There is a word in the English language that is capable of independently instilling fear and trembling in the hearts of otherwise strong, stable men and women. It’s a short, simple word, often used in a one-word question. What is this powerful little giant of a word?
Think about it for a moment—when your children start questioning you with that tiny little word, how do you feel about it? How about when you hear it from you spouse, your boss, or your co-workers? Most people don’t like being pressed to explain their actions or justify their plans, particularly when the questioner is persistent. Yet, asking “why” is one of the most useful and helpful things we can do in many situations. When an actor is developing a character, he does a deep examination of what that character would feel in a particular situation, how he would react, and perhaps most important, why he would feel and react in that way. The “why” stage is the most important part of developing a character, because it reveals so much of the underlying motivation behind the character’s actions. “Why” can do the same thing to real people, which is why we’re so uncomfortable with it—the more the question is asked, the more layers are revealed and the clearer our real heart attitudes can be seen. That can be really uncomfortable, particularly when we know that there’s something under there we’d rather hide.
The most important “why” questions, in my opinion at least, are those that question our basic core values and belief systems. So you’re a registered Democrat or Republican—why? A remarkable number of voters can’t give an adequate answer to that question. Do you know what your political party of choice stands for? How do you know that—have you examined their platform? Most registered voters, sadly, don’t really have a clue. You believe that same-sex marriage is OK and ought to be legalized—why? You believe same-sex marriage is a travesty that will destroy our nation—why? Whatever your position, can you explain why you came to your conclusion? If you can, you’re in the minority. Many people base their stand on such issues on the fact that someone else that they like has given the issue their support, but they really don’t know why, other than that the other person supports it.
Now, if you’ve read this far and aren’t furious with me yet, fasten your seatbelts; I’m about to start meddling.
You believe that the Bible is the Word of God—why? You believe that the Bible is a book of myths and stories—why? You believe in the doctrine of eternal security —why? You believe that a person can “lose their salvation”—why? You believe that “speaking in tongues” is the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit—why? You believe that “speaking in tongues” is no longer a valid expression of the Holy Spirit—why? Whatever you believe, WHY do you believe it?
Many people believe what they believe because they were taught to believe it. Some have been taught that it’s wrong to question the teaching given to them. Others prefer the simplicity of accepting what they’re given without examination. Some are just afraid to ask the question—and some are afraid of having to answer it.
So, you go to church. You say you’re a Christian. You have certain core doctrines that you endorse by association. Do you know what you believe? Do you know why you believe? Can you give me one good reason why I should accept what you believe as being valid and true?
Questioning is good. Truth has no problem with close examination—it has nothing to hide. Half-truths, gut feelings and misconceptions, when carefully examined and questioned, melt away like snowballs under a sunlamp. Don’t be afraid to question your faith, to study it out and know in your own heart why you believe what you believe. If you are afraid to have your beliefs questioned, you probably don’t really believe them anyway. If your beliefs can’t stand under question, you ought to abandon them. Once you’ve passed through those questions, you won’t be afraid to stand up in a world that’s hostile toward the things of God and live your faith—because you’ll know why.