Last month we looked at questions that atheists tend to shy away from for whatever reason, and we looked at questions that are truly off-limits to those in an atheistic world. Today, we will see if Christianity has any such questions.
What is Off Limits In The Church?
One of the great advantages of Christianity over atheism is that the questions that are off limits in atheism are central to Christianity- God exists and He does have a purpose for all the pain and suffering that we experience. But does Christianity have its own questions that it says are off limits that may cause the worldview to implode?
The Culture of “Questions Not Allowed”
Around the age of 12 or 13, I discovered that my asking questions was quite annoying to many people. Generally people didn’t mind my asking a couple basic questions here and there. But when I started asking a lot of questions, or my questions began to point out a real issue between two facts, their demeanor changed. I noticed this especially in church. People didn’t mind my asking some basic questions about Christianity, but when I started getting into deeper theology, they ran. Some rebuked the questioning. This gave me a very sour feeling around many fellow Christians, as if asking tough questions about what we believed was off limits. This was one of the reasons that I drifted away from the Church. My thoughts were these: if Christianity is true, why are Christians so afraid of being challenged? Christianity was for the intellectually weak and emotionally driven.
In my experience over the last several years with defenders of Christianity, these questions have not only been welcomed, but they have been answered. The last ten years have been a fantastic intellectual smorgasbord for me. However, as much as I’d like to say that Christians are becoming more willing to talk about their faith and be challenged, I’ve also experienced the real resistance to challenges. Since I am much older and (hopefully) more mature, I can articulate the specifics of the challenges and their implications better. Unfortunately, I recently experienced the same resistance that I experienced when I was young.
I have to admit that it is incredibly difficult to not go ballistic when I encounter this attitude in the Church. So, I will keep this part short: the Church is pushing intellectual people who are honestly seeking the truth away from Christ because individual Christians refuse to challenge their beliefs. Those who offer the challenges believe that Christianity cannot answer their challenges because Christians would rather stick their fingers in their ears and ignore the challenge than seek to answer the challenge or adjust their own belief to reflect what is true. If you say that Christianity is the one true worldview, you need to be willing to put your mind where your mouth is.
Moving along: even though people do not allow questioning, it does not mean that the questions cannot and should not be asked. But, it also does not mean that all questions suddenly make sense and are allowed.
The Reality of Questions Not Allowed
As I pointed out within atheism, there are questions that are actually off limits in Christianity. But unlike in atheism, they do not cause the claims of Christianity to be false or even questionable. They actually reinforce the truth of Christianity. Most questions that would be off limits in Christianity are direct attacks on God’s power. The two that I want to examine today are these: “Can God make a square circle?” and “Can God create a rock so big that He can’t pick it up?”.
The first seems like a silly question for anyone to ask of anyone, because of the fact that circles cannot be square, squares cannot be circles. Neither can you have a shape that is one and have the essential attributes of the other. The ridiculousness of the question is what gives it its persuasiveness- if God cannot create a square circle, then he cannot possibly be all-powerful; which means that either the Christian God does not exist or is not all-powerful (neither are very palatable to the Christian). The reason that this particular question is a silly (off limits) question in Christianity is because reason is grounded in God’s nature and no amount of power can make the unreasonable reasonable, or the impossible possible. It is in God’s nature to be rational and reasonable, not irrational and unreasonable. Therefore, the fact that God cannot create a square circle has no bearing on whether or not He is all-powerful or exists. Irrational questions, like in reality, are off limits in Christianity.
The second is a little less obvious, but is also an attack on God’s power. I remember being asked this in my fifth grade class. Interestingly enough, my answer has only changed in articulation since I first answered my teacher. My answer was this: God is not limited by gravity. From a scientific perspective, gravity is a physical force that originated inside the universe. A physical force cannot affect anything non-physical, and most scientists would grant that gravity’s affect is limited to the universe. From a theological perspective, God created gravity. God is not subject to his creation. Therefore, God is not subject to gravity. From both perspectives, God is not an object of mass, gravity acts upon mass, therefore gravity does not act upon God. What we have here is a “category error” in the question along with a false assumption. The question (falsely) assumes that a physical force has effects on non-physical entities. Because of these two errors in logic, the question is silly (or off limits).
Even though these questions are off limits, they do not cause the Christian worldview to implode. They actually affirm that Christianity accurately describes the world in which we live. Logic is an inescapable reality that most people would grant. In atheism, logic must be jettisoned if we are to wrestle with the drive to know ultimate purpose behind pain and suffering. Logic is strongly affirmed in its placement of illogical questions into the realm of “off limits” in the Christian worldview, just as they are in reality.