“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
—Acts 17:11, NIV
I was raised in a religious environment that places value on understanding—although I grew up in a Christian, Seventh-Day Adventist household, I wasn’t baptized until I was 12. In other Christian denominations, baptism occurs earlier, but Seventh-Day Adventists believe that baptism should not occur until one can demonstrate an understanding of the concepts presented in church and in the Bible. Fresh after my baptism, I felt invigorated and spiritually motivated.
Several years passed, and just as there is calm after a storm, I sensed complacency in my spiritual life. The emotional high of declaring my devotion to God subsided as I fell into a routine of coming and going to church without thinking critically about the messages presented. I read my Bible without investing time to reflect and consider deeper meanings. I lost sense of what being a Christian truly meant to me, and I realized that maybe I hadn’t quite explored the depths of my faith after all. There was still so much for me to explore.
Shortly thereafter, I attended a youth conference that reinforced this realization. The conference gathered thousands of Seventh-Day Adventist youth from across the nation and around the world. I attended seminars that challenged my beliefs and introduced new perspectives—within a group of fellow Seventh-Day Adventists. I realized that my existing perspectives were not set in stone, and that personal growth came from challenges to my beliefs. In order to remain spiritually alive, I needed to seek different perspectives and consider them seriously. I needed to go out and search for the truth.
I soon came across a text that reminded me of my failure to actively question and analyze my beliefs. The Berean Jews in Acts 17:11 brought me to realize that I had serious problems in my relationship with God because I was too afraid that asking Why? or probing deeper into seemingly problematic Biblical points would ruin my relationship with Him. However, the more I refrained from challenging and questioning my faith, the more my relationship suffered. My interactions with and understanding of God were lacking in a fundamental way, but it was so much more comfortable to remain complacent, suppressed, and in denial.
Acts 17:11 piqued my curiosity not only spiritually, but also in terms of critical thinking and not accepting anything at face value. During my first year at Pomona, I have experienced moments in which I challenged my existing views, others challenged me, or I challenged them. Being in a setting with so many passionate individuals who are firmly grounded in their beliefs yet are still aware of the need to constantly refocus their lenses has led me to deeply and critically consider the reasons why I believe what I believe.
I have stepped out of my spiritual state of complacency to engage in active Christianity: a form of Christianity that requires me to step out of the comfortable, safe zone where everyone agrees with me and offers a hearty Amen! and step into realms where I actively consider the reasons for my faith. Acts 17:11 reminds me that true faith is strengthened through critical analysis and intelligent discussion.
I have been on a long journey of fostering my spiritual curiosity. Though it was initially difficult for me to develop confidence in questioning my religion, I have built upon this confidence to question other aspects of life. Instead of accepting society as it is, I find it necessary as a Christian to question it. These experiences have led me to value critical, open dialogue and a multiplicity of perspectives; it is for this reason that I am continuously drawn into Christianity. To me, being a Christian does not mean rigorously abiding to a “Dos and Don’ts” list. It does not mean shying away from criticisms or challenges to my beliefs. Christianity is a dynamic exploration of old and new ideas; it is a critical dialogue with a diverse body of individuals who are collectively seeking the truth.