Jesus tells us plainly to have faith like a child. But does that mean He wants us to check our tough questions at the door or maintain a Vacation Bible School depth of theology? Put another way, are we to justify relating to Him in a half-hearted pretense because we are to have faith like a child?
This past summer 2017 we watched the solar eclipse. There was particular excitement around the area where we live because it was in the path of totality. When thinking about the infinite nature of the universe it makes many people reflect on the amazing nature and bigness of God. But I think in some cases it can also make you feel small. It can make you feel vulnerable. You may realize how tiny you are on a universal scale and how much you don't know.
Like many of us, I was raised in Church. The Trinity, Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, Heaven and Hell were granted. When I walked away from the Lord in high school and college, it wasn't because I explicitly doubted the reality of these foundational elements of Christianity. I had a misinformed view of how the whole Christianity thing worked. I reasoned that since I prayed the sinner's prayer when I was a child and wasn't hostile toward religion that I was good to go and could live however I wanted. Later, through the rebuke of a family member and the work of the Holy Spirit, I realized the idea of praying a prayer for "fire insurance just in case" without obeying the words of Jesus or genuinely trying to obey (albeit at times in a clunky fall and get up again sort of way) was a deception. I turned back to the Lord with all my heart. It has been the best decision I've ever made. I experienced God in tangible ways. My understanding of His Word increased. I had joy and contentment.
And then new questions came. Questions I generally had answers to but never really felt the need to delve deep into before. Questions about evolution theory, Bible canonicity, and the universe.
I want to be careful here- having these types of questions doesn't make you inferior or superior. Each of us has particular things that weigh on our hearts or minds that may seem immaterial to someone else. Each of us has to work out our own salvation as The Apostle Paul describes it.
Some of us who were raised in the church and feel we made an immature or under-researched decision to believe when we were young then abandon the Christian faith by an even less thorough research process. Moreover, where our initial choice to believe though simplistic was at least genuine, some defend our choice to leave the faith from an argumentative position instead of from the genuine belief that our life depends on our decision (because it does). I'm not suggesting we become prideful in our intellectual ability. Christians believe God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. I am suggesting genuineness, humility, and a desire for truth. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, an atheist turned Christian, describes the man who has genuine doubts and yet charges ahead as a fool. I am paraphrasing. We can make this mistake in our choice to believe or in our choice to not believe.
If I continue to relate to my 3 year old as I did when she was 1, she'll eventually stop trying to connect with me. On the other hand, if she decides at 3 she suddenly knows everything and no longer needs my input, she is wrong. Her life experience is valid but it is limited. It doesn't offend me when she asks deeper questions that she didn't have the interest or maturity to ask before. It's actually a great feeling as a parent to be invited into her thought process, even though I have a more complete perspective. And my willingness to answer her increasingly complex questions in a way she can understand builds her trust in me and keeps her wanting to dialogue. There are some questions she simply doesn't have the ability to understand through the lens of a child's perspective. When answers to questions elude her, she draws on what she knows of my character and our history as the basis for her continued trust.
Sometimes faith is clinging to the convictions you've established through reason when your emotions and unanswered prayers are pulling against it.
God is a good Father. He delights in our humble, vulnerable questions that signify us growing up and still reaching out for deeper relationship. We still need His guidance as we grow. I may not even realize how much I need Him until I look back at the life decisions I've made- the ones I made in consultation with His Word and in prayer have led me in life-giving directions. Curiously, my natural parents also grow increasingly wiser as I get older.
I would be heartbroken if my daughter felt afraid to ask me her hard questions and rather just drifted apart from me because she didn't trust I could answer them or assumed that I wouldn't care to answer them in order to deepen our relationship.
There are men and women throughout history much smarter than I who have asked hard questions and have believed in Jesus Christ for salvation. Isaac Newton, Lee Strobel, and C.S. Lewis are a few. They were pretty sharp dudes. There are men and women today who are giving their lives for Jesus beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is real. There are innumerable testimonies of former atheists who have come to faith.
I don't have all the answers. No person does. The movie "Case for Christ," based on the true story of a journalist coming to faith through his investigation into the legitimacy of Jesus's resurrection from the dead puts it well: believing and not believing both require some measure of faith because no one has all the answers. If the Gospel is not true, it doesn't matter whether you believe or don't believe. But if the Gospel is true, it has eternal significance.
We can continue to have faith like a child by bringing our questions to a loving Father God who wants to keep answering them in a way we can understand in order to draw us into deeper relationship.