Two years ago I began working toward a Masters in Christian Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. When classes began, I hoped and expected to find answers to questions of theology and biblical meaning. Instead of finding answers, I’ve learned to ask better questions.
Where before I asked, “What does this passage say to me today?” Now I ask questions such as: Who was this addressed to? What would the first recipients of this book/letter have heard and thought? How was their culture different from mine in 21st century America? How does this passage fit into the overall theme of the book and what issue(s) was being addressed? Rather than pulling the verse out of its environment and sticking it in mine, I want to gain an appreciation for the context and seek for understanding first before moving to application.
It isn’t only verses in the Bible which lead me to ask questions; life’s circumstances take me there. Whether it is a friend dying of cancer, a prodigal child, unemployment, or conflict in a relationship, there are times when God seems distant and isn’t turning out to behave the way I thought he would. Seminary hasn’t provided answers for tough circumstances either, but I’ve learned to ask better questions.
Carolyn Custis James in When Life and Beliefs Collide claims we are doing theology “as soon as the word why crosses our lips”. So I was doing theology before I had the formal training afforded by systematic theology studies, but the better questions I am now equipped to ask are taking me to greater depths.
Rather than finding answers, I am gaining an appreciation for layers of meaning. I now see God as more complex, more mysterious, more wonderful than before. As I realize there aren’t simplistic, black-and-white answers for life’s questions or for interpretation of numerous Biblical passages, I am inspired to worship and praise this unfathomable God who loves me.
This isn’t to say that God can’t be understood or that he hasn’t made himself known through revelation of his actions and character in Scripture. Instead it’s an awareness and admission of my limited understanding and God’s incomprehensibility.
God is still the same, but my questions have changed. And that’s a good thing.
How have your questions changed as you’ve matured spiritually?