Version 1.0, 3-20-05
Ever since I was about ten, religion has been overall the most important thing in my life. I had grown up with Christianity all around me, and I was baptized at seven, but ten was the year that religion somehow became magnetic north to me. Some people, when they say, “Religion is the most important thing in my life,” mean something like, “I am totally in love with Jesus, and I would do anything for him.” When I say it, I mean just that I can’t avoid taking it seriously. Sometimes that has meant I’m excited about Jesus, and sometimes it’s meant he utterly baffles me, but it always means that I see religious issues as the fundamental issues in life and that they are something I have to deal with in whatever way seems necessary at the time. Thus, the prominent position of this section on this site.
Over the years, my interest in Christian things has settled into five main areas: evangelism, apologetics, spirituality, theology, and hermeneutics. Here’s the quick run-through. You can read the subsection intros for more.
I think I was a miniature evangelist even in elementary school, in my low key way, but in junior high that phase really kicked in. And since I was trying to evangelize my skeptical friends, evangelism led into apologetics. Apologetics was very distracting, and in the process of studying God, I forgot about talking to him, which led me into a vexing spiritual dry spell. Not to fear, however, for I had a spiritual reawakening at the end of high school and became super-enthusiastic about spiritual growth and the idea of a personal, conversational relationship with God. This was also when I began my habit of journaling.
Then I went off to Wheaton College and entered The Crisis, which you can read about in the spirituality intro. It basically involved hearing opposing accounts from two different Christian groups of how Christianity is supposed to be lived. The effect of this crisis was to teach me that the world is more complicated than I thought and that I really didn’t know how to be the kind of Christian I wanted to be. It also reaffirmed for me that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. I was confused, and no one I talked to had answers that satisfied me, so I concluded I had to find my own. During this time my journal developed into my more organized “thoughts pages” as part of this effort.
Other things happened at Wheaton. For one thing, I began working through my theology. This came partly as a result of discovering Reformed theology my freshman year. I was also involved in an Internet evangelism ministry, which kept evangelistic issues churning in my mind. And working at the Billy Graham Center library gave me exposure to various evangelism and missions movements. My church was another influence, of course. Teaching Sunday school there made me aware of ministry issues, as did watching the church dissolve.
The process of sorting through my questions was aided by grad school. I did my masters at Wheaton in biblical exegesis, and it fed my latent interest in hermeneutics, which is the theory of interpretation. And as is usual in higher education, I learned a lot but came out with even more questions than I had going in.
My last year of grad school, all of these puzzles and others convinced me that it was time to work on my critical thinking and research skills. (Most of that project will appear in the philosophy section.) One side effect of this decision was to bring apologetics back to my attention, this time as much for myself as for anyone else.
In my quest to figure out the world, Christianity certainly gives me the most to think about. It even infiltrates my other subjects of interest. I like to integrate ideas anyway, but Christianity is a special case. I see it as a basic perspective from which to look at everything in life. So there are Christian views of art, money, politics, work, play, computers, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Similarly, there are Christian uses for all these things; and conversely, insights from other areas can inform our understanding of Christianity. I didn’t come up with this idea of integrating Christianity with the rest of life, but it’s one that to me just seems right.