There are times when I wonder whether people are truly serious about faith. In our group this past Sunday morning, the leader wrote on the board, “Do you really believe what you say you believe?” I’m not certain exactly where he was headed with that question, but it prompted some questions in my own mind.
First, do people who hold certain convictions really understand what those convictions are or simply adopted them because someone, somewhere, said that is what they were expected to believe? Do people, once they adopt certain beliefs, not examine them ever again for accuracy or truth? Should they?
Second, is academics some how in conflict with faith? It seems, under certain circumstances, when a serious question is raised about traditional beliefs that some how those questions are relegated to “academics” as though that discipline is contrary to understanding faith. Scot McKnight, when commenting on the supposed collapse of evangelicalism made this observation, “I do fear the theologically weak, intellectually vapid, and pragmatically oriented faces of many segments of evangelicalism.” In other words, evangelicalism may not be dying, but it does show signs of malnutrition.
Do pastors go to seminaries simply to reinforce something they already believe or to expand their understanding of scripture and the tenants of their faith? Do churches shy away from Bible study and only slam sermon after sermon on people, ignoring interaction and questions so they can perpetuate “faith” or simply ignore it. Are we a people fearful of hard questions? Or challenges to longstanding beliefs? Does longstanding equate with truth? If that were the case, the world would still be “flat”.
Part of the mornings discussion centered around perspicuity and it’s influence on faith. Our instructor commented that “the main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things” or something like that. His example, among other points, was the atonement. Now it may be true that “atonement” is a main thing. However, that concept has no power unless one understands or seeks to understand the influence or affect of the atonement. I can use the term atonement, but do I mean universal atonement, the atonement of the elect only, atonement of those “born again” and on we go. Now one might say that distracts from the “main thing” but what value does the main thing have if it is not defined?
Now it’s true that not everyone will agree on the affect of the atonement or even its scope. But does that mean we don’t engage in that discussion? I don’t think it does. Having said that, it is without question that mining the truth of scripture is no easy task. One might like it to be as simple as “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it” however there is more to it than that. There must be.
It is true, I don’t have the necessary skills as a proficient exegete, but I do have an inquiring mind; often an unsettled mind about the things I have believed, the things I choose to believe, and the things I must believe in order to be true to the text of God.
You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! (Psalm 119:4-5 ESV)