I just finished a large end-of-the-semester-type paper for one of my classes. I attend a Southern Baptist seminary, and the paper was, more or less, attempting to take down a piece of their theology. I didn’t do this with malice or anything; I just really do disagree with them on this issue. However, it wasn’t always like that.
(And before anyone asks, no. I will not tell you what this particular piece of theology is. I don’t want to offend half of everyone. Yet.)
I spent half of my childhood actively in the church. I picked up bits and pieces of theology here and there, and it was fine. I had no framework of reference, so if a pastor told me that the Bible says ____, I believed them. Why would I not believe them? I viewed their word as the gospel truth, and everything was great.
I then went to college. I attended a Christian university, and majored in ministry. Within my first semester there, everything was shattered. The things I had believed for so long were slowly getting demolished by an actual study of the Bible. I then tried to defend my beliefs like any good Christian would do, but I couldn’t. Things weren’t going my way, and I had nothing to back me up. I quickly discovered that saying, “My pastor said _____,” or “my church taught me ______,” did not hold up in an academic setting.
I did not know where to turn or what to do. I wasn’t mad at my church or pastor; I was mad at myself. I was mad that I could be wrong about certain areas of theology. I had built this belief system (that, looking back now, was not biblical at all) that could be shoved down by a quick few sentences from someone.
There’s debates and taking sides of issues in theology. What I was experiencing was just me being wrong. I did not have biblical beliefs. I had “churched” beliefs.
“Churched” beliefs got me in trouble. I might have been able to throw a verse or two that were utterly ripped out of context, but that’s it. I was experience part humiliation, part anger, and part helplessness. The professors and students I had been talking to weren’t mean at all. This was all on me.
I had two responses here, which may sound familiar: fight or flight. I could fight, meaning that I had to go back to the Bible and actually read it for myself, studying and talking to people along the way, to see what I really believe. Or, I could leave my college. Transfer and get new friends. Even just drop out, altogether.
Guess which one I chose?
I’m glad I chose to fight. It made me a better follower of Jesus. I experienced an earth-shattering thing in college and everything I believed was torn down. With God’s help, we rebuilt it. I still do that today.
One of the thoughts I kept coming back to in my paper for my class mentioned above was about the problems we have in the church of 2014. Could it be that we simply have not thought for ourselves for the past 50 years and just went with what the pastor said?
Don’t get me wrong. Usually, pastors are educated and very informed. They make great conclusions and hypotheses, and can teach you about theology with little preparation. However, if we just take a statement as is, without knowing any background information on it, then what is it worth?
Nothing. It’s worth nothing.
I still say that one of the best things that’s happened within the past few decades for the church is Rob Bell. He shook things up with a few of his books, associations, and videos. He said things that made the church mad, and when they went to tell him how he was wrong…
…they couldn’t do it. We couldn’t do it. So, we had to think. We had to read the Bible for ourselves, and actually view it through the lens of context.
I’m not bashing Bell. I love the guy. I don’t agree with some of his statements, but I don’t 100% agree with any popular church leader’s theology (even Andy Stanley). And that’s a good thing.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that we should start thinking. Actually, we should resume thinking. We, as a church, did it for 2,000 years. We just stopped at one point. Let’s pick that habit back up.
And if you’re going through that earth-shattering and life-changing event that has broken down everything you thought was true about church, God, and Jesus: good. It sounds harsh, but you’re going to be a better follower of Jesus because of it.