How Philosophy Saved My Soul: Part II

The Lion, the Witch, and the…hold on…a Witch?!?!

You’re back? Great! Last week I gave you a brief introduction to my early life and I promised that we would look into the particular ideas that shaped my thinking. Here we go.

I remember, as a teenager, that I once attempted to calculate the number of hours of Bible education I had sat under. My rudimentary computations included Sunday school, morning worship, family devotions, evening service, youth group, retreats, camps, Christian school chapel and Bible classes. The actual number is beyond my recall but I do remember that it was astronomical. Friends, I attended a church and school that was very serious about the Bible. This is a good thing. My classmates and I were utterly saturated with religious education every which way from Sunday. We knew details that would make your head swim. You might say that we were educated beyond our level of obedience.

My environment would be considered a strict, conservative culture. There were cultural norms or rules. I wasn’t allowed to play sports on Sundays, we didn’t go to movies, certain kinds of music were forbidden, and we were in church every time the doors were open. Was this terrible? Not at all. Just like my home life, my teachers and pastors had my best in mind. Again, I do not feel like I missed out on anything. My views on some of these issues have changed, but that is not the point. I am giving the facts because they are necessary for the story.

I was from a family that lived by a maxim: if you get in trouble at school, you will be in a lot more trouble when you get home. My parents had this crazy notion that my teachers had more insight than I. Therefore, I didn’t intentionally make waves. Make no mistake, I was a knucklehead but not one that welcomed unpleasant discipline as a result of the school calling mom and dad.

I had friends that were far braver than I and they would buck the system whenever the opportunity arose. Here is what would happen. We would be in a Bible class and it didn’t matter what we were talking about. Someone would raise their hand and ask, “how do I know that belief/position/doctrine “X” is true?” Now I want you to think about that question for a minute. Is it reasonable? Is it fair? For the moment, do not try to think about the intent of the questioner. Is it a fair question? Well, what do you think? Don’t worry. We will deal with that one in detail much later in this series.

Let’s get back to how the question was generally handled. Usually (I am being very general) the teacher would say that “X” is true because the Bible says so. For those of us who have similar doctrinally conservative backgrounds, that might be enough and sometimes it was. But then things would get interesting if the student would follow up with, “and how do I know the Bible is true?” Oh boy. The general response would be something like, “because God assures us it is.” “And how do I know of God’s assurance?” “Because the Bible tells us!” That is called a circular argument or begging the question. I actually believe that the Bible is a legitimate source of knowledge and I also hold to the fact that God has revealed himself in significant ways and there are really good evidences to believe it is all true. But just going around and around like that does not answer the question.

The emphasis was on belief. We were encouraged to banish doubt and embrace faith. Any question that arose could be dealt with by a strategic employment of proof-texting. “It says it right there in the Bible, for Pete’s sake!” Enough information could satisfy any question, comment, or snide remark. This was the prevailing wisdom, at least. It was all about the “what” and not so concerned with the “why”. Memorize the data, answer the question, move on.

But that is not all. There were also cultural norms when it came to how we were to think about history, literature, and culture. When I was in 6th grade, the high school was getting ready preform the spring play. That year it was going to be a stage adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was scandalous! There’s a witch in the title! Seriously. {That reminds me of the lady who was aghast that I had Lewis’s Mere Christianity for purchase at my display.} I also recall that we spent only as much time as we had to on the Greek and Roman classics. What could a bunch of sex-crazed drunks teach us of about anything? We didn’t need them! Filthy pagans. We were allowed, not necessarily led, to believe that God is only interested in redemptive history and that nothing good happened, or was written, after 50 AD until a certain German priest royally ticked off the Roman Catholic church in 1517.

How was my thinking shaped? Doubt = bad. Faith = good. The Bible is the only source of truth. What do you think? Agree or disagree? How would you deal with those issues? Is doubt sin? Is pure faith a virtue? Is the Bible the only source of truth? Better yet, how would you explain these things to room full of people who have zero background in doctrinal issues? From my experience, a proof-texting approach would be as valuable an asset to them as a annual pass for the Creation Museum would be to Bill Nye.

I had the “what” down cold. I knew (and know) my stuff! Bible Quiz Captain, here we come!

Next week we will explore college life and first steps into ministry.

Andy Giessman


  1. I agree that the Bible is true, but it is not the only source of truth. I believe this world is full of truth if we only open our eyes. Nature itself displays the glory of God and the wind whispers his nature. I think I agree with where you are going with this. 🙂

    1. Hello! Thanks for the comment. Yes, natural law is legitimate and scripture gives us permission to use it. Romans 1 and Psalm 19 are prime examples.

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