Confessions of a Reluctant Stumbling Block


by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

“…but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” 
– 1 Corinthians 1:23

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. 
Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.

– Romans 14:13

I never set out to be a stumbling block, and I don’t really want to be one…but I guess when enough people tell you that you are something, you sort of grow into the role.

I knew that writing openly about my doubts about Christianity would invite questions about whether I had any business doing so in light of believers whose faith might be upset by them. I’ve been asked about the potential of becoming a stumbling block several times, and at first found myself responding rather apologetically—warning those who are comfortable in their beliefs and wary of new ones to keep their distance.

But the more I thought about my own experience with doubt, the more I realized how grateful I am for certain “stumbling blocks” that dramatically changed the trajectory of my faith, in a good way. 

The truth is, there are some beliefs that I think Christians should doubt.

I think they should doubt young earth creationism. I think they should doubt limited atonement. I think they should doubt traditional exclusivism. I think they should doubt the notion that God belongs to a certain political party. I think they should doubt Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins. I think they should doubt restricting the roles of women in church leadership. I think they should doubt the wealth, health, and prosperity “gospel.” I think they should doubt religious nationalism. I think they should doubt the idea that Jesus is simply a personal savior and that being a Christian is about being right.

If challenging my fellow Christ-followers to think more critically about these issues makes me a stumbling block in the path of bad ideas, then I accept that role. 

Unfortunately, some of these positions have become so inextricably linked to orthodox Christianity that it’s hard to make a distinction between questioning them and questioning God himself. (I know, because I’ve struggled a lot with that myself.)

What I don’t want to be is the kind of stumbling block that so severely cripples a brother or sister in their journey with God that they can’t continue to move forward. Doubt can be immeasurably beneficial when it inspires us to embrace a more examined faith, but it can be incredibly destructive when it tempts us to quit or disobey.

In my desire to challenge what I believe are false fundamentals, I must be careful of creating false fundamentals of my own.  I’ve got to be wary of growing so big and obtrusive and unyielding that those who fall over me have no safe place to land.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if I must be a stumbling block, let me be the kind that moves—out of the way when I might hurt, in the way when I might help, and down new and uncharted paths when it’s time to learn something new.

In what ways do you hope to be a stumbling block in the path of bad ideas? How can you avoid crippling others in their faith while doing so? I really look forward to your response on this one!

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