Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Typical, American, Christian Teaching Is Shallow

I was always taught from my Christian school that God gave man a choice to either obey God or disobey Him in the Garden of Eden. That was God’s master plan, to plant a tree that was forbidden for them to eat of, to test them. It was never really said if God knew what would or would not happen beforehand. The school believed that God was all knowing, so they would have claimed that God knew man would fall if they were pressed, I would assume, but they never addressed that issue. I, and most of the other students, never thought that issue through either. It was an answer we were given, and in my shallow understanding of things, it worked. I was isolated in a Christian bubble, sealed off from the “real world” full of unbelievers and believers with different interpretations, counter-arguments, and rebuttals. In fact, I thought this was the only interpretation for the Christian. I took the school at its word, and thought little more of it.

A Testament to Poor Teaching In Christian Schools and Churches

I am sure this is why many Christians struggle when they go to a secular college. They come out of this Christian bubble of Christian schools and churches, where very little doctrine has been taught to begin with, and then they are bombarded with tough questions by skeptical professors and students at universities who know the Bible far better than they do. Soon, some show they were never saved to begin with, and leave the faith they once professed (although never truly possessed), while others, the true believers, are in a state of despair, and begin searching for the answers. But alas, they are already at a severe disadvantage, and by the time they catch up, if they do catch up, they are out of college.

This is a testament to the poor teaching in Christian schools and churches yet again. At the same time, something needs to be said for the student’s lack of interest in Scripture as well. While I was certainly interested in studying the Word and, if I may say so without sounding arrogant, I believe I had more of an interest than many of my peers, nevertheless, my commitment to studying Scripture on my own, to thinking about and asking the hard questions, was greatly lacking. I always perked up during chapel services or Bible class, hoping to glean something helpful, and sometimes I did. But by the time I was in high school, the questions I needed answered were questions that I should have had down pat in middle school. The questions I still didn’t understand were elementary. I was getting some of them in high school, and because I was so shallow in my faith, it seemed helpful. It was helpful, but it was merely scratching the surface. I would have been destroyed by an atheist or anyone who had actually studied the Bible with sincerity and found it contradictory, immoral, absurd, fallible, or uninspired (To this day, I am still playing catch up in those areas). I thought there was little else to Scripture and the Christian faith, but I was wrong.

For instance, I had no clue that the Old Testament was full of stories where God commands the Israelites to kill other nations- man, woman, and child. I would be willing to bet there are some in high school or even college reading this who had no idea either until just now. A friend of mine, doubting his faith when I was a junior in high school, pointed this out. He had trouble with the morality of a God who slaughters nations, including children. I had no ready answer. This didn’t sound like the God, or especially the Jesus, that I was accustomed to hearing about from my church or school. I knew there had to be a good explanation, but what that explanation was, I did not know.

The Apologetics Lessons Weren't Great, Either

Then there was the whole issue of how we know God exists. Again, my science books and science teachers didn’t offer a whole lot, except to say that both evolution and atheism or Christianity and creationism are accepted by faith. That was the grand argument, that it took faith to believe both. True enough, but so what? That doesn’t prove the existence of God. Perhaps they were implicitly stating that God couldn’t be proven. I disagree, now, many years later, but at the time I just took their word for it, that both were accepted by faith, and that the appearance of design indicated that there was a Designer. None of us would have had a chance against an evolutionist, or even someone who simply disagreed. We never explored the logical necessities of God, and I can vaguely remember one of my teachers touching on the moral proofs of God in passing, as if it were an afterthought. You weren’t aware that there were such things as “logical necessities of God” or “moral proofs” of God? Never heard of the cosmological or ontological arguments? I hadn’t either.

At School, I Learned Little That Was Actually Christian

So at Christian school, I learned little that was actually Christian. I didn’t grow in my faith much because there wasn’t much being taught that would enable me to grow. The gospel, the “Americanized” version that is, was the main concern of the Christian school. Get students in, get them saved, and then discipline them so that they will have a passion to get others saved. The name of the game was reproducing, numbers, or so it seemed to me and some of the other students. That was what most chapels were about. To be fair, some chapels and Bible class did teach us a bit, but it was basic facts, like what the temple in the Old Testament looked like, or a quiz on what such and such a verse in Scripture says, or that drinking beer and smoking and having sex outside of marriage was a sin and the rapture was just around the corner. Rather than expounding on the Scripture itself and drawing out its meaning and implications, we mostly got a few lists of things to do, or not to do, if we want to be good Christians.

A Surprise Shock Before We Release You To College Wolves

Fortunately, that did change a bit my senior year, where we had some good stuff and were exposed to Marxism and postmodernist thought, but prior to that we were encapsulated in shallow Christianity, almost exclusively. That Bible class my senior year, as much as I enjoyed it, was also a rude awakening. It was like the school was saying, “Surprise, there is so much you don’t know about, and we have neglected to teach it to you, but we are going to try to give you a picture of what it’s going to be like just before you are thrown to the wolves at college.” Or, perhaps, my Christian school just assumed that all good Christians go to Christian schools. Bad assumption. By this time, most of my fellow classmates could care less about the “deeper” things of God, and they could barely grasp surface level truths.

The Typical American Gospel Is Shallow, Hollow, and False

I say all that to say this- the only way I will be able to convince you, the reader, that the typical American gospel is a false gospel, is if you begin to realize that the Christian institutions in America, the schools, and the church primarily, aren’t doing their job. They aren’t really teaching. They are more concerned with the rapture, or if drinking beer is a sin, or sharing wild testimonies, and getting “decisions for Christ,” than they are with growing in the faith. The question needs to be asked, what exactly are we winning people to? Christ, yes, of course. But what does that look like? Just continue being a moral person, telling others about Jesus and how they too can be saved and avoid punishment? Is that really all there is to it? Is it that simple, that basic? I don’t think so.



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