Point of Reference
by Fred Price
This comment by Jesus to a Samaritan woman was not merely a rebuke but a challenge to her complacency. Like many today, what beliefs she had she held strongly; but her knowledge of the truth was limited and she was not motivated enough to seek a more complete understanding of her faith. She was comfortable in the knowledge she had; her belief-system reinforcing who she was and what she did rather than encouraging her to question who she was and what she was about in relation to God and his expectations.
Which is just as prevalent today as then, many “unbelieving born-agains” claiming a fundamental born-again experience having very little understanding as to what that really means and less desire to find out. Their belief-system doing nothing more than assuring them they are saved; from what and for what purpose they know next to nothing. Subsequently, the Christian pollster George Barna put together a list of fundamental biblical precepts that all Christians would presumably affirm: absolute moral truth derived from scripture, Jesus’ sinlessness, the literal existence of Satan, God’s omnipotence and omniscience, salvation by grace alone, and the responsibility of Christians to God and their fellowman to evangelize.
This is a bare-bones list, leaving out a number of other essential doctrines of Christian faith, yet strongly indicative of one’s worldview; initially submitted to pastors to gauge what is being taught. Shockingly, only 51% of those polled agreed that all the above are essential doctrines of faith. Should it be that surprising then to find that just 7% of Protestants overall hold them to be genuine articles of faith, with only 9% of “born-again” believers holding to them as essential?
There seems to be a huge gap even where pastors do hold a strong biblical worldview, other research indicating that many congregations in the typical modern-day church do not share it. This suggests to Mr. Barna that, “Merely preaching good sermons and offering helpful programs does not enable most believers to develop a practical and scriptural theological base to shape their life.” Acquiring one, “ …is a long-term process that requires a lot of purposeful activity: teaching, prayer, conversation, accountability and so forth.” A joint responsibility of those who are charged with shepherding the flock and those who are being led to question, seeking real answers, earnestly attempting to understand what and who they are being led to.
Gene Veith, culture editor of World Magazine, found some encouragement in a few of the statistics reported in Barna’s poll, referencing them in an article titled, “Stray Pastors.” One of them being that younger pastors (those under 40) are more likely to have a biblical worldview than older ones! Those who have been in ministry 5 years or less ranking higher than anyone!! Maybe the tide of unbelief within our churches and culture is finally being turned; led by the energy, intelligence, desire and resolve of a younger generation.
Many sheep of God’s flock are indeed hungry but often aren’t being fed; yet rather than quietly accepting the fate of a starvation diet they are striking out on their own and diligently looking for answers. This is as it should be, the stakes being too high and the consequences too great for us to merely accept anything and everything we are told without question. (There being a difference, however, between rebellious challenges and honest questions.) It is our shepherd’s responsibility to lead us well, it is ours to take our faith and faithfulness seriously enough to fully understand what it is we are called to believe, developing the confidence in that knowledge to live well and effectively in and for Christ.
We have God’s assurance that, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 As God rewards the inquiring individual who builds up his faith in the process of searching for Him and an understanding of His nature; “…because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
The remedy for not knowing is simple – find out! This is not a question of doubtfulness but of attempting to thoroughly prove the value of what you’re being taught; gaining insight, understanding and confidence in the knowledge gained through the search for genuineness and the reality of God’s Word. Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking! “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7,8
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Fred Price - married (48 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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