I received a message from a friend recently: she wanted to know the best commentaries for studying Matthew. It was a weird question out of the blue, so I asked “what are you wanting to know?” She responded that she had begun questioning whether the miracles of Jesus had really happened, and so she wanted some commentaries that would really parse out everything that was going on. She was reaching out to me because I was in seminary and probably knew a good commentary.
It was hard to tell from her message whether she wanted a commentary that agreed with her or not. There are commentaries out there that would assure the reader that the miracles happened—they would explain all the ways they could’ve happened, why no one would lie about this sort of thing, how it could’ve been possible if X and Y and Z and Q and there you have it, the miracles are real. There are other commentaries out here that would assure the reader that these stories are metaphor — explain why they couldn’t have actually happened, why someone would tell this story this way in order to have a literary tool to get a larger truth about a message across, and how it actually means X and Y and the author wanted to get across Z and Q and there you have it, the miracles are metaphor.
But before I got too far something else hit me in her question. Her humanness actually bled forth, the relationship I had with her and the subtext of her question. There was this throw-away line in parenthesis about being thrown into hell for even thinking about this — and I realized that underneath all of this was a question she had not named: “Is God good and can God deal with me asking these questions?”
And so I responded instead by speaking of the value of doubt. Doubt is, after all, the thing to measure truth against. And if God and truth are not intertwined, then I don’t know what is. There are no easy answers to her question — most people do not even ask them because they are so hard. But faithful people, people really seeking after the truth of God, faithfully doubt and faithfully seek. There is a Christian value in doubt, there is a faithfulness in questioning even the most basic pieces of what has been given to us and measuring them against what we know to be true—of God, of the world, of ourselves. God can deal with our questioning. God does not have pride that can be bruised, and God is much bigger than that. I pointed her to the author Peter Rollins, who has impressed some of these thoughts on me, if she did want to do some reading. But more than something worth reading I wanted to point her to something worth feeling: that God is good and God has nothing to hide and God can deal with everything we throw God's way — and that this is far deeper in the gospel story than any one miracle.