Questions

This past year has been a year of total re-evaluation of everything I believe. I am actually still in the middle of this process. Several of my comfortable paradigms have been rocked in recent years. Things I once took for granted I now wonder if they are true at all.

This re-evaluation is brutal. It is thorough. You might be surprised to know how deep it has gone for me. On the other hand, maybe you have had similar times of questioning. Maybe you will relate.

I have even been willing to re-evaluate my belief in God. On a day not too long ago, I sat in a Border’s bookstore café devouring pages from recent bestselling books about atheism.

My favorite of the ones I skimmed, and one I wound up reading about half-way through with an eagerness that surprised me, was Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great. The blasphemy suggested by the title turned me off, but the quality of the writing drew me in. Hitchens is nothing if not an elegant story-teller. I found his arguments rather compelling. Instead of dismissing them or trying in my head to refute them, I let them stand. I forced myself to hear what he was saying and give it credence.

That night, as I lay in bed thinking before going to sleep, a process that can go on for some time in my case, I tried to be an atheist. For about twenty minutes I attempted to think and breathe like someone who denies God’s very existence.

I said, “God, I do not believe in you.” Then I thought, “That’s ironic. I’m talking to someone and telling them they do not exist!”

I didn’t make a good atheist. My first instinct as an atheist was to pray about whether to be an atheist or not!

Still, I tried. Bertrand Russell said that belief in God is nothing more than a response to fear. It is a response to the fear of death, the fear of hell, and the fear that the universe might be meaningless (Reppert, Victor. C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea. p.31). Fine, Bertrand Russell. Tell me you were not afraid of those very things. We all are. Especially meaninglessness.

I would be a bad atheist because I cannot accept that beauty is merely a hormonal response randomly programmed into me by evolution. I cannot accept that my sense of right and wrong is meaningless and, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, no more important than a preference for pancakes over spam!

I’ve re-evaluated many other beliefs this year and will continue to do so. I’ve considered abandoning Yeshua and becoming Orthodox. I’ve considered abandoning Yeshua and becoming like the liberal professors I studied under.

I am asking questions.

I am optimistic that I will find resolution to some of my questions. I am a critical realist, not a logical positivist. I do not limit myself to what can be falsified. I believe in love and beauty.

It is my hope that, on this blog, in the upcoming year, I will publish some answers to these kinds of questions. I don’t mean by answer some sort of proof that all reasonable people will accept. Reasonable is relative and how many people are really reasonable anyway?

Here are some of the questions that plague me. I have strong beliefs about many of them. Yet I am not content to rest on old answers. I want new light. In short, here are my questions:

Why did you abandon the world to so much senseless tragedy, God?
How can you expect us to endure this present meaninglessness with primarily nothing but a hope in future redemption?
Who do you save and who do you not save?
What will happen to those who are not saved?
How does a person include themselves, or alternately, how does someone become included, in your salvation?
Why do we need saving and what are we saved from?
What do you want us to believe about Yeshua?
Why did he come, specifically, and what did he accomplish?
Are miracles, such as resurrection and incarnation, possible?
Is there truly a right and wrong?
Is right right because you say so or is our sense of right true and the basis of all your actions?
Are we free or do we only do what you predetermined or is it both?

There are more questions. I am primarily a biblical theologian, an interpreter of texts. I am not a philosopher, though I wish I had time.

I’m just saying that I have questions. Maybe you do too.

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Messianic Jewish, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Questions

  1. Gene Shlomovich says:

    Derek… I can relate to you. I appreciate your willingness to be open about such personal things as your spiritual inner examination and journey.

    The past year for me has been a year where I re-evaluated all my beliefs. The only belief that remained unshaken is my belief in Yeshua. But I view even Him differently now. I view him as my Jewish Maschiach now, not a generic G-d/man. Rather as an awesome fellow Jew (who happens to be G-d and my Deliverer), someone who can relate to me, someone who still loves His People deeply. He still belongs to us, to our nation.

    All these years I unquestionably swallowed the doctrines given to me by religious leaders I trusted. I just accepted these teachings because I thought that G-d spoke through these men. I thought I was mature in my Christian faith – I knew the doctrines taught to me inside and out. Yes, I was still Jewish – but I was a Christian now – and I thought that all Jews must become like me.

    I thought I knew my eschatology, and patiently waited for the “Rapture” of the church before all h*ll broke lose on the world AND Israel. I thought I knew what G-d did to the “obsolete” Jewish Law. I thought to myself that G-d has separated me from “fallen” Israel that He will punish for rejecting Him and made me a part of the new body, The Church.

    I thought about my relatives in Israel – if only they would come to believe in Yeshua during the Tribulation, if only they survived the horrors of Antichrist’s onslaught (while I was envisioning myself as safely up in heaven with the Church enjoying the Marriage Supper of the Lamb).

    I was comfortable with that for a long time. I liked the fact that I had the answers and I knew the future.

    Until G-d opened my eyes, and forced me to re-examine my beliefs in light of His Word.

    It’s been an awesome adventure, I wouldn’t trade it for anything and I wouldn’t go back to my old beliefs. I am learning something everyday.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Derek.

    Shalom

    Gene

  2. michael karhan says:

    well said.

  3. Your friend says:

    Thanks for being honest and sharing whats on your heart

  4. Lizzi says:

    Great post, I was moved by your honesty. You are not alone brother:) G-d bless you! Have a good Shabbes!

    (PS: I recommend the book “Maccabee” by David C. Carson. It’s a page turner!)

  5. Kent says:

    Perhaps rejection of God (and His triune nature and the messiahship of Yeshua) is another response to fear? Fear of having to face our living Creator and answer to Him, the one holy God Allmighty.

    It’s so much more comfortable to deny God, seeking refuge in my politically correct comfort zone, be it in the form of Orthodoxy, Atheism or Liberal theology.

    God has not abandoned or rejected us. We have abandoned and rejected Him. Still, He has not given up on us. His answer to our longing, our fears and unanswered questions is not a religious system, a philosophy or a political movement. It’s a living person, whose heart beats for us: Yeshua.

    We do not truly believe in Him, but He seems to believe in us.

    We are ashamed of Him, ashamed to admit that He did the job… we failed. I’m not man enough to save my soul. He is. How stupid that sounds! How crazy, and oh so goyish! Can I share my faith with others, or will I run away like a little school girl, making up beautiful excuses to reject Him again?

    How liberating it is to just give up. We do not have all the answers. We do not have the ability or will power to save our selves.

    We’re lost, and totally dependent on the mercy of God, as revealed through Messiah Yeshua alone.

    Can we trust Him? Can we encourage others to trust Him too? Should we?

    Is this what emunah/faith is all about?

  6. michael says:

    Derek,
    watch “amistad” ,alone not for kids.

  7. Derek:

    This is natural. I tell people if they don’t question their faith at least a few times a year, in one way or another, they’ve stopped THINKING and become mindless. Just always remember: for all your questions, there are answers, even if you don’t find them right away.

  8. Carl says:

    Rebbe Nachman of Breslov forbade people to grow old. What does this mean? Since Nachman also knew that gray hairs are to be honored, it is improbable that his statement was to be taken literally, though he died young. He was speaking of the old age that ceases to learn, that ceases to learn because one has learned “enough” and knows what needs to be know, that ceases to learn, to be curios, to question.

    One who ceases to question has already grown old.

  9. Martin says:

    Just my own personal opinion here, but if I was attending a congregation or church and found that the leader was not just asking questions but attempting to be an atheist and considering abandoning faith in Yeshua, I would probably not consider him to be in a spiritual state such that I would want him leading that congregation or church.

  10. Gene Shlomovich says:

    Martin… you are entitled to your opinion, but give Derek a break, will ya. He IS asking questions. Do you think that leaders are exempt from doubts or even lapses in faith, or do you think that leaders stop growing spiritually and intellectually? Do leaders never question G-d’s existence or presence during times of hardship or self doubt, or simply ask questions about things that are not clear? Is that weakness? For a brief moment Yeshua himself had questioned G-d purposes, and even asked G-d why he abandoned Him (Mark 15:34)!!! King David did the same thing, and he was the King of Israel (Psalm 22). They were leaders too.

    Considering and analyzing something, even another belief system, is not the same thing as becoming part of it. Derek has not become an atheist, or abandoned Yeshua. As far as I understood him, Derek was open-mindedly exploring what the opposing views had to say in defense of whatever beliefs they espouse, simply to see if they had any merit. If faith in Yeshua has the power that it claims, everything else will fall apart upon examination. Should a leader be afraid of challenging his own faith?

    I would be more careful of a leader who thinks that he’s standing strong and knows it all. I know what the Torah has to say about that kind of people.

    Gene

  11. Martin:

    Your comment is rude, uncalled for, and shallow.

    You don’t know me, so your judgment on me is based on too little information to be credible. Your snap judgment only makes a fool out of you.

    Those who blindly accept faith lack faith. True faith believes that investigation and searching confirm the truth about God. True faith is unafraid to question.

    Try praying Psalm 13 some time.

    Derek

  12. Vann says:

    I would rather have a spiritual leader that questions and learns and grows than one who is stagnant and thinks he knows all the answers. Having gone through this 3 or 4 major times in my 35 year walk with the Lord, I think I know what Derek is experiencing, and he’ll be a better man for it.

  13. Martin:

    Any psychiatrist — no matter whether they are Believers or not — will tell you that people will at times think about things they’d never do. In great times of distress, it is naturally to think for a brief period about how things would be better if you weren’t alive (call it the George Bailey Syndrome). We all have bouts of doubt, to one level or another, especially if our beliefs are so totally counter to the rest of the world. One would have to stop thinking entirely NOT to have those thoughts at times. You’re not seriously considering abandoning your faith or your life, what you’re really doing is reinforcing it. The process may LOOK the same from outside the individual’s head, but you ain’t in their head.

  14. Martin says:

    Derek,

    I’m sorry if what I wrote came across to you as rude. In reviewing what I wrote, I don’t see anything that looks intentionally rude. Nevertheless, I do apologize if I unintentionally phrased something in such a way as to cause offense

    You’re right I don’t know you. I can only go by the prolific amount of yourself you reveal on your blog. Was my comment uncalled for? If you’re not prepared to deal with the honest opinions of those reading your blog, disable comments, stop blogging, or grow a thicker skin. If you’re engaged public discourse (which I consider blogging to be), you need to be prepared to handle opinions which are different than your own.

    You are the spiritual leader of a congregation. Scripture teaches that you are called to a higher account. You state that you have considered abandoning your faith in Yeshua. That goes beyond “asking questions.” Again, just my opinion.

  15. Martin:

    When you start suggesting in a public forum that people ought to resign or that they are unfit for their vocation, you cross a line of decency.

    I think you are the only one who can’t see that.

    Further, when you don’t know the people, when you make snap judgments, you display an arrogance beyond words to describe.

    On any blog, if you make a habit of suggesting that people change careers or that they are unfit for their life calling, I expect you will meet with a similar reaction.

    Derek

  16. Shalom Bayit says:

    Derek:

    GK Cheserton has written:

    Pessimism is not in being tired of evil but in being tired of good. Despair does not lie in being weary of suffering, but in being weary of joy.

    http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=2554

    I have found this quote helpful. It makes an important distinction that I hope will satisfy your critics.

    Also Adam has said:

    <<<Any psychiatrist — no matter whether they are Believers or not — will tell you that people will at times think about things they’d never do<<<<

    I dont know about “any psychiatrist” but I know that a man named Siggie Freud once wrote that

    “Bad men do what good men dream”. That is a very Jewish view in my opinion BTW.

    Unfortunately in a time of “PC” people seem to get carried away and forget these basic truths.

    It is good to see that the majority of the comments you have received are supportive. I hope that others will do a bit more thinking.

    Best Wishes

  17. Boze says:

    For people in transition it’s not unnatural for questions to appear. When one is not strictly a Jew, but not strictly a Christian, there can sometimes be the feeling of 2 masters. When there’s no set structure to adhere to, we have to define for ourselfs to some extent what is right and what is wrong. And with the extreme differences of opinion even within our own groups, who doesn’t question how it is that they are seemingly one of the only ones who got it right?

    We are designed with a pull toward community, and those of us who walk a line are constantly pulled toward eather side. Still, I think that as a leader of a congregation, Derek MUST reevaluate, MUST question. He doesn’t have the freedom that others like me have to parrot back what his teachers say. Instead he must conciously evaluate everything in the light of new knowledge because he’s responsible to do his best not to lead others astray.

    May God continue to bless your path.

  18. Tracy Dickerson says:

    Derek~

    First off- love reading your blog!

    The transparency with which you chronicle your “night wrestling” with the angel of the L–D is refreshing, and greatly appreciated. It indicates a strength and maturity that not many posess. I wonder if you have read Come Be My Light, by Mother Theresa. I have not yet, but am anxious to do so. Your battle is not an isolated one. From serious doubt comes the potential for serious faith. The strong warriors are always the ones who are willing to do serious training. Here are some great quotes that bear this out:
    Faith which does not doubt is dead faith.-Miguel de Unamuno
    It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt.– Fyodor Dostoyevski
    Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. –Paul Tillich
    Doubt is an incentive to truth, and patient inquiry leadeth the way. –Hosea Ballou

    Finally, here is a recent debate between Chris Hitchens and Dinesh D’Souza. Hope you enjoy…

    http://www.tkc.edu/debate/

    Shalom, Tracy

  19. Pingback: Yeshua and Faith « Messianic Jewish Musings

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