Study Guide: The Physics of Faith

Sunday February 19, 2023 | Emily Morrison

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

In this sermon, Emily Morrison looks at what happens right after Jesus feeds the 5000 to point out the importance of raising questions about our faith. She offers an explanation of three phases of our faith journey that allow us to embrace the questions and find a way through them by ultimately bringing them to Jesus

Extended Summary:

Unraveling Truth is about “deconstruction,” which is simply the business of taking a serious and critical look at our beliefs. It’s the process of taking apart, probing, wondering, wrestling, and exploring faith before putting it back together. This is something all of us must learn to do in order to make our faith our own. Emily Morrison talks in this sermon about this very thing, as she has had to grapple with deep questions and doubts.  

Faith is always accompanied by doubt! Faith lives in company with questions and confusion and a few hesitations. While we tend to run from doubt, it is something that Jesus actually expects us to experience. It’s a trademark feature of humans, as multiple times in the gospels Jesus says to his followers, “Oh, you of little faith.” Dallas Willard says in his book, The Divine Conspiracy, that we could translate this literally as “little faiths.” He says it is likely this is a word Jesus coined as his nickname for his followers. He tells his little-faiths not to worry about how God will take care of them.  

The crowd that comes to Jesus after the Feeding of the 5,000 is a crowd of little-faiths with lots of questions. This is phase one of our faith journey: asking questions. This crowd, for a variety of reasons, wanted to know more. And they’re good questions! Today we are doing the same thing, asking questions like: How do we follow God? What evidence is there to believe you? Who are you anyway? What do the things you say mean? 

Questioning opens the door to doubts, because that’s where doubt starts. Asking questions means we are engaged, because when we raise questions, we are entering into conversations with Jesus. God never asks us to simply embrace a belief system. He asks us to engage with him. We are challenged to trust a person not a set of theological points.  

Phase two of this faith journey is: making a decision. Following the Feeding of the 5000, the people had two choices. You can either take Jesus at his word or not. All these people heard the exact same message, heard the exact same words come out of Jesus’ mouth, and saw the exact same miracles, and some people “turned away and deserted him” but others stayed.  

God will not force you into anything. Jesus let people walk away from him all the time, because we get to choose. The one thing you can’t do though, is live in doubt-land forever. At some point, you need to step out of the boat. At some point, as Jesus told Thomas, you need to “stop doubting and believe.” At some point, you need to throw your lot in with Jesus or walk away from him. 

We can’t live in the midst of deconstruction for the rest our lives. We have a choice to make, based on the evidence we have heard and seen. But even after we use the evidence to decide, we will always have questions while we are walking out our faith. This is the third phase of the faith journey.  

Phase three is: living with uncertainty. The entire rest of the book of John speaks to how Jesus’ followers—even after they make decisions—are trying to sort out what Jesus’ words mean. Our faith will always involve asking questions. This is not blind faith. We walk out our faith with the best information we have about what it true. But doubt will be a constant companion if we are honest. We must learn to believe and be skeptical at the same time. This is exemplified by physics which teaches us how to live with things we cannot absolutely prove.  

Whether we are taking a sledgehammer to our faith or our faith is taking a sledgehammer to us, we can know that we are free to wrestle with our questions and embrace the “little-faith” journey, by simply walk in our questions with Jesus. And we can sit with him, resting in the fact that we can trust him, even though we might not have all of the answers.  

Reflection Questions: