“Beliefs do not change facts. Facts, if one is rational, should change beliefs.”
– Ricky Gervais
We are naturally inclined to study and research within the bounds of our tribe. And the “bounds” I speak of are the places we are taught not to worry about because everything passed those lines has been researched by others on our behalf. Those matters have been “settled” and now we only need to study and learn within the confounds of our tribe’s belief system. It’s the elusion of freedom.
Heated debates clutter America’s charged political atmosphere with recycled rhetoric of our party of choice. Rhetoric that we have been convinced are our own thoughts and conclusions derived from our own “research” – which primarily involves listening to our favorite partisan news/editorial tv/radio station, and social media feed. We seek information simply to support our stance instead seeking truth to be challenged and being willing to change in the face of new information.
The same dynamics have long been alive and well within Christendom. Heated debates also clutter our spiritual landscape. Generations of Christ-followers recycle the tribal rhetoric of their denomination of choice, also convinced these arguments are their own thoughts and conclusions derived from their own “research” – which primarily involves listening to teachings and reading books with the goal of protecting the tribal rhetoric that has been passed down as truth.
How did we get to a point where we have forgotten how to correctly seek?
The smartest theologians and bible scholars among us continue to seek while also continuing to disagree amongst themselves on a myriad of issues. However each of our tribes claim to have figured out for themselves the answers that have evidently eluded those early church fathers, theologians, and scholars for centuries because “the Bible clearly teaches” that (insert topic here) is right or wrong. These “absolutes” are continually passed down to their members as clear scriptural conclusions that no longer need to be questioned because the seeking has already been done for them. Seeking and reaching conclusions outside of those confines is tantamount to falling away from the faith and dabbling in heresy and compromise. The core is fear.
Ultimately we have forgotten how to seek correctly because we have become scared of Truth and what it would mean for us to confront it when it challenges the theology of our tribe. Truth doesn’t change which means we are the ones that will be required to change. But first we have to be able seek with the possibility that we are wrong and with the willingness to change. Unfortunately fear usually drives us to merely seek defense of our tribal belief system so that we are capable of arguing away anything that contradicts it. One unresolved question or one piece of new information could seemingly rip the rug out from under our whole faith because the package has been sold to us and we bought it.
Modern theologians and biblical scholars are now able to apply cultural and historical information that was not available to their predecessors. (Just reference the footnotes of whichever bible you have and you will discover a plethora of information that is constantly being revised.)
There is nothing that should cause us to fear Truth, except for the baggage that we bring to the confrontation. Sometimes truth says “hold on to what you have been taught” and sometimes Truth says, “let go and let your mind be renewed as you seek me.” We may lose our tribal safety net and we may have a difficult time parting with a bag, but ultimately it is one less thing to argue and defend, and one more step closer to the Kingdom with a lighter burden and easier yoke. (Matthew 11:30)
“That’s the other thing I learned that day, that the truth, however shocking or uncomfortable, in the end leads to liberation and dignity.”
– Ricky Gervais