I believe it is time we Christians relearned how to wrestle with God. Too often we paint God as dictating terms to us but the Bible shows us a God that wants to talk things over. These passages of scripture show how reason and understanding form the foundation of spiritual discernment and love.
Blind faith not needed
We often act as if blind faith in God were necessary for a righteous life but in Genesis 32:22-32 Jacob is commended for physically wrestling with God. As a result, he is told: “No longer will your name be Jacob, but Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have prevailed.”
Solomon was praised and rewarded for desiring wisdom and discernment (sound reasoning).
1 Thessalonians 5:21 says to test all things (especially prophecy). 1 Corinthians 13:2 talks of having the gift of prophecy an the ability to prophecy, and fathom all mysteries and all knowledge (but without love, that’s still nothing).
Clearly, God’s intention is for us to apply reason (another word for discernment) and to ask questions. Especially hard questions. Even if those inquiries cast doubts on dearly held beliefs.
Wisdom is found in the words of the discerning person, but the one who lacks wisdom will be disciplined.
Proverbs 10:13 New English Translation (NET Bible).
Have a full-on morality debate with God
In Genesis 18:16-32 Abraham has a full-on moral debate with God on the subject of God’s morality in judging Sodom. Abraham, a mere mortal, did not just say “thy will be done” but he actually questioned that will and debated it with God.
Not only that but he got God to agree to withhold judgement if just one righteous an could be found in the city.
God stuck to that agreement too and did not bring judgement until after He evacuated the righteous man in question.
Similarly, Moses talked God out of smiting the entire nation of Israel over the whole golden calf affair.
Both men were prepared to wrestle with God over these matters and lives were saved as a result.
God is happy to debate with us
In the first chapter of Isaiah (Isaiah 1:18) God says “let us reason together”. According to my language tool, this is SG3198 to test and prove. Rendered variously as “argue”, “reprove”, “dispute”, “rebuke”, and “render decisions”. Later in Isaiah 43:26 it says this:
Remind me of what happened! Let’s debate!
You, prove to me that you are right!
Test God rigorously
In Malachi 3:10 God says “test me in this”. The prophet Malachi is literally telling us that the Almighty not only wants but fully expects you to investigate if He is being truthful.
This teaches us an important and key concept. Take your favourite ideas, doctrines, and prophecies and see if they can stand up under less favourable conditions. In fact, give them the least favourable possible conditions and let them fail. What is true and good will not fail but that which is flawed, untrue, or false will fall apart in front of you.
Christians should question God on injustice
Lord, you have always been fair
whenever I have complained to you.
However, I would like to speak with you about the disposition of justice.
Why are wicked people successful?
Why do all dishonest people have such easy lives?
Jeremiah 12:1 New English Translation (NET Bible).
Strong reasoning skills needed
Passively accepting whatever teaching is delivered to you is a recipe for being misled. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 directs us to apply reasoning and logic to light a fire under doctrine to see if it can hold up. Instead of defending our doctrines we should try to see if we can demolish them. God-given doctrine will hold up under such scrutiny.
Two or three prophets should speak and the others should evaluate what is said.
1 Corinthians 14:29 New English Translation (NET Bible).
Love and understanding go together
1 Corinthians 13:2 says that the ability to fathom all mysteries and all knowledge without love is meaningless.
Philippians 1:9-11 (NET) has Paul praying that love will abound with understanding :
And I pray this, that your love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight so that you can decide what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.
Discernment and understanding require practice
There is a reason why a degree from a good university is valued by employers. It shows that the owner of the degree has put in the practice required to understand something. Doctrine is no different.
But solid food is for the mature, whose perceptions are trained by practice to discern both good and evil.
Hebrews 5:14 New English Translation (NET Bible).
Seek wisdom like silver
My child, if you receive my words,
and store up my commands within you,
by making your ear attentive to wisdom,
and by turning your heart to understanding,
indeed, if you call out for discernment—
raise your voice for understanding—
if you seek it like silver,
and search for it like hidden treasure,
then you will understand how to fear the Lord,
and you will discover knowledge about God.
For the Lord gives wisdom,
and from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding.
He stores up effective counsel for the upright,
and is like a shield for those who live with integrity,
to guard the paths of the righteous
and to protect the way of his pious ones.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice
and equity—every good way.
Proverbs 2:1-8 New English Translation (NET Bible).