6 Monumental Questions Facing Every Church In America | Sojourners

6 Monumental Questions Facing Every Church In America

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Churches continue to struggle with big questions, diuno/ Shutterstock.com

Christianity is a lifelong journey of learning new things, growing in wisdom, and interacting with a wide array of difficult topics. Boldly asking tough questions is essential to spiritual development.

Today, few questions are as important, impactful, meaningful, or divisive within Christianity as the following six:

1. Is homosexuality a sin?

While much of society continues to accept homosexuality as being a culturally and morally acceptable practice, many Christian institutions, organizations, and communities still consider it sinful.

Increasingly, Christians who publically denounce homosexuality are perceived as homophobic, bigoted, and on the completely wrong side of a major human rights movement. This results in the Christian faith being wholeheartedly rejected by a modern population that sees this type of fundamentalism as incompatible with modern ethics and conventional wisdom.

But other churches, denominations, and spiritual communities are changing — and some have fully embraced and supported gay rights.

Christianity currently finds itself facing four basic responses: 1) support homosexuality, 2) reject it as sinful, 3) accept it but still claim it’s sinful, and, 4) ignore the issue as much as possible.

Believers are deeply divided on the issue, and ultimately your stance on homosexuality defines much of what you think about God, theology, church, sin, and salvation.

This is one of the defining question facing today’s Christians, and many are still processing through what they believe and struggling to come up with an adequate answer.

2. Do gender roles have a place within Christianity?

Do the Bible verses that talk specifically about what men and women should and shouldn’t do apply to modern times? Is it OK for women to be pastors, elders, deacons, and spiritual leaders? Should men and women have specific roles to play within marriage and relationships?

Christian culture is still saturated with deep-rooted beliefs about the roles and expectations that both men and women should fulfill.

For many Christians, there’s a radical difference in attitude, respect, responsibility, and interaction related to the way they’re treated within the church compared to everywhere else — simply based on their gender.

While many outside of the church wonder, “What’s the big deal?” the roles of men and women continue to be a point of huge controversy, dividing churches, denominations, and alienating numerous individuals. The debate rages on while the secular world watches — often in disbelief.

3. Is evolution biblical?

A Christian’s worldview as it relates to science can be largely discovered by how they address this one question. Today more than ever, believers must determine how science will integrate with their belief in God — if it does at all.

How did God create the world? How do Christians explain carbon-dating, scientific data, and the big-bang theory? How does science relate to faith?

Can science, logic, and secular truths be harmonized with a faith that’s filled with supernatural miracles, the Holy Ghost, and divine events that seem illogical and absurd? This is the constant tension that every Christian must live with.

4. Are non-Christians really going to hell?

Ouch. Few Christian beliefs are harder to publicly admit than the idea of hell, especially an eternal hell, and especially an eternal hell exclusively for people who don’t exactly believe in the same beliefs that you hold.

In a complex world where Christians do bad things and non-Christians do good things, the idea that simply not believing in Jesus results in a one-way ticket to hell is obviously hard to accept.

For Christians, the concept of hell has again taken center stage. Biblical passages on the issue are widely debated, forcing people to address many key questions: What does the afterlife look like? How do people get into heaven or hell? Are they permanent places? How did the original authors (and readers) of scripture interpret heaven and hell?

As these questions are being reflected upon and people’s opinions evolve, Christianity’s vision of heaven and hell are becoming more complex, varied, and nuanced.

5. How do you interpret the Bible?

God creating everything in seven days. Noah and the flood. Moses parting the sea. Jonah and the whale. David and Goliath. The burning bush. A talking donkey. Jesus walking on water. People being raised from the dead. The apocalyptic descriptions within Revelation. Hundreds of miracles. Angels and demons.

Literal or figurative? Or maybe a little of both?

How do you determine what is fact and what is fiction, or whether a portion of Scripture is either historical documentation or mere storytelling, poetry, or songwriting?

What version of the Bible do you read — there are hundreds to choose from. Which is the most accurate? What did the original Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic mean? Why did the authors write it? Who were they writing to? What was the historical context? What were they trying to say? How does the Bible apply to modern day?

One verse can be interpreted in countless different ways by a variety of people—and there are thousands of verses that make up the Bible. Inevitably, this leads to a rich complexity of beliefs, practices, and traditions. How do you interpret the Bible?

6. How do you explain the violence and killing that the Bible describes God participating in?

For a God that’s supposedly nice, kind, and loving, there’s a lot of brutal violence, murder, war, and killing that God participated in. Entire people groups get horrifically wiped off the earth. People are punished by death because of the most trivial infractions. How can a God that does this kind of stuff be worshipped and praised as being holy and righteous?

Yikes. Good luck trying to explain this one.

In the end, these questions are some of the most awkward, difficult, yet important questions being currently addressed within Christian culture. It’s not necessarily about having a pat answer as much as it is about deeply wrestling with these ideas — it’s a lifelong journey.

Your thoughts, opinions, and beliefs regarding these questions will develop, mature, and change over time. Relationships, ideas, data, information, and experiences will mold and shape your journey. But in the end, no matter what, God still loves you — there’s no question about that.

Stephen Mattson blogs at stephenjmattson.com. He's contributed for Relevant Magazine, Redletterchristians.org , and studied Youth Ministry at the Moody Bible Institute. He is now on staff at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul, Minn. Follow him on Twitter @mikta.

Image: diuno/ Shutterstock.com

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