But among evangelical Christians, scoffers are a minority group. The majority group might be what the book of Proverbs dubs “the simple”. The simple confuse strong faith with the absence of doubt, resulting in a lobotomized, night-of-the-living-dead kind of brainless submission to self-proclaimed authorities. Promoting a life of faith, in other words, is tantamount to encouraging you to ignore your own experiences, swallow your questions, keep your objections to yourself and continue pretending that life really works the way your theology says it does even when it’s obvious to you that it doesn’t. This is a kind of faith which is very much like the flu – it swells the eyes shut and plugs the ears so that the only clear voice to be heard is our own: and it’s singing, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” While our lives are burning down, the simple cue the violins. For the simple, faith is an alternative to reality.
But this sort of faith betrays a superficial acquaintance with the Biblical story. The most cursory glance at Genesis or Kings will yield not a few tantrums, a lot of panicking and a metric ton of confusion – but very rarely do we see the kind of bland spirituality some call strong faith, the kind of faith which meets every challenge with an effortless: “As you wish, Lord. Your will be done!” Does that sound like Moses to you? Or David (or Jeremiah, or Habakkuk)? If so, it’s time to revisit some of those stories. In fact, Genesis 32 foreshadows the strange distinguishing mark of God’s people; struggle. It is because Jacob wrestled with God that the text says he is renamed “
There’s a whole section in our Bible that’s dedicated to grappling with the hard questions about what we believe. It’s called “The Wisdom literature” – Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. It questions what other parts of Scripture take for granted. Genesis 3 says that sin is the cause of all human misery. But in Psalm 73 and most of the book of Ecclesiastes the authors ask, “Why then do evil people seem to prosper and enjoy life so much?” Deuteronomy, the theological center of the Old Testament, says that living for God will generally bring blessing and disobedience will generally bring cursing – but Job isn’t so sure. In presenting these challenging questions to the theology presented in other books of the Bible wisdom literature isn’t invalidating these other traditions as wrong or contradictory. They’re inviting us to honestly struggle with a God who can’t be contained by theology or neatly harmonized with experience. The Scriptures are inviting us to take our faith seriously enough to actually care whether the things we read make sense in real life. By accepting that invitation, you will enter the world of Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Wesley, Edwards, and all those who’ve learned that any belief worth having (certainly any relationship worth living and dying for) must survive the titanic struggle of life: the struggle with God Himself.