Good Questions: No Easy Answers 

Reflections from Dr. Howell

I was that kid who couldn’t stop asking Why? Was I curious? or trying to tangle my 3rd grade teacher in confusion, when I raised my hand to inquire, “If heat rises, why is there snow on top of mountains?” How annoyed was my holy grandfather’s pastor when I asked him “How could Jesus’ death 2000 years ago have any remote connection to me today?” How dark was the night in my dorm room when, my girlfriend having dumped me, and my grades plummeting, I asked – out loud, startling my roommate – “Are you real, God? And if so, why don’t you help me?”

We are embarking on a series I’ll call Good Questions, but I wonder if No Easy Answers is a better title. The easy questions are… easy. I’m fonder of, rattled by, and determined to keep wrestling with the hard questions that have no easy answers. They’re more real, they matter, they touch on the heart, destiny, purpose and whether we cling to some hope or just surrender to a vapid life.

The list is long, but after polling lots of people, I hope to linger over several that are seemingly intellectual, even egghead type problems, and yet are profoundly personal, existential, cutting to the marrow of our deepest being. Is there a God at all? How do we know, and connect? What does it mean to believe? Do I really believe? What’s God like? Is God in control, judgmental, waiting for me to ask for favors? Does prayer work? Why do bad things happen – to good people or anybody for that matter? Does God have a plan for my life? Or the world? Why is the Bible so hard to understand? Is it even true? Who’s saved and who isn’t? What about other religions – or people with no religion at all? If Jesus matters, why and how does he? Is science the enemy or the friend of faith? What happens when we die?

I wish these had easy, unquestionable answers, and some people I love feel they have them. I love the questions, and hearing the puzzle and heartbreak in each one. My role will be to share what I do know, and what I still wonder. I’m not the answer guy – although I have read a lot, and sat with countless people asking, usually in the sorrowful, anxious dark where simplistic fare just doesn’t work. Life’s complex, and so are we.

God loves questions and doubts. Never feel squashed by anybody saying “Just believe, just accept.” As a boy of 12, Jesus asked a lot of questions in the temple, and had a dialogue with the wise teachers (Luke 2:46). Scientific progress only happens because somebody doubted what seemed to be certainty. Personal growth only happens when you expose the way you’ve been living and ask if there’s a fresher path. God is met when we question, when we are happy to be disillusioned, for we want to get rid of the illusions, half-baked semi-truths that are too wobbly.

Winston Churchill, dinged for waffling on policy, said “I’d rather be right than consistent.” The Greek word for “repentance” means a “change of mind.” I hope in all this, we’ll all change our minds, understand God, ourselves and other people in richer ways. Maybe your parents taught you some things you’re discovering weren’t spot on. Doesn’t mean you don’t still love them! Most parents yearn for their children to become wiser than they’ve been.

So I’ll be sending 2 emails per week, poking around Good Questions, and with No Easy Answers. I’ll also put out a related, but not identical video each week, and also one podcast every week, sharing things I know and conversing with someone interesting on the week’s topic. Each one is self-contained, so if you miss #2 you can totally dive into #3. I hope you’ll share with others, on social media or however you share. Talk with someone you know and love on a topic. Listen. Share. Stretch even further.