Where Intellect and Faith Meet: Can I Question My Beliefs?

By Michael Brown Published on February 17, 2023

Is it healthy to question what you believe? Is it good to examine the sources of your faith? Or is this a dangerous practice, a matter of opening up a Pandora’s Box of doubts and questions, even to the point of giving place to the devil? It all depends on the motivation of your heart and the types of questions you are asking.

If your intent is to mock, undermine, and destroy, likely you will not find the truth. You have already made up your mind, and you can easily find confirmation for your cynicism and scorn. But if you have honest questions or serious doubts and if your intent is to get to the truth, whatever the cost or consequence, then asking these questions can be healthy indeed. Your heart and mind can be in harmony.

That said, allow me to offer some cautions. Pride is a very dangerous thing, and often arrogance comes with learning new things. “I know something you don’t know! You are so simplistic in your faith! I’m sophisticated.” In reality, we who think we know something are often the ones who are ignorant, being babes in our field of learning but thinking we are so wise. We watch a few videos online, and now we are experts. We read a few books, and now we have become scholars. Be very careful here. A little humility goes a long way. In contrast, as Paul expressed it so succinctly, knowledge puffs up but love builds up. (1 Cor. 8:1)

I encourage you to do it with a right spirit, respecting those who have studied these issues for many years, understanding that it takes time and effort to master a new field, and recognizing that not everything is a matter of academic study or religious debate.

It’s also true that not everything comes through academic study. Do you marry your spouse based on research and analysis or based on love? Do you give yourself to a righteous cause based on statistics or based on solidarity and empathy? Do you become friends with someone based on scientific study or based on relationship? And where does trust come into play?

I encourage you to study and seek. But I encourage you to do it with a right spirit, respecting those who have studied these issues for many years, understanding that it takes time and effort to master a new field, and recognizing that not everything is a matter of academic study or religious debate.

The Blind Will See

Think back to John 9 when the man born blind was healed by Jesus on the Sabbath. According to the religious authorities, Jesus could not have been sent by God because He healed on the Sabbath, in violation of their traditions. So they called the man in for questioning a first time and then a second time, saying to him, “Give glory to God by telling the truth. We know this man is a sinner.” He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see.” (John 9:24–25) No amount of arguing was going to change his mind, and for good reason. He had been blind his entire life, and now he could see. The person who did this for him was certainly sent by God.

It’s the same thing with us, even if we have not been healed of physical blindness. In response to whatever the Lord has done in our lives in tangible, undeniable ways, He expects us to respond with faith and trust. He wants us to grow in our relationship with Him, and we dare not scorn those sacred experiences or try to explain them away. They are loving acts of a caring God. We should love Him back in response.

God is After the Heart — Not Your Knowledge

It is written in Jeremiah 9:23–24, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD’” (ESV). Or as the Lord said through Isaiah, “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite’” (Isa. 57:15, ESV).

That’s why Jesus often tangled with the very learned religious leaders but was embraced by the common people. The leaders trusted in their own righteousness and leaned on their own knowledge; the common people recognized their sin and leaned on Jesus.

We, too, must be careful not to fall into that trap, scorning the “common people” — the simple people of faith who love the Lord and serve the hurting — because they have not learned what we have learned, trusting in our own wisdom rather than recognizing our spiritual ignorance.

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Above all, God is looking at our hearts — at our attitudes, at what makes us tick, at who we really are. And He is far more inclined to entrust His secrets to an illiterate street sweeper who communes with Him through the day and gives of his meager income to help the poor than He is to confide in a haughty, learned professor who glories in his learning. God is so much wiser than we are — infinitely so — that He hides His wisdom in plain sight, hanging it on a cross to the mockery of the world. As Paul also wrote, in Jesus “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:3)

This does not mean that we turn off our brains or that we suspend logical thinking. It certainly does not mean that we stick our heads in the sand when confronted with challenges and issues, simply repeating, “God says it, I believe it, and that settles it!” To the contrary, there is a place for intensive study, for stretching our minds, for challenging our assumptions, for digging deeply into theological mysteries, for probing all kinds of exegetical, historical, apologetic, and philosophical issues.

You see, it’s easy to get swept away with the tide of the hour, with the prevailing wind of the day. It’s easy to be seduced into appearing to be woke, demonstrating to the watching world that we are so enlightened and in touch, not like those Bible-thumping, small-minded, bigoted believers. We are not like them! As a result, in our rejection of our previous beliefs, some of which might be outdated and outmoded, we exchange the religion of fundamentalism for the religion of progressivism, discarding the older traditions for the newer traditions.

So, if you find yourself accepted by the woke and progressive crowd, let alone celebrated by them, beware. In the days ahead, if you truly pursue what is right and good and upright and liberating and full of truth, you will have to deconstruct again. You might even find yourself sitting with your old pastor again (or your godly mother or father), the one whose beliefs you scorned and openly mocked — “How naïve and simplistic he is!” — asking him or her from your heart, “Could you tell me more about Jesus? I see that, above all, I really need Him.”

 

For more information on Why So Many Christians Have Left the Faith, from which this article has been adapted, and to read a free chapter of the book, visit BooksByDrBrown.com.

Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is The Political Seduction of the Church: How Millions of American Christians Have Confused Politics with the Gospel. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

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