“I know what Christians do: you open your heart and shut your mind.” I was in downtown Charlotte, NC, and was chatting with someone about the faith, and this was his response: Christians must close our minds if we’re to sustain our beliefs. Is he right? Last Sunday we talked about doubt. I think most of us agree that celebrating doubt is ultimately destructive to our walk with Christ. But is there room for proper questioning? Or was that man correct, and we should just “open our hearts and shut our minds”? Our Westminster Standards help here. According to the Confession of Faith, the Scriptures are “the rule of faith and life” (or “faith and obedience” as the Larger Catechism states it), but this doesn’t mean that we look to the Bible to answer all of our questions about the world. No, we look to the Bible for what it tells us it teaches: “what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man” (Larger Catechism, #5). Because the Bible doesn’t exhaustively answer each question about the world and our life in it, there must be space for critical thinking, questioning, and growth in wisdom. The Church has ben doing this for thousands of years, as Christians seek a faithful outworking of their convictions. This exercise of proper questioning is far different than simply indulging doubt. I’d call it “sanctified curiosity.” How does God’s Word shape the way we care about the environment, or the poor? What has the Church taught about seeking justice or preserving the sanctity of life? Which church tradition best expresses the biblical descriptions of worship? To answer these questions, you need a sanctified curiosity, to see how the saints throughout the ages attempted to faithfully live out their calling. This sanctified curiosity might lead you to explore different church traditions, but it won’t lead you away from the Christian faith. So, in response to the opening accusation, we can gently reply: actually no, Christ calls us to open our hearts, trusting His promises, and He calls us to open our minds with curiosity about the world He created. The key to “thoughtful Christianity” is not doubt, but wonder. For Reflection: — Are you afraid of questioning aspects of the faith? Why or why not? — What are some examples of healthy curiosity? What are some areas you are interested in exploring? — Where have you personally grown in the faith through your own sanctified curiosity? Have any of your convictions or practices changed with further exploration?
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