Why is questioning so bad?

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I have a question. Why is it considered so bad to question doctrine in the UPC (and associated organizations)? I don’t think that I have ever heard a preacher get up and say that it is wrong to question doctrine, but I spent over 26 years in the UPC, and the impression that I always had is that it is a horrible sin to question doctrine.

Of course, some doctrines are worse to question than others (according to the typical UPC preacher). The doctrine that is #1 on the list of taboo’d doctrines is the doctrine of the Oneness of God. Other ones are high on the list as well, such as baptism in Jesus’ Name, speaking in tongues as the evidence of receiving the Holy Ghost, and more.

But aren’t we commanded in the Scriptures to question what we are taught?

For example, look at these Scriptures:

Now these were more noble-minded…for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so (Acts 17:10-12 NASB).

The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked(1Jo 2:4-6 NASB).

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed (Gal 1:6-9 NASB).

Here’s something that might shock some members of the UPC (it sure shocked me when I found out!): The “different gospel” that Paul was writing about was a return to the Mosaic Law!

Think about the implications of this for a moment.

You see, the UPC often uses this Scripture to tell people that anyone who preaches any doctrine other than the Oneness-Pentecostal-Holiness (a.k.a. UPC) doctrine is preaching a “different gospel,” but Paul was saying that the “different gospel” is a gospel that tells people to try to earn their salvation through acts of the Law!

But, you say, the UPC doesn’t teach the Law…or do they?

How about this:

A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God (Deu 22:5 NASB).

That’s straight out of the Mosaic Law! (Remember that the Mosaic Law is not the entire Old Testament, it is only parts of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy.)

Is this really important, though? Sure it is! Look at what Paul said here:

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace (Gal 5:1-4 NASB).

See that? “[Y]ou who are seeking to be justified by the law [the Mosaic Law]’ you are fallen from grace.”

(Now, some of you scholars out there might be thinking that the UPC does not teach that women wearing dresses is necessary for justification. My response is that I don’t think the UPC has a clear distinction between justification and sanctification. Everything is all wrapped up together. Like a friend of mine told me the other day, “The UPC is a package deal–take it or leave it.” In my whole time in the UPC I can only remember meeting two preachers who could give definitions of justification and sanctification. I certainly never heard the topics preached.)

OK, now that I’ve satisfied the scholars, let me get back to my original question: What’s so bad about questioning what we’re taught? Paul told Timothy to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15 NASB). John wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1 NASB).

Read through the New Testament and you will see time and time again where people were encouraged to study Scripture. The best example of this is from the passage that I cited at the beginning of this blog:

“The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men’ (Act 17:10-12 NASB).

I hardly even need to explain this Scripture passage, but I’ll give some quick background. Paul and Silas were going around on a missionary trip, and they came across a group of Christians who were getting together in the local Jewish synagogue and “examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” What things? The things they were being taught! Did Paul and Silas condemn them for this? Did they tell the Bereans that they needed to just “listen to their pastor”? Did they preach a sermon on David and Saul to the Bereans, letting them know to “touch not God’s anointed”? No! Far from it! Paul and Silas commended them, and said that they were “more noble-minded” than some of the other groups, because they didn’t just receive the word, but they examined the word to make sure that it was correct!

Folks, don’t be afraid to question what the preacher is saying! Just because he claims to be preaching “under the anointing” does not mean that what he is preaching is correct! Just because you get goosebumps and get all excited doesn’t mean that the Spirit of God is approving of the message! Show respect for the preacher, but don’t be afraid to get into the Bible and study Scripture out for yourself! You just might be surprised at what you find when you do! :)

10 thoughts on “Why is questioning so bad?

  1. Gary Verdecchia

    Hi Josh (Site Admin),

    I found it of interest that your pastor is from a Reformed background. In 2007, I began an-indepth study of the Reformed Faith. Four years later – the present – I’m still at it – happily – with two regrets – my wife and my former UPCI pastor will have none of it.

    What has helped me the most in recovering from my experience in the UPCI is the study of God’s plan of salvation as taught from the Reformed/Biblical view. What a difference! The difference between a grace based salvation vs. a works-righteousness salvation. To God be the Glory – Alone!!!!

  2. Ann

    I don’t understand why any given church or “Christian” organization would NOT want their people to question what they’re teaching. If I question something, then I personally do as much research as I possibly can until I feel comfortable with the final answer(s) or result(s). So if it’s a church-issue or a scripture-issue, then I dive even deeper into my Bible and study and pray even more until I know beyond any doubt that I have gotten the message that God intended for me the whole time, thus my faith is made stronger and more real, my relationship with Christ is strengthened. I would think ALL Christian leaders and churches and organizations would not only want that, but pray for that for all people. I know, personally, if I ever attended a church that basically prohibited me from questioning everything/anything that it teaches then that would raise a huge red flag for me.

  3. A.W. Bowman

    I will add one additional note.

    I do not overtly challenge the local church leadership on ‘minor’ points of doctrine or theology, however, when asked a question on doctrine or theology by a church member, I give it. As has been pointed out on several occasions by other church members, I should not provide my opinions, even when asked for, if they differ from what the pastor preaches/teaches.

    On major differences, I present the ‘preacher’ with alternative points of view within a scriptural context and/or show him/her a different scriptural application that they ‘may have over looked’.

    Which I have yet to have such a preacher publicly correct their teaching, they have at least been exposed to a stronger contextual understanding of the scriptures they have used in their preaching.

    Excellent article, BTW.

    1. Josh (Site Admin) Post author

      Thanks A.W.

      I agree with you about not creating a fuss over minor issues. The church I go to now has a pastor from a Reformed background. He’s not dogmatic about it, and the church itself is very much inter-denominational. But because of his background I hear stuff almost every Sunday that I have different views on. I just keep it to myself because I don’t view any of that is important for salvation. His teaching is excellent and I know he loves God just as much as I do.

      But if the pastor started to teach something that kept people from Christ or seriously distorted the gospel message then things would be different. I approached the last UPC pastor that I had many times with things he preached that were wrong–and I mean blatantly, openly wrong, with no room for debate–but I never once heard him correct it. Even worse, he would agree with me privately then go preach the exact same thing the next Sunday! I’m not sure if he had memory problems or was just trying to keep me happy.

      That pastor is a good friend of my family. He was there for me many, many times when I needed help, and I love him dearly, but I just couldn’t support his teaching anymore.

      Thanks again for the feedback. Great points.

      – Josh S.

  4. PM

    I came from a church where the unspoken rule was that you never questioned.

    I lived under this for many years, and was happy doing it, but there was always a nagging thought that I should not just take things on faith and I should question things that concern me especially when it came to personal interpretation of the scripture.

    I had been heavily involved in our church and was very well respected, but as soon as I began to question things, I was immediately condemned for it.

    This disturbed me greatly, but I ceased my questioning, but did not feel right in my spirit in how I had been treated.

    After almost losing my marriage over the issue, our family finally left that particular church and have never looked back.

    I hated that I had to leave my friends that I had grown up with, but I do not regret the decision, things are so much clearer now that I am out from under that oppression. I am heavily involved at my new church and while they still have “standards” and holiness ideals, discussion is always welcome.

    That is how it should be.

    God gave us a brain for a reason, it was not to blindly follow without questioning. If you don’t question or study, how do you know if you are being led astray?

  5. BRENDA BRIGGS

    Yesterday, I sat down with my computer and just typed in “Is it wrong to color my hair.” Just searching for answers, I was surprised when your website
    came up.My Dad is a Pentacostal Holiness preacher who was very strict concerning dress codes,TV, makeup, jewelry and other things.I struggle with questions and they all stem from what i have been taught and the life I live now.I married again after my divorce(which is against the rules) and my husband and I returned to Jesus and we had to find a church that would accept us. I chose not to return to my beliefs and wear my pants, color my hair,wear jewelry but I have questioned everything and i just get tred of it.

  6. NeNe

    AnonFemale,
    I’ve felt the same way for soooooo long! I did try to have discussions with my pastor about some of the standards and other beliefs, but it never really got very far. And, the more I tried to say something, the worse I felt–like I was trying to cause problems in the church. So, I just put on a good face and tried to deal with the confusion on my own. Eventually, I just couldn’t do it anymore and I left the UPC. It has not been an easy journey and I wish I hadn’t waited so many years to make the transition. I was in so deep, I didn’t want to hurt or disappoint my leadership, friends or family. I wish you luck on your journey.

  7. AnonFemale

    Ugh… I feel a little bit sick to my stomach just reading this! I’ve always had sooo many questions as long as I can remember, but I agree that the unwritten rule is that questioning is wrong. I’m terrified to ask questions because that would be admitting that I’m struggling (or worse, backsliding, or in rebellion, or “causing division”) and that would so dissapoint my leadership, whom I highly respect and esteem…

    I’m so confused about the balance between submission to authority, seeking Godly counsel (and preaching/teaching), and the individual’s responsibility to seek out the truth in the word for him/herself. It seems to me that the more I seek for myself the more my opinions ad beliefs are in opposition to what is being preached and it makes my heart hurt…

    “I don’t think the UPC has a clear distinction between justification and sanctification”

    I totally agree with you on this one… I’m not even sure I know the difference!

    It’s like, there’s the Big Obvious Sins… and then there’s all the lifestyle stuff that good christians should do, or your disobeying (which is sin…) so basically any lifestyle guideline your pastor teaches that you don’t do could potentially cost you your salvation (unless you are continually repenting under your breath 24/7…). Try really hard to live right, repent really hard when you mess up, cross your fingers… and you’ll be saved.

    Grace is just an afterthought.

  8. Josh Post author

    Hey Velaphi, I rarely weigh in on the comments because I like to just let people express their views without taking sides. But I’m going to break my own rule here, because you made an excellent point.

    Jesus said:

    “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” Joh 3:17-19 NASB

    In other words, Jesus came to save, not to judge. That does not mean that Jesus will never judge, of course. It means that His primary mission was not to walk around telling people they were sinners. When people are exposed to the light of Christ they know they are sinners. His primary mission was to save them from their sin, not to ridicule them for it.

    But there was one group of people who Jesus constantly condemned, and that was the Pharisees. The reason? Because they created man-made rules that no one could possibly follow (Mat. 23:1-4)!

    I encourage everyone who is in, or ever was in, a holiness church to read Matthew 23. If a person wants to follow a system of man-made rules, or if they feel convicted to follow a certain dress code, then that is between them and God. I certainly will not ask them to change! But they need to carefully read Matthew 23 and remember how Jesus feels about those who create those rules and then sit around judging everyone else. Don’t be a 21st century pharisee :)

  9. Velaphi

    Hie, i have enjoyed reading your story on religious christanity. I used 2 attend a church called “end time message” which i quit because they were extremely religious on dressing, make up; It felt like a prison. They even told me to worship my husband because God says women should submit to their husband. Christanity is a relationship with God. Religion makes us believe we can serve ourselves by following rules making us 21st century pharisees & hypocrites. Jesus had 2 come & die for us because our good works are not worthy to save us. We must remember that Jesus was a friend 2 sinners, i doubt he was judgemental as we are when we give people man made rules & expect them to follow the rule

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