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I like the phrase “living the questions.” I use it now and then, and so do a lot of other people. There’s even a book out there that’s got the phrase in the title.

I like the phrase because it encourages a “journey” mentality of spiritual growth rather than a “fortress” mentality.

Some might think that seeing the Christian life as a journey is just an excuse for a wishy-washy faith rather than doing what Christians should be doing: holding to “absolute truth.”

I disagree.

I think the metaphor reflects the healthy and inescapable realization that we are truly certain of far less than we think we are; that we walk by faith (trusting God), not by sight (being certain).

We are all on a journey of some sort, whether we realize it or not, and “living the questions” can help unmask false certainties. Many are looking for communities of faith where they can find others who value living the questions, too, and won’t judge each other for doing so.

In my world, at least, the questions I hear concern the Bible: what is it and what do I do with it? They want to feel safe and be valued for wanting to interrogate the Bible that was packaged for them in their upbringing.

Older answers no longer have explanatory power for the world they live in, and the place to begin to work it out is to ask a lot of questions in a community of fellow journeyers and not feel the pressure of coming up with the “right” answer to make others happy.

Like I said, I’m down with all that, but there is another side to this.

These journeys can’t be rushed and we should not think of God as standing over our shoulders impatiently waiting for us to get our act together.

That being said, being willing to ask questions will also, sooner or later, wind up yielding some answers—even if only tentative and embryonic.

“Living the questions” can be a big step to take. But moving along on the journey also involves working through some answers and the implications of those answers.

It takes some courage to live the questions. It takes a bit more to live some of the answers.

…answers you never expected, answers that in your former mindset you “knew” were wrong, answers that would shock others if they knew.

I know readers would be encouraged by hearing stories of others who have experienced a transition like this. Please feel free to post your thoughts.

***The original version of this post appeared in February 2013. Since then I wrote The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires our Trust More Than Our “Correct” Beliefs (HarperOne 2016), where I explore how holding on to certainty in our faith with a clenched fist impedes the journey of faith.***

[Note: If you think the idea of journeying, living the questions, or arriving at risky answers is wrong, stupid, self-absorbed, unorthodox, etc., you too should feel free to let us all know—once. More than once is just badgering, and no one likes badgering. And please remember: I moderate comments and it may take me a few hours or more to get to them.]

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.