shatterrealm asked a question:
How would you say Christianity challenges you to think for yourself?
Hello dear sister in Christ! I have to plug you here and recommend your other blog, gothicchristian. I’m a fan!
Contrary to misinformed popular opinion, I would say Christianity challenges us to think for ourselves in several great ways.
1) God first and foremost commands us to think for ourselves.
If God’s commands are a way of describing reality and how it ought to work, then it’s a big deal that God wants us to think through to the bottom of everything. Passages like 1 John 4 and Proverbs 2:9-11 show that God wants us to have discernment and wisdom, and that “knowledge is pleasant to the soul.” Acts 17 is almost entirely about Paul wanting us to dig deep on what we really believe. God is absolutely pro-intellect and pro-science, and anyone who says otherwise hasn’t read the Bible very far.
2) Traditional Christianity had such a profound respect for knowledge that it practically kept libraries open during the so-called “Dark Ages.”
I know that not everyone will see eye-to-eye on this one, but modern scholars have completely dismissed the “Dark Age” myth and how “Christianity set us back for centuries.” This is a terrible misconception and only repeated by the shallowest of college students. Any medieval historian will tell you that early Christians cared so much about knowledge, whether pagan religion or Greek philosophy, that they preserved such teachings until it revitalized academia, to the point that you can link this revival with the scientific method and the Enlightenment. I personally believe the church has really lost their way on this in the twentieth and twenty-first century – but it must never be said that the early Christians tried to snuff out the sciences. It’s the very, very opposite. The purest state of Christianity will always seek knowledge in its purest form, no matter where it comes from, because the Christian believes all information can point us back to the true God (1 Timothy 4:4, Romans 1:20, Psalm 19:1-4).
3) God never demands our unthinking worship.
Most Christians will have a problem with this: but the Bible never once demands us to worship God. I remember learning this in seminary in my Ministry of Worship class, and a few people nearly walked out.
The Bible, in fact, only tells us about God and to seek Him. We’re to freely seek Him of our own will. The Bible then expects that if we truly met God as He really is, then we’ll be knocked over by His infinite glory. Every person in the Bible who actually sought God and met Him nearly fell over dead. Isaiah wept; Ezekiel fell on his head; Moses hid in a mountain; John pretended to die. But God never forced such worship out of them. He didn’t shotgun blast their knees. God gives us reasonable faculties to comprehend the reality of the world around us, and if we so wish, we can discover the glory of God by ascertaining His presence by pure logic and choice. It’s only when we meet Him are we also moved in affection and spirit. This gift of free-will tells me that God allows us to think freely and that He doesn’t want robots nor fear-driven grovelers.
4) The wondrous beauty of God draws us towards a vastly deeper appreciation of our reality.
I’m not sure why Christians today often settle for mediocrity in their art. Maybe it’s because we think the church ought to “show grace” for terrible Christianese music and movies, or that we need to have our own watered down version of secular culture. But there was a time when Christians were making the best art, music, and research, simply because Christians felt they were called to aesthetic excellence in all they did. If we’re empowered by an infinitely holy God, then it would follow that our creative inspiration would reflect an endlessly wondrous, majestic Creator.
Isaac Newton, Sebastian Bach, and Leonardo DaVinci were all Christians of varying faith traditions, yet they produced some of the most amazing work of their times. I think they were pulling not only from natural inspiration, but tapping into a divinity that added a bottomless depth to all they did. They were able to think deeper into a humbled surrender before glory, where imagination abounded. Like C.S. Lewis says, the Christian is not necessarily called to produce the best Christian stuff, but to make such great art and textbooks and music that others would want to pick them first, since nothing else would compare. Or as DC Talk once said, “If it’s Christian, it oughta be better.”
5) God welcomes doubts, questions, and frustration.
One thing in common about the Book of Job, Nahum, Jonah, Ruth, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, and Lamentations is that God hears our venting and anger about His ways. Sometimes God does press us by flexing His glory, but mostly He just understands and walks us through it and stays a friend in our flailing. Mark 9:24 is proof that God hangs close when we feel so far, and that our doubts never disqualify us from knowing Him.
This is in stark contrast to everywhere else. In a certain corner of the blog-world, if you even try to question the way that others think, you’ll be assaulted and shamed and destroyed. There’s no such thing as free-thinking on Facebook or Tumblr or WordPress; you’ll be killed for questioning your platform. Your college campus and your workplace and your political office are so much more close-minded than you think. Most religious places, including the “Christian church,” are so afraid of questions that you’re called a sinner if you dare to implore or disagree. I’ll even go so far as to say that almost every institution exhibits cult-like behavior, which operate on everyone thinking the same and riding the status quo and being stomped on for dissension.
Christianity never, ever operates this way. If someone says it does, they haven’t even begun to meet the Jesus of the Bible. When you consider every downtrodden person who ever met Jesus, they had questions of suffering and purpose and wealth and death and disbelief – but Jesus always replied with both gentleness and authority. He treated these questions with dignity and worthy of navigating. He was never a step behind or too far ahead. Imagine a friend like that, who knows everything yet never condescends, who is side-by-side and yet in the lead.
I’ve been in places where I was shot down, cut off, and ostracized for the minority opinion. But in Scripture, with the Spirit, in the presence of Christ, I’ve never felt more comfort and conviction, where I was encouraged to float in my darkest questions but gently challenged on my preconceived notions. I could dare to vent my most horrible anger, because He not only handled me, but welcomed me. There is no other safe place where I can truly be myself and truly think for myself. And when I have such confidence in Him, I can freely admit when I’m wrong. I’m not threatened by different platforms or opposing voices, because all such knowledge is inherently valuable and worthwhile to hear. It matters less that we agree, but more that I will welcome you, so we can wrestle through these thoughts like Jesus did with me.