Not long ago I was reading an article discussing the removal of a Baptist church from a local association due to the church’s hiring a female pastor. Among the comments was one that went something like this: “Why would God gift her and not want her to pastor?”
Ultimately, every issue in church life depends on the church’s understanding of biblical authority. Within Protestant Christianity, two competing views dominate the discussion and are easily summarized. For liberal Christianity, the Bible is authoritative insofar as it aligns with the trajectory of human experience and reason. For evangelical Christianity, the Bible is authoritative above the trajectory of human experience and reason. The “why” question becomes an important part of the discussion.
Asking God “why” is biblical and important. Moses asked the “why” question when it seemed that God brought the people out of Egypt only to harm them (Exodus 5:22). Joshua asked the “why” question when they crossed the Jordan river into what seemed certain death (Joshua 7:7). And of course, the most powerful “why” question of all came from the lips of Jesus (Mark 15:34). Perhaps one reason why evangelicals are perceived by some as cold and unloving is because we fail to struggle alongside people who are genuinely trying to work out their faith in light of the lingering questions. “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it” is not a very helpful sentiment if we effectively want to love those who are wrestling with hard questions, and frankly, it rarely offers much peace to those of us who believe exactly that.
The problem is when our questions move us deeper into our own human experience instead of deeper into the trustworthiness of God’s word. The problem is when “thus saith the Lord” is rearranged to accommodate a more comfortable solution to the tensions of life. The problem is when what is best is diluted to what is easy in order to make sense of what is difficult.
“Why would God make me this way if He didn’t approve of it?”
“Why would God give me a passion and call to be a pastor if women can’t be pastors?”
“Why would God send me to a place of ministry and not keep me safe?”
“Why would God allow me to fall in love with another person if I’m supposed to stay with my spouse?”
“Why would God make me a male when everything inside me wants to be a female?”
These and many other questions like them are incredibly difficult.
But I have a “why” question that trumps them all.
“Why would God save us at the expense of His own Son?”
If we are going to rewrite authority based on the “why” questions, then we must start by rewriting the crucifixion, for nothing is more unfathomable than the cross. Ironically, even for most liberal Christians, the cross is the one truth of Scripture they are unwilling to part ways with. But once we rest in the authority of God’s word to point us to the great Why of our salvation, then we are expected to rest in this God whose love, wisdom, power, and ways are unlike any we can imagine. Where God speaks, it doesn’t always make the “why” questions of our life easy – but it does answer them.
What God has taught us through His word we must not compromise because we do not understand how it can be settled with cultural norms or personal feelings. Our opinion is not the final arbiter of truth, even when it seems to make more sense. God’s voice is the final voice and He has made it known through the Scriptures, which mercifully point us to the person and work of Jesus Christ. If we trust God to save us, then we must trust Him in all areas of life.
Including the most difficult “why.”
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