(Originally posted on my blog)
I'm not a Buddhist, but I like to read about Buddhism from time to time. I think as a philosopher and a teacher, the Buddha had a lot of deeply profound things to say. Here's one that I've been thinking about a lot lately:
“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. . . . Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
I don't know about you, but it's much easier for me to automatically believe whatever the "experts" say is true or "orthodox" (notice the quotation marks). I'm afraid to ask questions because I'm afraid of what the answer might be. What if everything I've ever been taught is a lie? But when I finally do ask the questions, I'm always pleasantly surprised by the answer.
For example, last year when I nudged my way into the emerging church conversation, I was introduced to all these new ideas about the Gospel, the Bible, the Cross, and eschatology. I was also reading a lot about the New Calvinism movement and their theology. With all the different voices and ideas coming at me, though, I no longer knew what to believe. Was Christus Victor the right atonement theory, or was it Penal Substitutionary Atonement? Was God still angry at everyone? But I just kept going through the motions of doing church because I didn't want to lose my faith. The problem was, I was my faith! So finally I started asking questions and investigating my beliefs. I emptied out everything that I had been taught about Jesus, and re-read all four gospels.
And when I did, the strangest thing happened. I regained my faith in Jesus! I studied His teachings and found out He was right all along!
Questioning what you've been taught is scary, but it's necessary for growth. If we stop asking questions, we stop learning, and therefore we stop growing. Besides, I think Jesus is big enough to handle our questions. He even said, "Ask and you shall receive."