I mentioned in another post it was possible, but ever since I’ve been wondering exactly how? How are we to dive into texts written by scholars who may not share the same faith that we do and would therefore feel no reluctance to unravel the biblical text? And in that process of unraveling things, how do we press on in believing in Jesus when the very things we believe about Him are brought under critical light?
This process of finding a balance between faith and scholarship has become much more important in recent weeks. At George Fox Seminary, one professor is set to retire at the end of the year and we’ve been hearing from potential replacements every now and then. I can share no further details beyond that, but I can say that one thing I’ve come to realize is that in order for a seminary professor to have an impact on the students they teach – students, mind you, who are being trained for church leadership, ministry, and academia – they must have a strong balance between walking with Jesus and teaching leaders how to critically engage the biblical text and their surrounding cultures.
It means for me, the seminarian, I’m in the process of developing said balance. It’s one I began a long time ago at the U of O, but one I know is not quite finished, yet. Nearly every class I encounter a new perspective, a new challenge that stirs my thoughts and rattles the cages of my neatly-formed beliefs. If I was just now beginning that process of developing a balance, I am not sure how I would react. I might start doubting everything I was ever taught about Jesus and maybe even walk away from seminary. I am not saying that this is what you will go through if you are now beginning that process as you enter seminary; I’m saying this is what I might have done had I not begun that process long ago. So why am I not walking away?
Finding the balance I think is different in exact details for everyone, but ultimately boils down to being comfortable in engaging new ideas. Allowing those ideas to rattle the cages and shake up one’s beliefs will not only test the durability of those beliefs, but perhaps replace the beliefs that don’t hold up. Such a process is sometimes exhausting, but sometimes instant. Sometimes someone in class says that one thing and all of a sudden the light bulb goes on and a theological alteration (perhaps only a subtle one) takes place.
Long ago, I read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. At the time, I was wrestling with a supposed controversial doctrine and felt a lot of pressure to simply believe in it. Yet, I wasn’t convinced. The new idea was rattling the cages and the old idea, the one I was pressured to hold onto, wasn’t holding up. When I read this passage, I felt at home in allowing the new idea to replace the old:
“God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you, you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all. But, fortunately, it works the other way round. Anyone who is honestly trying to be a Christian will soon find his intelligence being sharpened: one of the reasons why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself.”
In your journey with God, where have you found comfort and solace in processing new ideas? Where is your balance point between faith and academics? Or are you like me, still developing one?
 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (HarperCollins, 2003), 78