In a recent article I stated that my mother's faith grew when she was a child because she was taken to church each week by her aunt and uncle. Consequently, she found a deep faith in Christianity, a faith instilled in me as a child by my parents, for which I am grateful.

A recent caller to The Moultrie Observer's "Rant and Rave" line offered a different scenario. She was taken to church most Sundays by her mother. However, as she grew she began to ask questions to which she has never gotten satisfactory answers: On which of the six days was the serpent created? Is it possible that God would make a rival? Why was he not kept out of the garden? Why did the Lord God not take him by the tail and snap off his head? Why did he not put Adam and Eve on guard about this serpent?

The caller implies that she has rejected the Christian faith because questions such as these go unanswered for her. The only answer she received was that she should believe even if she did not understand -- something she has been unwilling to do.

I can understand the caller's desire to know the answers to such difficult questions. Her curiosity could have been the seed bed of faith. But odds are she was not commended for her deep questions. Such questions are not new. We can add to these many others: What did God do before the world was made? Where did Cain's wife come from? Where do you fit the dinosaurs into the scheme of creation? Were the days of creation literally six, twenty-four-hour periods of time? Here's my favorite: Did Adam and Eve have bellybuttons?

Are such questions frivolous? Perhaps. But one person's frivolous question may be another person's crisis of faith. The caller seems to imply that for her, faith is not possible as long as there are unanswered questions about the Bible.

Faith would not be faith if there were no unanswered questions. In the absence of questions, faith becomes dangerous - a type of fundamentalism which seeks to impose one's beliefs upon others, sometimes in ways that are violent and cruel, or an agnostic approach to life that detaches one from any spiritual connection at all.

The serpent seduced Eve by promising that "your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Gen. 3:5) NIV. Eve thought she had the opportunity to exchange faith for an opportunity to know everything -- like God.

The earliest pages of the Bible were likely written because people had questions about God. After God used Moses to bring the Hebrews out of Egyptian slavery and they became a free nation who worshiped Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the people began to ask questions about their origin, their world, the existence of evil, and the presence of God. Moses, who is believed to be the major author of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible), answered many of these questions.

The story of Babel in Genesis 11, for example, seeks to answer for these nomadic people why large towers called ziggurats existed on the plains; how people became scattered over the face of the earth; and why people spoke in many different languages.

Throughout the Bible, answers are given to many of life's issues but the Bible never claims to answer all of our questions. God never gave Job an answer for his suffering, for example.

God allowed Job to rant about his problems and ask many questions. God stayed silent for the most part. Though God finally answered him, God never gave Job the answer for his suffering. In fact, God answered Job with a barrage of questions which Job could not answer, more than 60 of them.

"Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: "'Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.

"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand.'" (Job 38:1-4) NIV.

Job never attempted to answer any of God's questions. He couldn't. That was the point in God asking them - to point out Job's arrogance as the question asker. Finally





, Job's humility comes through. "Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know." (Job 42:3) NIV.

Throughout these passages, God is telling Job that he should trust and believe even though he does not understand. The answer the caller was given as a child was not such a bad answer after all.

The truth is that we don't understand it all. We are like Job in that we live without all of our questions answered. To think we can live otherwise is to make the mistake of Eve and Adam in the Garden -- to try to occupy the place that only God can occupy. Or we might err on the other extreme and become like the writer of Ecclesiastes who said that he had "seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. What is twisted cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted." (Eccl 1:14-15) NIV. This writer represents those people who cannot get all their questions answered and therefore dismiss faith in God or the Bible as having any relevance or bearing upon their lives.

Such people are left to themselves, to their own sense of direction, or to following the directions established by other people or faith groups. This is the freedom all of us have, a freedom given to us by God. We have the freedom to ask questions. We have the freedom to seek answers. We have the freedom of rejecting faith because our questions are not answered. We have the freedom to proclaim we have all the answers. Or we can learn to live with a certain amount of mystery, to have faith, even though we do not have all the answers. Actually, if we had all the answers, we'd have no reason for faith, and no reason to worship. This is a dangerous thing, for "without faith it is impossible to please God." (Heb 11:6a) NIV.

We are left to please ourselves, which is what got Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden of Eden.



The Rev. Michael Helms is pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Moultrie.

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