Testing Faith

faith

I’m always a little surprised to come across statements that encourage people to avoid growth because reading that book, or seeing that adaptation, or discussing this theological perspective “might weaken your faith.”

Is our faith so fragile that a movie full of bad theology might turn us away from the Messiah? Is it so weak that reading an author who is not a Christian might cause us to turn away from God?

I can understand the idea of protecting an immature faith, one that has just started to grow, like you would shelter a baby plant in soft earth. But at some point, the plant must grow up. Its roots must dig deep. It must thrive on its own, without you hovering over it. It must face the wind and the rain and … survive. Isn’t that what faith is supposed to do, too? Aren’t we supposed to mature beyond the stage where the slightest wind will tear us free?

If we never face things that test our faith, it never grows beyond a seedling. I don’t think we should avoid things that challenge our faith, or contradict our faith, or ask questions about our faith … because if our faith cannot sustain asking questions, is it even a true faith at all? If a seam cannot stand someone pulling on it, it was sewn wrong. It comes apart. If we cannot defend our beliefs, if we are afraid to question our beliefs, they will not withstand a good tug. The slightest pressure will make them falter.

We grow through adversity. Our faith increases when it is tested. But how can it grow, if we are afraid of the slightest pressure? I would rather have it tested by entertainment than by extreme circumstances. I would rather grow it through reading writers I do not agree with, and thinking about their arguments, forming my own beliefs along the way, than in facing some incredible loss in real life with a baby faith, and suddenly finding myself asking, “Does God even exist?” When those tough times come, I want to have an aspen of faith, not a seedling.

Entertainment is powerful. There is no question about that. It can shape worldviews and lives … but is the influence of entertainment really greater than our faith? And if so, is our faith even faith at all?

Christians should fear nothing in the literary realm. Fear implies weakness. We do not need to ban or burn books. A boy wizard is no threat to our faith. A poorly done movie about Jesus is no threat to our faith. Our faith is not so fragile that it is going to break when we try to strengthen it. Muscles only fade when they are not exercised. Faith only fades when it is not tested.

We don’t have to be afraid of conflicting opinions, or of testing our faith. Growth only comes by asking hard questions.

5 Replies to “Testing Faith”

  1. How did I never see this post before? It’s excellent. I liken it to raising children. When they’re tiny, you must be careful what they watch, where they go, what they listen to. But as they get older, you introduce them to things and ideas and places that have challenging thoughts or words because one day that child will grow up and strike out on his own. If he’s never been introduced to the world, the world will gobble him whole. He won’t even have a chance. As Christians, we must constantly challenge ourselves and ask the hard questions. There are parts of the Bible that I’ll never understand, and other parts that I’ll change my thinking on over time. That’s not a bad thing; the bad thing is being afraid to grow and ask questions. God wants us to know everything we can and to grow in our faith. You’re right; if our faith is so weak that one movie or book or song can shatter it, was it even faith in the first place?

    1. I think there is a balance between faith and reason, and we cannot and should not neglect either one; I don’t think God has any problems at all with us asking questions and challenging our theology, and thinking things through fully or even having… well, doubt. If our faith is but a shadow on the wall, it can neither influence the world nor seek out truth. It will fade when the sun goes down.

  2. Agreed. I’m never more disturbed than when a Christian is afraid to watch or read something. I’m not talking about things that morally they shouldn’t be watching or reading, but films or literature that might offer a different viewpoint than their own, particularly when it comes to God. I often find that encountering entertainment I disagree with helps me discern between the wheat and the chaff of my own beliefs. I come away from such stories thinking how interesting it was, but here, here, and here is where the author went wrong and this is why. There are far too many baby Christians in the world who should have grown up by now, but haven’t made any effort to do so. We have to move beyond milk at some point.

    1. Yep.

      We should always be open to at least hearing opposing arguments on the things we believe — how else will we learn to grow in our beliefs and our faith?

      I can still hold one view, strongly, and not deviate from it when hearing an alternative one, but the hearing of the alternative perspective gives me insight into other people’s mental processes and their reasoning. I may not agree with it, but I am wiser for it.

      Seeing something that opposes my faith or disturbs me causes me to think about WHY it bothers or disturbs me, and from there seek out Truth.

      If you cannot defend your faith, if it is not engrained in you on a personal level, which requires introspection, study, and challenging it yourself, then it will not survive the stiff breezes of life.

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