Questions Do Not Hurt God’s Feelings

9 September 2011 3 Comments

Here is another snippet from the work-in-progress, The Skeptical Believer: Telling Stories to Your Inner Atheist:

You don’t have to worry about hurting God’s feelings—at least not with your questions and doubts. God has heard it all. You have never had a fresh doubt or question. This is not to be dismissive of your questionings; it is intended as an encouragement to get them on the table. God knows your heart and mind anyway, so you may as well be open with him.

The best advice I have heard about what to do with your feelings about God (from Ben Patterson’s fine book on praying the Psalms–God’s Prayer Book) is to “talk to God about how you feel about God.” This includes your doubts that God is even there to hear you. You can talk to others, talk to yourself, read books like this one, but better to God directly? Many skeptical believers before you have done so, and many have been rewarded. Be skeptical enough of your skepticism to risk it.

You have no question to ask as pointed and painful as the question God has asked himself. Consider the question Jesus asks on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (NLT). If one believes, as I do, in the doctrine of the Trinity, then this is a question God is asking himself. If there is, as I believe, an eternally intimate, inseparable, monotheistic fellowshipping among the three members of the Godhead (I’m sure this description is not adequate), then this is an internal question of great significance expressing indescribable pain. There is endless theological richness and mystery in that short question, including putting the lie to any view of God as an impassive Unmoved Mover (see the Greek philosophers and too many modernist Christians).

If God asks himself such questions, why hesitate to ask yours? Why assume God will be shocked, angry, hurt, or disinterested? Make a list of all the difficult questions asked in the Bible—including many which express doubt about God and his goodness (start with the book of Job, one of the oldest stories in the Bible, then move to the Psalms and the gospels). It’s a long list. And, of course, those questions aren’t always answered, at least not in ways that make the questions go away.

Which brings me to ask what kind of answers one should expect when asking questions of or about God. That’s a worth-while question, too.

Daniel Taylor

 

3 Comments »

  • czfinke said:

    The reason I love Job, even more so now that my inner-Atheist has gotten the best of my outer-Believer, is because of how it answers the question you pose at the end of your post.

    One answer that believers do not seem to expect when asking questions about God is the answer Job gets. Job asks of God, why? And what happens next is the last thing any one, including Job, would expect. God shows up. And answers. This is a prospect that, if one believes in God, one should consider. But it doesn’t seem to present an actuality to most believers, which interests me.

    (Also, hello Dan. I’ve been silently enjoying your blog for some time. I never miss a chance to talk about Job, so I thought I’d chip in. Hope you’re well).

  • DanielTaylor (author) said:

    Chris–I’m doing well and glad to hear you’re taking in the blog posts. Job was a kind of skeptical believer himself, maybe (lots of hard questions and impatience with easy answers–especially from his ‘friends’). About God showing up to talk to Job, which we think we wish were the case with us: 1. He speaks from the whirlwind, I think? Like “the still small voice” elsewhere in the OT, it may be Job hearing God IN the wind (which is legit, not made up, but a different thing). So maybe Job didn’t get a ‘God visibly in the room’ experience either. (I’m working on memory here). 2. Although it makes some evangelicals squirm, I think Job is a story, not a history (a can of worms, I know). So it doesn’t suggest that God used to show up explicitly and doesn’t much anymore. It suggests we have always wished it were so. 3. I think our desire to ‘see’ God may be a ‘beware what you wish for’ situation. I think it might not be as comforting as we think. Personally, I’m happy to see the light through the crack in the rocks, if that. At any rate, thanks for the response.

  • czfinke said:

    It is your third option that I think of when I think of Job.
    If you ask for God to explain God’s motives, be careful, because you just might get it.

    Yes, God the figure does not show up, but of all the stories of the big guy, I think that Job has the most direct experience of that righteous OT God.

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