tattoos, are all accepted now a days, even though parts of the Bible clearly speaks against such behavior.
Doctrine is what the Church relies on to determine its identity and guide its behavior all the while calling it the Bible. The reason why there are 2000+ denominations of Christianity, is because very few agree on all the same doctrines (interpretations of the Bible). Sadly, the reason why most denominations can not work together for the betterment of society, is because each of their doctrines can not be questioned. If everyone thinks they are right, they must think everyone else is wrong. And, another doctrine most of us are taught is: we should not be unequally yoked (or in other words, we should not work with people who don’t think like we do).
I have found that the Church gets away with ignorance because it is willing to be exclusive. On the outside we claim that our God is willing to accept and forgive any sinner, but on the inside we build our church on foundational doctrines that are described as “infallible”, and as soon as someone starts to reject or question these “foundational doctrines” they are quickly excluded. Making our doctrine god allows us to be in control. When our doctrine is the ruler however, we can quickly become ignorant through denying any other points of view.
I am convinced more than ever before that my God is absolute. However, we must come to the realization that none of us know God absolutely. Questioning and testing faith is one of the best ways to separate the truth from the lies and find out who God truly is. If I believe that my doctrine is truth then it is up for debate. When others come with different views I will truly try to listen. When used in the right way, testing and questioning are like fire. If we truly have faith in our doctrine we will allow the fire to test it. Through constant questioning and testing some of our views will change and some will burn away, but the truth will hold and get stronger through this refining fire of testing and questioning.
If the Church is to be a beacon for the World, we must come together and build on strong foundations. Strong foundations can only come from vigorous study and questioning. Questioning is a crucial aspect to the growth of the Church. Everyone has a mind of their own, everyone sees things from a different angle and sometimes in a different light. I have found that many non-Christians are able to see my faith in a way I can not, their insight can be greatly helpful. We as Christians have made statements to what Christianity is about, such as loving others, providing for the needy, and showing the outside world Jesus. However, when we are told by non-Christians that they are not seeing this “Jesus“ we claim to be representing, we need to take them seriously.
One of my core beliefs is that my God is strong enough to be questioned. I have talked to people who are scared of questioning interpretations of the Bible because they think that if we drop one doctrine we need to be willing to drop them all. I agree that we need to be willing to drop everything we have come to believe. If my goal is to seek Gods heart, anything is up for exam.
To question the Church means questioning ourselves and that means opening ourselves up. If we let down our walls we will show others who we truly are, full of strengths and faults like everyone else. However, if we as the Church are willing to open ourselves up, we stop being exclusive. I believe truths like: God is a loving God, will last through even the most intense questioning. When someone is faced with a undeniable truth he is forced to own his prejudices. Even if the person with the prejudices is stuck in his ways, he is severely crippled when it comes to gaining followers. True questioning reveals truth and truth is what will change this world.
Questioning will not break my faith in God, it will only strengthen my knowledge of Him. The lie is when we make doctrine more important then God. To question the Church is something I must do. I am part of the Church and although my individual faith has flaws, through the Church as a whole (if the rest are willing to engage in questioning with me) we can create a very accurate representation of the one True God. But, we must be willing to seek Him out, no matter how vigorous the questioner or how numerous the questions.