The Forward-Moving Question

If our theology doesn’t shift and change over our lifetimes, then I have to wonder if we’re paying attention. The Spirit is often breathing in the very changes or shifts that used to terrify us. Grace waits for us in the liminal space. (Out of Sorts, p.46)

I’m starting to wonder if Sarah is living inside my brain. She speaks my language even though we have vastly different backgrounds.

Chapter 3 of Out of Sorts is about questions and change. Trevor talked about questions earlier this week. I want to talk about one big question and the looming shadow of change.

And that one big question is “What if?

Way back in 2010, Donald Miller talked about this question and even offered a challenge about its power. His premise lied in the basic structure of story. As a writer, when you find yourself stuck or unsure of where to take the story, you simply need to ask “What if?” in order to drive the story forward. What if my character got in an accident or decided to change careers or discovered a secret from their past or found an unmarked bag of money? It could literally be anything, from the mundane to the crazy.

A question like this can change the story and drive the character forward in to new and exciting things. These questions may not lead us to an answer, but that is not the point. The point is that the question moves us forward.


What if?” is exciting and scary and unknown. And to an environment built on certainty and sound answers, it can feel downright dangerous. As Sarah goes on to say:

…I also see that [fear of questions] can be utterly motivated by the fear of “What if?’ We are afraid of our questions, afraid of finding new answered, afraid of a new way of thinking about or living with or relating to God. What if it changes us? What if we go the wrong way? What if we find our way to the fabled slippery slope and tumble head long into the fall? What if what if what if? (Out of Sorts, p.47)

I love the church in Texas where I grew up. I have so many memories attached to that place. Memories of Bible classes and church picnics and teenage lock-ins and strange jello salad dishes at potlucks and countless people who loved me and guided me and put up with my teenage angst and minor rebellions.

This was my introduction to Jesus and what church meant. Along with all that I was passed on beliefs about the Bible and Jesus and how God works and morality and gender roles and what worship should be like and what we should do about evil in the world and all kinds of doctrinal issues.

Some of these beliefs I still hold tightly. Others have stretched and changed. And there are some that I’ve tossed to the wayside.

I had a wonderful way for my faith to begin. But if I never moved on from those beginnings, if I never changed my mind about anything, if I never grew or stretched my beliefs at all, then it would all be a huge disappointment.

Faith is about moving forward.

And good theology always widens our view rather than shrinking it,
always welcomes rather than dismisses,
always pushes out rather than anchoring down.

We need a healthy dose of “What if?” in our faith. What if that Scripture is figurative and not literal? What if there are other factors here I’ve never considered? What if that person who disagrees with me isn’t evil and I actually listened to what they had to say? What if those on the “outside” are really my brothers and sisters?

These types of questions help us grow and move and take courageous steps.

As Sarah describes beautifully, this is what child-like faith really looks like. It asks questions. It challenges. It asks “What if?

It keeps us moving forward.


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