One of my favorite quotes (actually not sure where I first heard this) goes basically like this, “if what you believe is the truth, and you truly care about knowing the truth, you should never be afraid to question what you believe. If it is truth, it will stand. If it is not, you do not wish to believe a lie.”
I honestly don’t believe I ever questioned the core of what I was taught at all until I was close to 23 years old. Sure I questioned how much alcohol is reasonable to drink, should I kiss before marriage or not, and whether or not watching R-rated movies was a sin. But I never questioned things such as science versus creationism, the existence of hell, was Jesus God, or the validity of the Bible.
Never once growing up do I recall reading a single book on the subject of faith or evolution from a perspective other than the one my parents and the church wanted my to have. I appreciate my parents and believe they were doing their best. However, growing up I do not think their goal was to teach me how to think so much as to teach me what to think. And if you believe that you child will burn forever in hell fire if they do not follow what you believe, can you really blame them?
Despite their intentions, several things in life from an early age, did indeed to some extent teach me how to think. I remember as a child being frustrated almost every time I asked my dad for help with mathematics homework. He would launch into a lengthy explanation of how and why I should reach the right answer without ever giving me the actual answer. I would figure it out on my own using his foundation for how to figure it out. Looking back this had a significant influence in teaching me how to think as opposed to what to think.
In fact, most of my homeschooling did this. High school in particular was a tumultuous time for my family, and I was nearly entirely self-taught to the point where I even graded by own papers and tests! At times when I couldn’t figure something out, I would literally sit with the teacher’s manual in one hand and the text book in the other trying to understand how and why the science experiment should be conducted as such.
The relatively sudden Calvinist influence in my families theology also had an important affect. Calvinism (in my opinion) is as much how you interpret Scripture as what you interpret out of it. My process of getting there theologically took a while, longer than it seemed to take the rest of my family. I had to first learn how to systematically look at the Bible to create a unified doctrine of belief (resting on the presupposition that the Bible is God’s Word and can indeed be brought to a unified conclusion).
Fast-forward to 23 years old and I was able to finally expand the concept of how to think and the notion of pursuing truth, to it furthest point.
Perhaps it all began with the reading of a simple book Love Wins by Rob Bell. While certainly controversial among Christians this guy used a thorough approach (blasted by others for sure) looking at both the Hebrew and the Greek to raise questions about a simple generally accepted concept in the Bible: hell. He explained through theology and life experience that the notion of an eternal place of torment is not consistent with the teaching of the Bible.
During a theology class at Liberty University I had already explored this topic and ended up concluding there was a hell but thought the other side had decent arguments as well. I was overwhelmed by the fact that this doctrine was so strongly held in the church and yet by a plausible interpretation (and most likely the one the culture of Jesus time would have accepted) was incorrect. However, I quickly concluded that not believing in a literal eternal hell was hardly a evangelical necessity (a belief I would still hold).
This was a dangerous step. I was questioning essential doctrines of Christianity and once you question one it opens the door to question them all. And what if I came to different conclusions on more of these beliefs? Maybe that is I was taught “just trust God” rather than to seek the truth and pursue answers. Maybe that’s why I was never told to see what the other side had to say on a issue for fear that I may come to a different conclusion?