Four times a year the Baptist Chaplaincy at Queen’s University, Belfast organise an event for students called ‘Forensic’.
The aim of ‘Forensic’ is to offer an opportunity for students to investigate big issues together. The structure of the event is a debate. There is a proposal, and then two people argue for and against the proposal. This allows the students to engage each aspect of the debate and therefore explore deeply big issues.
Often the debates offer two extreme positions, a discussion through all the aspects and then a conclusion on biblical (and often middle) ground.
I am convinced that this kind of charitable discussion and debate to be of great benefit to Christianity in Northern Ireland.
As I spend longer and longer in Christian circles I have come to the realisation that many Christians, primarily converted at a young age with Christian parents, hold inherited beliefs. What I mean by inherited beliefs is that many Christians just believe what their parents believe (or/and church).
This is problematic on a number of levels. To begin with, in holding inherited beliefs we don’t really understand the thought process behind our beliefs. The knock on effect is that when we have our beliefs challenged in our modern ‘tolerant’ society we find it hard to defend and therefore often just ignore challenges to our belief. Additionally, this inherited belief makes it difficult to think thoroughly through issues that face Christians today.
However, please don’t mishear me.
It is very important to take stock of and appreciate traditional beliefs.
To have godly parents who care about what they believe and care about what we believe is a blessing from God. We should not ignore them.
To have a church which teaches plainly their doctrines and invests time in educating us in our beliefs is a great blessing from God. We should not ignore it.
Church history, doctrinal creeds and parents who faithfully fulfil their biblical responsibilities should not be shunned.
Even so, this is not an excuse for failing to put in the hard work knowing why we believe what we believe. It is not an excuse for being lazy when it comes to defending our beliefs by ignoring the challenges. Rather we should use these things to aid our knowledge of our beliefs.
An additional benefit, the one alluded to in our introduction, to helping our knowledge is dialogue (or debate). It is good to be involved in debate, dialogue, conversation – talking out all the what, when, where, why and how’s of our beliefs.
This means when we come to parents and churches which have taught us our beliefs we should ask questions and listen carefully to the answers provided. It means that as we work through issues we should take time to read, think, study and pray about it. Not just accepting an easy answer, but seeking out the biblical understanding of these issues.
All of this requires an attitude of humility – allowing people to challenge us, tease out all the in’s and out’s of our beliefs and pushing us to defend robustly what we belief (including an effective defence of why).
It is not enough for us to be happy with you in your small corner and I in mine with our own inherited beliefs. Rather, we need to get up walk across the room and engage in a discussion to try and understand our brother’s and sister’s beliefs (as well as our own) a little better. We need to seek out opportunities to do this, some arena which will allow charitable, profitable and edifying discussion. Things like ‘Forensic’.
Could you organise something like this? Do you have friends (or acquaintances) that you could develop a deeper relationship with who could challenge you? Is there someone who perhaps you could consider engaging with this in mind?