As a conscientious observer and a developing thinker, I have come to two very startling conclusions: one, that thinking has become rare, and two, that thinking has become rare in Western religious circles. Having been raised in a Christian church-themed world, I was “taught” what was “right,” but I was rarely taught how I knew it was so. This is not necessarily the fault of my parents, but the fault of my church community. I look back on much of my young life and I find that the majority of the religious teaching I received was dogmatic indoctrination rather than real teaching. I was taught truth-heeding instead of truth-finding.
The approach of the modern church on teaching the younger generations and “training up a child in the way that he should go,” are ineffective and are breeding a generation of ignorant pseudo-Christians: individuals who believe in Christ as he is presented in their box, but who cannot fathom him or the world beyond that box. This has been going on for generations. We are trained in dogma, so we reproduce dogma. The intellectual community, many of whom are not simply looking for ways to mock religion, cannot take the church seriously because they encounter so many Christians who can give no rational account for why they believe what they believe. Many church-goers have been taught that faith is irrational and to “lean not onto your own understanding,” as it says in Proverbs 3:5. The irony is that the majority of the book of Proverbs tells the reader to “Get wisdom and get understanding.” Huston…we have a theological paradox.
There are probably many reasons for the state of the modern Christian church, but one thing is certain: if Christianity has any valid claim to truth, its teaching should be less dogmatic and more open to a rational conversation. The apostle Peter said to “be ready to give an answer.” I know very few Christians who are. “Just believe” is not a valid answer, and individuals prone to a more analytical view of life are frustrated by the argument that they “think too much” and should “just believe”. To believe the unbelievable is madness. Every Christian has for some reason been convinced of the truth of his faith, so why should Christians expect nonbelievers to neglect that central matter? What is faith anyway? It is something more concrete than hope and less abstract than wishing.
To the thinking world outside of the Christian faith, I apologize sincerely for the lack of critical thinking exhibited by modern Christians, knowing that Christians are not the only ones who have been deficient in critical thinking, but not using that as an excuse. To the church, I challenge you to begin to think about the deeper concepts that scare you. Ask the questions of your own soul that you are scared to death an atheist friend or an agnostic co-worker might one day pose. If God is the God of truth we proclaim him to be, let’s stop making up fairytales about him to cover up the hard questions. Let us begin to actually believe that the God who we believe to have created the intellect of man and called it “good” did not change his mind about that part of man. Let us not be afraid of the truth, because if God is truth, HE will be the answer to every question, even when church dogma is not. I believe that this is the true application of Proverbs 3:5.