This reflection is part of a collection of responses to the theme: “What is Theology?”
By Haley Hansen
In my time as a journalist, I often found that the most probing and uncomfortable questions were the ones I most needed to ask. I spent years of my life learning how to craft questions. I shrugged off my Midwestern aversion to confrontation in journalism school. I became critical of everything. I grew accustomed to asking dumb questions. I rebranded my nosiness into a form of curiosity.
In church, nobody taught me to ask questions, and for a long time I didn’t feel the need to. Faith was an absolute. I took comfort in dogma. Eventually, Sunday school answers and platitudes were no longer enough for me. My faith fractured precisely because I never interrogated it.
I study theology because I feel called to ministry. I want to help people ask big questions and maybe find a few answers. I study theology because I have a laundry list of questions of my own. Theology for me is a form of questioning. Theology is being willing to kick the tires even though the bumper might fall off. It’s about having the humility to admit when I’m wrong or when I can’t find a perfect answer. It’s diving into the unfathomed deep end of the pool, knowing that it’s a heck of a lot better to get in than to have never left the diving board. Questions allow for creativity and innovation. Questions allow me to reimagine what church is and who it includes. Questions allow me to move through doubt into a deeper faith.
I take comfort in the fact that scripture itself is brimming with questions. Abraham asks God, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?” Job asks, “When a man dies, will he live again?” In three of the Gospel accounts, Jesus asks Peter “who do you say that I am?” In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus hangs on the cross and cries to God, “Why have you forsaken me?”
These questions aren’t always hopeful, and they often go unanswered. I’ve learned to embrace that discomfort. I doubt I’ll ever understand the book of Job or know where we all go when we die. But I’m willing to ask. I’m willing to have questions without answers. As I begin my time as a theologian, I often find that the most probing and uncomfortable questions are the ones I most need to ask.
Haley Hansen is a first-year Master of Divinity student. A South Dakota native, Haley graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Minnesota in 2017. She is a certified candidate for ministry in the United Methodist Church.