I had always assumed that life following after Jesus involved the mind. But that reality hit home most clearly when I was twenty years old, sitting in a wooden desk in the basement of the Tidwell Bible Building at Baylor University, and facing questions about euthanasia, the death penalty, abortion, racism, and other thorny ethical matters. Dr. John Wood, a man of small stature but immense heart, helped me and my fellow classmates navigate the deep complexities involved in making ethical decisions.
That experience taught me that the Christian life, most fully lived, encompasses all of my being, including my intellect. From that point forward I resolved not only to believe in but to know God and orient my life on the basis of that knowledge. Every day I am challenged by that decision.
This occasion marked an important transition in my quest to know what I believed as a Christian person, and it took place during my early years of young adulthood. Since that time I have continued to ask questions, and I have diligently sought answers.
You may be at a time in your life when you are discussing your beliefs, the direction your life is heading, and the source of ultimate meaning with your peers. You are questioning. You are seeking. You are finding some answers, but you are undoubtedly discovering more questions.
Questions are not a bad thing, though we as the church have not always given that impression. When facing an intellectual challenge you may have been told to simply believe, to just "have faith." You may have been given the impression that you must sacrifice your intellect in order to continue to believe. This is not the way of Jesus.
If you closely examine the ministry of Jesus, he seems to expect questions. In the Gospels, religious leaders and common people alike came to Jesus asking questions about the nature of God, the Scriptures, and everyday communal matters. Some asked to be healed. Some asked about eternal life. Some asked him about his interpretation of the Torah, or Jewish law. Sometimes he told a story. Sometimes he asked a question. Sometimes he demonstrated a truth by touching the untouchable. In each response, Jesus offered something that was true.
Sometimes it is hard for us to trust that Jesus really knew what he was talking about when he spoke of love, forgiveness, obedience, repentance, and the reign of God. But if you carefully analyze his life and his words, Jesus demonstrates not only that he came to save, but he came to instruct. He was, and is, smart. And he can be trusted to lead you to sound answers, if you really wish to follow him.
You may have big questions, such as, "Is the Bible a trustworthy book?", "Can I believe in evolutionary theory and in God as the Creator of all things?", "Are Christian convictions coherent?", "Who was Jesus, really?", and, finally, "When I encounter skeptics or persons opposed to Christian faith, are there good answers available that I can offer?" These are great questions.
Along my journey I have found that the Christian tradition includes numerous examples to follow. I do not have to do this alone. For Methodist people, one such example is John Wesley, whose sermons and writings carefully present Jesus Christ as someone who can be known and who leads us into a life of perfect love for God and for our neighbor. By learning from masters both classical and contemporary, I have found Christian belief to be reasonable and not simply a matter of personal opinion or religious preference. Christianity has something to say about what is real, who is blessed, what it means to be a good person, and how I might become a good person.
Christianity is rich with reasonable answers to life’s biggest questions. Seek them out. Ask Jesus to help you on your quest. Turn to those who are wise in your midst as well as those who have journeyed before us. As a blessing, I commend to you the words of 2 Peter 1:2, which says, “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
Question for Discussion: What intellectual challenges to Christian faith have you encountered, and how have you grown in light of those challenges?
Ben Simpson is a Christian, freelance writer, and school bus driver in his hometown of De Soto, Kansas. He has been married to his wife, Molly, for six years. Molly is the campus pastor of the West Campus of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, which is located in Olathe, Kansas.