I want to start this post by saying it is a real honor for me to be writing for the Black Sheep Baptist Website and blog. Big shout out to my brother the Black Sheep Baptist himself, Mr. Justin Cox. I really appreciate the opportunity to share with your reader’s brother, and hopefully I don’t scare any of them away. Full disclaimer everyone, I’m not technically a Baptist (being raised a fundamentalist Southern Baptist will do that to you). Currently I attend an Episcopal church, but I like to consider myself a hybrid between the Episcopal and historic Baptist traditions….. an “Episco-Baptist” if you will. When Justin asked me to write for the blog I immediately said yes, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to write about. Drawing upon my Baptist roots, I turned to the place with all the answers (according to evangelicals anyways), the Bible. And you know what? I found what I was looking for:
Opening up the Bible, looking for inspiration for this post, I found myself entranced by the opening verses of the Book of Habakkuk:
2 “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
3 Why do you make me see wrongdoing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
4 So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—
therefore judgment comes forth perverted.”
– Habakkuk 1:2-4 (NRSV)
The title of the above section is “The Prophet’s Complaint” and man did it blow me away. To be perfectly honest I am not sure I had ever read the Book of Habakkuk, and if you had asked me if it was a book of the Old Testament I would have probably said NO WAY!!! And that is the power of scripture my friends, reading it is always a surprise.
These opening verses of Habakkuk made me wrestle with the question “Is it okay to question God?” Maybe a more honest way of asking this question, “Is it okay to question an ALL powerful God?” Well if you are like me, you were raised in a church that stressed the idea of never questioning God and always being obedient. Yet Habakkuk shows us there is a biblical precedent for questioning God and voicing our “complaints.” And Habakkuk does not pull his punches!!! Habakkuk says (maybe even yells) that God refuses to “listen” and will not “save,” yet God forces him to “look at trouble” and the “destruction and violence” that surrounds him. Habakkuk is not only questioning God, he is pissed off with God.
So if a prophet of the Old Testament is allowed to question and be angry with God, it must be okay. Yet I want to take it further than simply saying it is okay to question God, I want to say it is necessary and healthy to question God. So many people get trapped in the idea (taught in church) of not questioning God that it leads to them rejecting God. And who can blame them? We are taught that we worship an all powerful but loving God but turn on the news. Look at the millions of starving and orphaned children in the world. In America we have elected officials coldly dismissing the countries these children live in as “shitholes.” To quote Habakkuk it appears “justice never prevails” and “the wicked surround the righteous.”
If we believe we cannot question God when we see the terrible and heartbreaking events around the world, no wonder it can lead to a rejection of God. If we are in a relationship with God, and we want it to grow stronger, we must be able to question God. I would also argue that not only is questioning God necessary for a mature faith, but questioning God is a mark of faithfulness. We question God when we are confronted with the wickedness of the world because we know that is not what God intends for creation. Who is the more faithful? The individual who hardens their heart in “obedience” to God to avoid questioning God? Or is the individual who pours out their hearts for their neighbors and faithfully questions God for answers?
In conclusion I humbly admit I have not solved the problem of evil, I will leave that for Justin (good luck brother). My hope is by using the Prophet Habakkuk I have encouraged you to be bold and question God when you see things that go against your understanding of God’s goodness. Yet some may still be stuck, how can we question an all powerful God? Others may ask why an all powerful God would allow these things to take place. Good questions and my answer is we need to QUESTION (see what I did there) our understanding of “an all-powerful God.” As Christians we worship an abused, crucified, and resurrected God. Our human understanding of an “all-powerful” or “superman” God is not the same as the “all-powerful God” revealed through Christ. We should also remember in one of his most human moments in the Gospels, Jesus questions why he needs to die in the Garden of Gethsemane.
So my friends my encouragement is to follow the example of Habakkuk and Jesus. Go out and serve God in love, and never be afraid to question God in love as well.
Thanks for reading,
- Kenly Stewart