Humanity has a beautifully rich history of arguing with God.
There is a saying; 'two Jews, three opinions' illustrating the stereotypically Jewish enjoyment of an argument. Israel literally means 'wrestles with God'. As Christians we build on this heritage of wrestling with the divine.
I quite enjoy an argument myself, a thoughtful exchange of diverging or opposing views. With this definition in mind it isn't sinful to argue with our creator. Although we have all experienced arguments that become angry or hurtful, this is not necessarily the case.
The Bible tells of man's encounters with God and is plentiful in arguments.
2 Timothy chapter 3, verse 16 tells us that 'all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and for instruction'. There is value to be found as we read these documented arguments.
I contend that growth and maturity are stimulated when we argue, so long as there is an openness to new ideas and a willingness to listen.
I like to say that my husband and I argue productively... now.
This was not always the case. I have trouble with my temper at times. In fact sometimes when I got angry I would even throw things (like cups or plates, once a small potted plant), so it is almost a miracle that our arguments are useful now.
With effort and time we have modified our behaviour and we can use the power of an argument for good, instead of evil (much to the relief of a certain potted plant).
We have accepted that disagreements are normal, and the aim is to find a functional compromise or understanding. It is actually about exchanging our opposing ideas and learning to see things differently.
Previously, when we approached arguments with dogmatic certainty or a refusal to listen we never came to a solution and our crockery suffered.
Peter tries to correct God
When we argue with God we are in good company.
In Acts chapter 10, Peter has a vision from God and his initial response, given in verse 14, is that Peter says 'No Lord! I have never eaten anything that our law says is unclean'. God replies in the affirmative, repeating himself. Three times Peter voiced his disagreement and three times he was corrected.
At no point do we get the sense that Peter is breaking the rules. We see Peter is fully involved in voicing his disagreement but he is also listening. As Peter is left thinking deeply he becomes fully persuaded to God's point of view.
By Acts chapter 10, verse 28 he is proclaiming the deep truth that God revealed to him through it; that he should not call any man unclean.
I love that that we are allowed to disagree or even invited into an argument with God. Like Peter, as we engage with him on a deep level we find ourselves changed and with fresh understanding.
In Exodus chapter 32 God is angry with his people for making and worshipping a golden calf. Moses pleads with God and argues to spare the people from destruction and God allows himself to be persuaded.
Through this Moses gained a greater understanding of God's character and his righteous anger at sin.
We can see that God chooses to listen to Moses, despite the fact that Moses only has a limited human perspective and God is omniscient.
Listening means using the brain
To a fanatic an argument is a chance to prove right-ness, with an approach of dogmatic certainty and a refusal to listen.
Without listening critical thinking skills cannot develop. The fanatic's point of view is often shallow or not clearly thought out, which is to his personal detriment and the detriment of his cause.
Let's think about that the next time we are tempted to be dogmatic and refuse to listen to someone else.
I believe that faith or belief worth having needs to be robust enough to withstand argument and deep thought. If something is the truth, it will remain the truth under scrutiny or argument.
We have been created with complex brains, with the ability to reason, deduce and think. It would be good if we used them.
Do not rely on your own understanding
On our own our understanding is small, finite and limited, but we have access to the creator of the universe.
The very smallness of our comprehension means that by arguing with God we are led to more in depth thought and often a clearer understanding.
The cause of argument may not be important, but in the argument itself we can take the opportunity to learn and grow.
Kara Greening trained in biology, works in chemistry and wonders about the physics of the TARDIS in Doctor Who. She is passionate about exploring her faith and being wholehearted in life. She is married to a primary school teacher and they have two lovely cats.
Kara Greening's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/kara-greening.html