(To read Part 1 of this discussion, you can visit our Previous Post.)
The Real Test
I recall an experience with a young man who came to us for an 18-month house church planting training in Rhode Island more than two decades ago. He had graduated from seminary and had an interest in working among Muslims. After talking with a few local Muslims, he was shocked to find out that they did not trust the Bible because it had been corrupted over the years, as evidenced by all the different translations. He came to us that night quite confused about how to respond. I asked him if any of his seminary courses taught about the history of canonizing the Bible. You could see his eyes begin to light up as he began retrieving book material from years of education, but he didn’t know how to distill it into a concise explanation. Sadly, this young man had lots of head knowledge, but he didn’t know how to apply the information practically, much less explain it to someone else.
My faith journey was quite different than his. Early on in my faith, I was a public school teacher and led Bible studies with students from Brown University. At one of my first studies, a young man from a Southern Baptist background asked me right before Christmas break, “You believe in predestination, don’t you?” I had not been to Bible school, and couldn’t remember what it meant, so I said I was not sure. He replied, “Well, I don’t believe in it,” and headed off to his Christmas break.
I went to the older man who was discipling me and asked him about predestination, so he gave me Lorraine Boettner’s 600-page long Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, which discussed the differences between Calvinism and Pelagianism. I am a very slow reader due to dyslexia, but I managed to read it over the next few weeks and decided I was a 3-point Calvinist. (I did not think I had to be a 5-pointer, since it was only a book, not the Book.)
When the student came back from break, we had a long discussion and he was surprised you could be a 3 or 4 point Calvinist. He thought you had to believe all of it or none of it (apparently he had never read Boettner ☺). I also explained to him that from my perspective, the Bible was the Word of God and everything else was open to question. I would have never read that 600-page book otherwise, but I did for the sake of this young man. I did not read so I could pass a test; I read it because I needed to know!
For me, the real test of faith is how God’s Word impacts our lives, not how well we can recall it in a classroom setting. With the Guild, our method of training is designed for people who want to learn by doing, and who want to be prepared for a future working cross-culturally, and inviting others into the Kingdom of God.