Yesterday was the last scheduled class for my hermeneutics course. I handed in the second of my three papers, and I will hand the third one in on the 19th of April. I could share about many things I have learned. Since starting this course, I feel like my mind has been constantly whirring (or clanking and clunking) in activity. If I had to isolate one of the most valuable lessons, it would be the importance of understanding my own theological pre-suppositions. We all approach Scripture through a particular theological grid. In fact, we learn theology before we start to investigate its claims in Scripture.
Think about it. If you came to faith in Christ as a child, you definitely learned theology first. You grew up in a particular church culture, perhaps a particular denomination. You grew up being taught a particular set of beliefs. You learned Bible stories, how to pray, how to be good and kind. Your parents, church leaders, and Sunday school teachers taught you principles that were important. As a child, you did not have the cognitive or intellectual abilities to investigate the claims you were being taught. Only when you were old enough did you begin to evaluate what you were taught in light of Scripture, assuming you did that at all.
It was the same for me. I was not converted until I was 20 years old, but I was still taught basic principles. The people in my life who were used to bring me the gospel came from a very specific environment: evangelical, non-denominational, dispensational, pre-millennial, credobaptist. There was also an assumption that denominational distinctives meant a church was mainline, and therefore, liberal. This theological grid was where I began to learn about what it meant to be a Christian. In my lack of maturity, I didn't question much. Not yet, anyway.
When I was in my thirties and homeschooling, I met another homeschool mom who didn't believe that there was a rapture. I was stunned. What? I thought. There isn't? She's wrong, surely. I figured that if you didn't believe in the rapture, you couldn't really be committed to Scriptural teaching. My reaction proved that I was bound more to my own theological grid. I hadn't really even investigated the matter seriously. We all have a theological grid; we all have presuppositions.
For many years, I didn't want to evaluate my presuppositions because I was afraid that I would "lose my faith." I had heard that people who educate themselves too much lose their faith. Going to seminary would make me become a rabid, radical, man hating feminist.
This semester, I have learned to put aside the fear of evaluating my theological grid. This does not mean that I am in search of ways to usurp authority, refute the beliefs of others, or emancipate myself from any kind of perceived oppression. It means that I am learning to think more. Listening to the stories of how my formerly Independent Fundamentalist Baptist professor has worked through many issues over the years has been enlightening. He has not lost his faith. He has, instead, become more committed to a high view of Scripture and a love for Christ. He also renewed my faith in civil debate. He did not avoid objections; in fact, he welcomed them. And he was a patient and gracious listener. This was a real treat for me, because I'm more used to the more unruly online discourse that disguises itself as dialogue.
It is worthwhile considering why we hold particular convictions. Do we hold them because that's simply the way we were brought up? Or because it is the party line of the particular denomination we are part of? How much time have we spent evaluating our convictions in light of Scripture, with a willingness to understand our own theological grid? Are we afraid to hear contrary voices? If so, why?
I have personally seen the negative impact not allowing Christians to investigate the why of what they believe. If we are afraid to ask ourselves why, is it because we are uncertain of what we believe? That is a question worth asking ourselves. And we need not be afraid to do so. The beauty is that when we seek God, he always reveals himself to us.