Saturday, September 24, 2011

Faith of our fathers?

Thursday's post covered the topic of whether or not God holds us accountable for our parents' sins and the answer is an emphatic no. But what about our parents' faith in God? Does that transfer over to us?

I has the privilege of interviewing a number of people that became Christians later in life. Some of them reported having little or no religious background or influence while growing up. Some of them reported having a nominal religious background where their parents had some sort of faith in Christ but it was not very explicit. Then there was one person who told me how they were raised in a Christian home and went to church every Sunday. They even taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. But it wasn't until after this person was married and had children that she really made her beliefs her own beliefs.

I also had a very similar experience. I was born and raised in a Christian home. There was never any real doubt about what I believed growing up. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized that I had to make a choice for myself. Don't get me wrong, I had made a choice for myself in terms of actually trusting in Jesus when I was young and that decision has held firm since then.

But as an adult that decision had to weather many different storms.

The first major storm was in regards to how I was going to live my life. As an adult I no longer went to church because my parents went to church. I had to do it for my own reasons and initially I did not do so because I had not made my own decision to make my faith my own faith. I had to make a decision to pursue Christianity on my own.

The next major storm was in regards to Christianity in general. I ran into an odd pair of friends in college on day. One was a Muslim and the other was an Atheist and they engaged in a sort of tag-team challenge to my faith. I remember as I was fielding their questions thinking about how odd these two were. They were obviously friends and had approached me together regarding my belief in Christianity. Some of their challenges sent me in a tailspin. I realized that I could not simply rely on the beliefs of my upbringing and needed to start getting my own answers.

That is when I started to do some very serious research into the reasons that I should believe in Christianity that went beyond saying, “Well the Bible says…” Do not hear what I am not saying. I am not saying that the Bible is not sufficient for life and faith. But rather I was being like the Bereans in Acts 17:11. I needed to see if what the Bible said was reliable. Is there any evidence for what it says?

As I started doing this research I ran into authors and speakers such as Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, Hugh Ross and Greg Koukl to name a few. It was at this point that I really started to make Christianity my own faith rather than simply the “faith of my fathers.”

We all face this decision and can go one of two ways. We can either try to continue relying on the things that we were raised to believe. Or we can make them our own.

But it isn’t just a onetime thing. What I really started to think about the other day was how I am constantly coming up against the “faith of my fathers.” There are certain doctrines - or sets of beliefs - that I realize that I have held simply because that was the way I was raised to believe. It is not that they were wrong but rather I had not thought them through and truly decided what I believed. Quite often I have affirmed the belief but I now have the belief for a completely different reason. And then there are the beliefs that I have come to change. (I must state that at this point I am talking about peripheral and not essential beliefs.)

It really drives home the idea that we are in a continual growth and learning process and will never really know it all.

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