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Sharing answers to the various questions of faith I have faced, and which others have been challenged with also.

Monday, January 23, 2012

To Be Challenged Is Good

In recent news, schools in Britain will now have their funding cut if they teach Creationism/Intelligent Design in their curriculum. It seems that it's ok to teach Creationism so long as you call it "blind faith" or "myth", but it's as soon as you start to provide evidence for it that you get into trouble. Of course, what is preferable in my opinion, is for both to be taught together, allowing children to see the strengths and weaknesses of both arguments.

Now, based on various discussions I've had with atheist folk, I think that most atheists would assume that if the tables were turned, Christians would gladly push for the same policy against the teaching of Evolution. I'm not sure that this is the case. Furthermore, I think that atheists typically view Christians as simply believing what they believe "because their parents told them it is so", or "because their pastor tells them it is so". Well, in some sects of Christianity I think that's true, but certainly not in my world. I think that most Christians within the Reformed tradition would have a similar story to mine... my experience of Christianity has been to question everything! This has been true at every Church or Bible Study Group I've attended, where all doctrines are discussed according to Scripture, and differing views are respected (at least most of the time). I think that this would surprise most atheists, but it's honestly been that way for me all of my Christian life.

Now I'm not a Seminary graduate, but I have listened to all of the recordings of all of the lectures provided online by Covenant Theological Seminary, as well as Reformed Theological Seminary which are available on iTunes U. So I can tell you with some credibility that even in Seminary, which is really a "University for Christians", this same attitude is apparent from every lecturer. Lectures in every course would always present various views and interpretations of Scripture for discussion. I even remember Systematic Theology Lecturer Robert Peterson, for example, discussing Limited versus Unlimited Atonement. He believes in Limited Atonement, but he wasn't the least bit shy of putting forward a counter argument to his position for which he had no answer! You see, the proper Christian attitude for teachers of theology is this...

But you are not to be called rabbi [or "teacher"], for you have one teacher [Christ Himself], and you are all brothers. (Matthew 23:8)

We know that the Bible is given to us all, and that it is every individual's responsibility to read it and understand it for themselves, for we are all held accountable for what we believe. Teachers of theology are, like brothers (or equals), trying to help you figure it out for yourself, not trying to dictate what you should believe. One of the main principles of the Reformation is "Semper Reformanda", or "Always Reforming". That is to say that the Church must always be active in examining what we believe. It is to say that we all should be little Martin Luthers, constantly asking the question "Is what the Church preaches today Biblical?" Having belonged to the Church for so long, this is such a big part of my character. And I'm happy to say that, as I consider what I've been taught over the years and what I believe, I most certainly am not just a product of what has been fed to me from the pulpit, or from Seminary lectures, or from peers.

I think that this Reformed attitude of always examining our own beliefs generally extends to the things we're taught from secular sources as well. It certainly should. To be challenged is good and often tends to provoke study, the result of which is growth in faith. I, for one, am not afraid to read atheist materials, knowing that they will not sway me from the Christian faith. Atheists often call themselves "free thinkers" because they supposedly form their opinions independently of authority or tradition, yet in a world where authorities dictate that only one view point may be taught, this label is utter pretense.

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)

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