Why You Should Lose Your (Inherited) Faith

We all have to make the transition from inherited faith to personal faith. If we don’t, our faith is fragile and weak.

Anyone who grew up in a “faith-based” home, received a heritage of faith. As humans, we naturally pass on our values and beliefs to the next generation. This transfer happens in many ways, but the most significant transfer occurs at home between parents and children. So, if your parents were Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or “Religious”, they were an example for you of their version of faith.

If your parents were Evangelical, then you inherited an Evangelical faith from them. That means that you were taught to believe in specific things about Jesus, the Bible, church, sin, hell, heaven, and so on. You were heavily influenced to believe what your parents believed. This is not bad, it’s part of being human.

It’s natural for us to assess what we were taught by our parents and decide if it applies to us. This is what happens in adolescence. That’s why it’s often referred to as “storm and strife.” We are wrestling with everything we have inherited from our parents and deciding if it becomes part of our own identity.

When I was a kid, my dad taught us how to work on cars….whether we wanted to learn it or not. My dad believed it was essential for us to know how to fix our cars ourselves so we didn’t have to pay to have the work done. The big one was learning how to change the oil. This was basically a rite of passage in our house. As soon as you were physically capable, you had to learn to change the oil in a car. When you got your own car, one of the first things you had to do was figure out how to do an oil change on it and determine what type of oil (and filter) you needed.

I have not done an oil change in nearly twenty years.  Although I learned a lot of important things by working on cars, I don’t want to to change my oil and I don’t need to change my oil. Thankfully, I’m able to afford to have my oil changed; in fact, if you get a good deal, it’s cheaper to have it done then do it yourself.

If I accepted my inherited faith without question, I would say, “My dad always said you should change your own oil so that’s what I’m going to do.” Instead, I have decided that changing my own oil is not important to me.

We all have to make a transition from inherited faith to personal faith.

We must look at the faith we have inherited from our parents (family, church, et al.) and decide if this is the faith WE believe.  More specifically, are you a Baptist [insert your own denomination or religion] because your parents raised you as a Baptist or because you have looked at the doctrines, value and ideas of Baptists, and agree that you are a Baptist too? The answer makes a difference in how we live our lives. If we aren’t making the choice, then we continue to operate based on our inherited faith, and that is not genuine.

The egoic need for clarity and certitude leads fundamentalists to use sacred writings in a mechanical, closed-ended, and quite authoritarian manner. The ego rarely asks real questions and mostly gives quick answers. – Richard Rohr

The problem with those of us who grew up in Evangelicalism, especially Fundamentalist Evangelicalism, is that we have been taught never to doubt the faith of our parents; never to question the values and beliefs that we learned at church.

This is a great way to keep Evangelicalism strong and growing. But it has created the environment where most (from my observations) Evangelicals simply believe what they’ve been told but have never taken the time to decide if they really DO believe it.

As a result, for example, we now have millions of Evangelicals who believe that the earth was created in six literal days who have never taken the time to study and decide if they believe that is true. They were told not to question it and not to listen to anyone who says differently. They’ve taken classes on how to refute Evolution but never taken a class that explains how you can believe in Evolution AND Genesis 1 (hint: you absolutely can believe both).

We must move from inherited faith to personal faith.
We must do the hard work of looking at what we have been taught to believe and decide if we do believe it.
When we struggle and wrestle and doubt and question, we emerge from this internal battle with a faith that we are passionate about, a faith that we hold on to no matter what, a faith that we can’t wait to share with others, a faith that we can have faith in.

About Matthew Thisse

Matthew Thisse is a Jesus follower, single father, associate pastor, and corporate trainer. He is a former Evangelical and a failed fundamentalist.

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