people punished for using reason or questioning the faith?
"I am pleased
as punch no longer to believe in a god who declares reason a sin...."
now, and let us reason together," says the Lord,....
the days of the Inquisitions,
the ancient Church of Rome targeted for persecution numerous groups of people,
including Christian groups. The Christ-worshipping sects were included because
they opposed the Roman church's claim to singular authority. One goal of
this action by the Church of Rome was to claim itself as the sole interpreter
of Scripture (more).
an attempt to mandate its peculiar interpretations of Scripture, the Church
of Rome defined as heresy the questioning of Roman church authority, the
questioning of Rome's scriptural interpretations, and the failure to embrace
its papal dogmas. At one point, it even declared possessing an English-reading
Bible a heresy. These so-called heresies were defined by the institution
of the medieval Roman Catholic church - these are not crimes defined
in the Bible.
is an incorrect notion that hard questions about God or faith are, or were,
prohibited by the Bible, or are characteristic of Christianity as practiced
outside this period. Such prohibitions and punishments were peculiar to
the Catholic church of the Dark Ages. 8
By contrast, the Bible has no opposition to rational thought, honest
doubts, or investigating the truthfulness of its claims. In fact, an
excellent case can be made that the scriptures plainly endorse rational
thought, invite the exploration of its truthfulness, and, to a point, honor
passage that might illustrate how God deals with people who have honest
doubts or find him difficult to follow is the twenty-first chapter of the
Gospel according to John (starting with verse 15). Peter had previously
denied knowing Jesus three times at the trial before Jesus' crucifixion.
But here, Jesus had risen from the dead, returned to his disciples, and
now confronts Peter.
asked him, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than
these [referring to the other disciples' love for Jesus]?" Peter
responded, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you". Three times
Jesus asked, and three times Peter answered. And each time Jesus affirms
Peter by exhorting him to feed Jesus' sheep; that is, to continue in his
discipleship and continue growing the church.
did not condemn Peter for his failings, or for doubting him, or for not
loving him enough to publicly confess his faith. Jesus accepted Peter's
return to him and moreover affirmed Peter's continuance in the responsibility
and privilege of looking after the church.
the Baptist is another example. John boldly proclaimed the coming of
the Christ, even recognizing and baptizing him. John was later put in prison
while Jesus' ministry began and, after some time had passed, John had one
of his disciples ask Jesus, "Are you the one who was to come, or should
we expect someone else?" (Matthew 11:3) Clearly as sure of Jesus as
John was earlier, he now poses a question that suggests a certain amount
does Jesus' respond? He not only provides affirming scriptural references
to assuage John's doubt, he says this to the crowd before him:
As John's disciples
were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did
you go out into the desert to see? ...A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and
more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: " 'I will
send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.'
I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen
anyone greater than John the Baptist..." (Matthew 11:7-11)
these examples, know that we can approach Jesus and the Bible, not in fear
of punishment, but with expectation of favorable reception when we acknowledge,
with honesty, the humble degree of faith - great or little - we know ourselves
to possess. Have great faith.
of English translations
Advice to nonbelievers