During the Christian spiritual journey, followers of Christ are forced to eventually face some basic faith-related questions. Here are a few of the most common ones:
1) What is salvation?
What does salvation really mean? When does it happen and is it permanent? Do you choose your own salvation or is it predestined? Is everyone saved or just a select few?
The idea of salvation is extremely complex, and our concept of it directly influences how we live, evangelize, and interact with the people around us.
2) Do I own my faith?
Is your faith the result of a cultural or family tradition — something you were raised with — or because you know it makes your girlfriend happy, or because your seminary scholarship depends on it, or because you live in a religious society where it's advantageous to be a "Christian?"
Deep down, what do you really believe? Is following Jesus your decision, or are you vicariously living out Christianity because of an allegiance to someone — or something — else?
3) Can I trust the Bible?
This question fleshes out the simplistic "The Bible is from God" answer. How was scripture written, formed, edited, discovered, critiqued, and inspired?
Almost all Christian beliefs and traditions come from the Bible — but where did that come from?
4) How do biblical texts apply to modern society?
The cultural traditions of the Bible are radically different than today’s social norms, so how do you use scripture to address current issues such as gender roles, gay marriage, abortion, immigration reform, and gun control?
5) Who is God?
We use the generic term 'God' all the time, but have we stopped to ask ourselves who we believe God really is? What are God's powers, characteristics, and attributes? How do you define the Holy Spirit? A million different people have a million different definitions of God — what's yours?
6) Why does God allow bad things to happen?
Many Christians feel secure in their faith until something bad happens; then this question becomes painfully relevant. Why do cancer, famine, war, and murder occur? Eventually, all believers must tackle the paradox of how an all-powerful and all-loving God allows extraordinary amounts of pain, hurt, and evil to exist.
7) Why is God so morbidly violent in the Old Testament?
Christians are great at promoting the loving Jesus of the New Testament, but very few can convincingly explain the horrific portrayal of God in the Old Testament — how do you explain it?
8) How does free will affect my faith?
Believers eventually encounter the age-old question that continues to be debated today: Do I choose God or does God choose me? The discussion of free will usually devolves into a Calvinism vs. Arminianism vs. Open Theism discussion — all of which talk about how faith relates to choice, intellect, and controlling our destiny. This question strikes at the heart of how our actions, communication, and relationship with God is structured.
9) How can you believe in something that can't be scientifically proven?
How do you explain a God that isn’t quantifiable or palpable? As the secular world often mocks people of faith, Christians must deal with some frustrating questions: Why doesn't God obviously manifest God’s self? If God is real why doesn't God audibly or visibly reveal God’s self to us? Why does the God in the Bible seem so completely different than today's God?
Miracles and supernatural events seemingly don't happen as often today. Where are the miracles, signs and wonders? Why doesn't God physically appear to us and tell us what to do?
Behind these questions lies this deeper inquiry: If God loves everyone and wants everyone to believe in God, why doesn't God simply physically manifest God’s self to the entire world?
10) What makes Christianity different than any other religion?
A virgin birth, morals, ethics, rules, laws, and miracles ... other religions have had similar things. So what's so unique about Christianity? Many faiths have questions that look extremely similar to the ones listed here — why should you trust Christianity over any other religion?
11) How has my faith been influenced?
How has your upbringing, life experiences, culture, and environment molded your faith? Whether we want to admit it, everything we believe has been filtered through these life variables. How have they affected your faith and theology?
12) Am I using my faith to serve another agenda?
Has your faith become something it wasn't originally meant to be? Is it being used as a tool to serve other agendas? Are you using Christianity to impress someone, increase your social status, promote a political party, get money, buttress a moral belief, or fill intellectual, emotional, and relational voids?
The Christian faith can quickly morph into something it was never originally intended to become — take time to cleanse your spirituality from the things that hijack it.
13) What is the point of following Christ?
What is your purpose and motivation for following Christ? Sure, it's full of good morals, standards, and ethics, but why do you do it? It's amazing how many times we've floated through our faith without asking ourselves this most basic question.
Overall, we’re continually faced with questions that challenge our belief systems. This isn’t a bad thing, and much of Jesus’s ministry revolved around asking questions. In the end, thoughtfully examining our faith promotes a spirituality that is healthy, honest, genuine, and mature.
Stephen Mattson has written for Relevant, Red Letter Christians and The Burnside Writer's Collective. He graduated from the Moody Bible Institute and is currently on staff at University of Northwestern – St. Paul, Minn. Follow him on Twitter @mikta.
Image: Photo of a woman with question mark sign, Aaron Amat / Shutterstock.com