Saturday, August 20 2011
HOW TO PERSEVERE
THROUGH YOUR ACADEMIC STUDIES WITH EXCELLENCE
Dr. Paul R. Shockley
© 20 August 2011
Sadly, one of the most difficult, painful, and scary experiences students typically face is when they come face-to-face with course requirements. Whether we are looking at the course syllabus on the first day of class or facing a deadline on a major exam, term paper, or project, going to school can be daunting, oppressive, and overwhelming, emotionally, physically, or spiritually. The weightiness of the problems becomes even more arduous when we look around and see other students who seem to have it all together; they seem to succeed in whatever they attempt to do. We find ourselves, from time to time, asking “why?” “How is it possible for them to do so well?” Perhaps that leads some of us to experience an identity crisis, a growing unhappiness about who we are. We wish we were someone else, had a better upbringing, and perhaps raised by a family whose lifestyle and ideals were healthy, wholesome, and dedicated to loving us with our best interests at heart.
But for those of us who were raised in nurturing homes that addressed our whole needs with a passion for intellectual and moral excellence, we still find ourselves betraying what we have been taught and raised to become. We are faltering in our studies and as a result, when those times come when we are facing a fixed deadline to submit a term paper, a dreaded exam, or a project, the deep-seated anxiety (“angst”) begins to emerge. Our pulse quickens when we think about what we have done and regret finds sobering expression. We have felt these feelings before but time and time again, we find ourselves failing to adequately prepare ourselves to conquer these assignments. We realize the issue is not capacity; we have the capacity. The issue is willingness or desire.
To be sure, the problem may not be whether we have the capacity or the willingness. Our struggle may not be fear or laziness. Instead, our problem may be distractions and diversions. Because of extra-curricular activities like sports, leisure activities like entertainment, and pleasure-seeking activities such as those we find in relationships, our lives have become habituated for “vacations.” As a result, diversions and distractions keep us from focusing upon what is most important. We do not mean to be distracted. Rather, it just happens. Some times the greatest enemy to persevering through our studies with excellence is not what is evil, but what is good. We have chosen some activity, some pursuit that is good, but is not the best. Afterwards, when faced with this deadline we perhaps shake our heads in grief, saying something like, “Why have we killed time instead of making the most of it?!” or “Why can’t I seem to learn from my past mistakes?!” We throw up our hands, exasperated with ourselves, but only to find ourselves once again being distracted by what is not most important, enriching, or valuable to academic success.
What we do? When we fail to do well on a term paper, an exam, or a project, rather than accept responsibility, we have a tendency to…
Conjure feelings why we dislike the particular course.
Displace our responsibilities by blaming the professor or the academic bureaucracy.
Complain that the professor’s instructions were not clear.
Add fuel to the “Eeyore” complex that is finding expression in our lives.
Ponder, plot, and scheme how we might be able to get out of this assignment. We put more thought into trying to find a way to get the grade without doing the work than by doing the work.
Wonder how we might best rational our failures to our parents, friends, or significant other.
Marginalize our giftedness, identity, and self-worth.
Daydream in an effort to avoid our responsibilities.
Lie to ourselves.
Allow apathy to gain a foothold in our lives.
Look for more diversions to avoid what we have done.
Put off our responsibilities thinking that this other goal is much more important, necessary, and vital.
Give it all up.
While indifference to our studies is perhaps the most extreme attitude to adopt, wreaking a pathway of personal destruction with long-term effects, many of us want to get ahead but do not know where to begin.
Well, in order for you to persevere through your studies instead of making up excuses or rationalizing your poor behavior, I would encourage you to instill the following seven principles. While this list is not exhaustive, I believe these seven principles are necessary:
First, recognize there will be always be people who are more and less intelligent than you are. Do not concern yourself with what other students can and cannot do. Comparing yourself to others is not a fruitful exercise of your energy, time, and resources. In fact, rather than comparing or even competing with other students, see how you might help them to get ahead. By helping others you will find that you are also helping yourself.
Second, be aware that when it comes to meeting course requirements, even in classes that seem impractical to you, there is a larger reason at stake, namely, becoming all that you can be. Consider, we all want a vehicle that performs brilliantly-with every part of the car functioning at 100%. Likewise, look at your course requirements as opportunities to assimilate the strengths, insights, and ideas into your person, using them as tools to better assess, evaluate, and foster benefits in the present experience, reflect upon and learn from the past, and anticipate potentialities from the future. In other words, think of learning as tools to help you get ahead in life. Some tools you will only use on rare occasion. Others tools you will use repeatedly. How incredible it is to have a wide array of tools to assist you in every day living in order to make the most out of your life.
Third, take seriously your course objectives as dictated on syllabus. After studying what those cognitive and affective course objectives are, commit yourself to not only meeting those goals, but also exceeding them! Visit with your professor and strategize how you might anticipate, meet, and exceed them in order to best glean from your professor and allow this course to become an enriching, nourishing experience in your life.
Fourth, realize that education you are receiving is not only for your benefit, but will also influence and impact your family, posterity (family line), and your community. It is in everyone’s best interest that you become all that you can possibly be. Everyone will benefit when you pursue intellectual and moral excellence for the world feeds on us as we feed off the world. Thus, the legacy you leave behind will either nourish or malnourish those who come after you. Sweet nectar, bitterness, or non-nutritious meals could be the choice of meals you serve to others. So the little decisions you make often decide the type of choices people have down the road.
Fifth, the opportunity is before you while you have air to breathe to make yourself count for something great. You must let go of past mistakes and regret, and embrace what is now before you. Some times our past is our greatest enemy because it immobilizes the present, and darkens if not blinds us from the vision of possibilities. Therefore, learn from the past and use those past lessons as tools to help you engage the present and anticipate the future. Do not neglect your past; utilize your past to engage your present circumstances.
But I would also remind you that in order to make your life count for something great, you must never settle for minimal efforts. Do not allow the temptation to only do what is minimal to find expression in your studies. The pursuit of the minimal will generate a lifestyle of anemia and generates unnecessary negative consequences. If you pursue your activities with minimal effort, your work will not only be marginal, but your goals will also be small, the return on your work poor, your character deprived, and your possibilities disadvantaged. You will introduce a terrible way of seeing and doing into your life that will not only reap havoc on your life, but also all those in your sphere of influence. Therefore, never settle for pursuing a task with minimal effort. In contrast, when pursuing a paper, working on a project, or taking an exam, BE ALL THERE!
Sixth, learning is pleasurable. All too often we fail to see learning as something being pleasurable. But if you look at other areas of your life, you have found learning to be pleasurable, whether it is learning how to throw a ball, dress beautifully, or play a video game with superb skills. Likewise, learning for the sake learning must be viewed as something pleasurable and not merely should be been seen as something you “must” do. If you can develop this mindset, so many things will change for the better for you.
And lastly, in the daily choices you make you must develop persistence. “Persistence,” that is, pressing on in spite of obstacles, it to become a virtue (a good habit) in your life. In other words, you must stay the course no matter how difficult your studies become.
Recently I heard message on perseverance from Tony Tripi. The practical advice he offered is incredible, commonsensical, and widely used by successful leaders. So, I have taken his insights and expanded them here in order to help us embrace persistence in our studies. Hopefully, this information will not only dynamically improve your pursuit of academic excellence, but also transcend or spill over into other areas of your life, inscribed into the very character of your person.
To persist you must develop the following qualities:
Develop Purpose & Passion. Positively, you must develop concrete goals. These goals must be imbued or saturated with passion. Therefore, think of the six previous principles I just mentioned. The goals you pursue are not just about you; your goals affect those you love, strangers and friends alike, and the legacy you leave behind. Negatively, you must eliminate excuses in your life. In fact, do not even go looking for excuses. The bottom line is that we pursue what we are passionate about. Be passionate about the intellectual life! Remember, learning is pleasurable. A lack of purpose is costly. “For what a man thinks within himself, so he is.” What we think about seeps into our affections and dominates our will.
Embrace Responsibility. Positively, you must take ownership of your studies. No one will do it for you. Like an athlete, you must condition your life. Like a track star cannot change the obstacle course, you cannot change reality. It is what it is. Therefore, quite trying to change the track. Rather, embrace it. Train for it. Redirect all your resources to finishing well. Negatively, do not be double-minded. Instead, redirect all your energy and resources to doing well. Like an outstanding athlete, he or she converts everything to taking ownership of the opportunity that is before him or her and winning the prize. Diversions, divisions, business, lack of evaluation and reflection, and pursuit of false or trivial pleasures will keep you from embracing excellence. Moreover, short cuts do not work. Therefore, accept responsibility by taking ownership of the opportunity that is before you. Seize the moment and live as if today is the last day of your life.
Generate Stamina. Develop stamina by studying everyday. Like a person who lifts weights or one who runs long distances, keep on practicing, keep on learning and reviewing!!!! Failure to practice generates failure. Just because you are not good the first time you practice, does not mean that you will not become good at studying.
Focus on Incentives. Focus on the future when the present is difficult. If you can finish this particular test or complete this project, then you are one more step in graduating and fulfilling the dream you have. Another aid is to consider how this particular course of studying may fit into the larger context and goals of your life. Negatively, do not die before you die. Work on being renewed by celebrating your accomplishments-no matter how small they may seem to you or others.
Be Tenacious! Keep trying! Exercise creativity even it means going “outside of the box!” Do not hesitate to ask others how they succeeded; assimilate their wisdom into the way you live! Learn from your failures and the failures of others. Positively, recognize you are not a failure! Just because you fail does not mean you are a failure. Rather, translate those failures into learning opportunities and allow it become an incentive to conquer what is before you.
Regularly, find sources of refreshment. Once again, celebrate each and every victory! Keep good time management! Moreover, surround yourself with friends who are like-minded, pursuing academic excellence.
Negatively, do not lose your vision! Failure is not an option! If you find yourself losing your purpose and passion, you need to seriously ask yourself “why?” Like a parent who sends his daughter or son into the bedroom to reflect upon the poor choice he or she made, you must reflect upon your choices in such a way that you do not merely deal with the fruit, you deal with the root! Unfortunately, you may have to cut yourself off from those who are not contributing to your pursuit of academic excellence. Misery loves company. When surrounded by people whose pursuits are polarized to our own, you will be affected and infected by their company, especially those whose lives are occupied with indifference, mediocrity, fleeting pleasures, or trivialities. As painful as it may be, we have to remember that larger things are at risk when we give into compromise and participate in activities that stifle, mock, or scorn academic excellence. When we intimately engage in that type of activity at a certain point in time, a tipping point occurs, and our vision becomes small, our thinking mundane, our creativity quenched, our pursuits anemic, and our legacy insignificant or dysfunctional.
In conclusion, when you are faced with an exam, a presentation, a project, a quiz, or a term paper, if you will practice these principles in the moment-by-moment choices you make, you will not only discover that it is not the most brilliant people who succeed in their studies, but those who stay in target, pursuing their studies with intellectual and moral excellence. You will become aware of the fact that you are capable of becoming more than you ever thought possible. Perseverance generates qualitative growth- no matter your past. “Even the littlest person can change the course of events.” If you will become a student who perseveres, making the most of your studies with a passion for excellence, then you will find yourself in a larger world filled with enriching experiences that will exceed your greatest dreams. You will not only contribute to your community in a meaningful, qualitative way, but you will also live a life worth living and offer a heroic testimony to those who are presently before you and those who come after you.
Tuesday, August 09 2011
WHEN THEOLOGY IS MERE HEAD KNOWLEDGE
Dr. Paul R. Shockley © 9 August 2011
One of the fears a number of Christians have about attending a Bible college, a Christian university, or a seminary is that their spiritual lives will quite possibly “dry up.” Though these places may seem like “paradise” to some, what these students are told is that they will soon discover that they will be lost in the hot desert wilderness of theology. It is believed that theology and the theologians will cause these dear believers to become isolated from God, disenchanted with practical ministry, and grow cold in their love for the church-no matter how well-meaning theologians and institutions are. This fear seems to find expression in every generation and in nearly every denomination.
This sort of fear may be likened to the effects of a hot-desert sun and sand-filled air. The forces of theology will do their work on these students, day in and day out, as they wander more and more in their academic studies. Confusion, scorched rocks, and poisonous creatures will be found at ever bend as they go from one “human” author to another. After the initial excitement of studying “new” and “different” theological beliefs, ideas, opinions, movements, and systems wears off, the regular exposure to theology will generate dehydration. After a while, dehydration will give away to disorientation. While the longing for spiritual nourishment will grow greater within the depths of their souls with each course of study, these students of theology will cry out for relief and dream of restoration. Unfortunately, since they are at bible colleges, Christian universities, and seminaries, no one is listening to their pleas for help. As the sun and sand scorches their dispositions and the cold windy nights numb their faith, these once healthy Christians slowly devolve into “walking skeletons.”
It is believed that if they do make it through these academic institutions with a certificate or degree, they will graduate with spiritual lives looking more like dried out corpses than an oasis of agape love. The passion for God is gone; the joy of the Christian life evaporated. As a result of studying theology, the God of the universe is nothing more than a collection of facts, an impersonal set of propositions. The lack of intimacy between them and God has taken its toil; God is nothing more than a distant memory, a dream barely remembered.
Are you serious?
Now this type of caricature does harmonize with certain people I have encountered or known. I have met a few who have left institutions wondering if it was “all a joke,” a mockery by a cruel fiend. To be sure, some have left in a state of confusion, bewilderment, and perhaps even feeling betrayed by their pastor, mentor (s), friends, and family. But among those who studied theology with a wrong mind-set, namely, studying theology as mere head knowledge, vices such as arrogance, pride, and self-focus have found pertinent expression. Character deficiencies like arrogance, pride, and self-focus leads to such things as the personal quest for power, the need to always be right, and a state of spiritual fragmentation if not exhaustion. How? The “sinful, flesh nature or sphere of life” was more often than not the source of their strength in contrast to the Holy Spirit (Phil. 4:13).
But in either case, before attending such academic programs, there was a fresh expectant attitude, a wellspring of hope, a love for people and ministry, and a contagious passion for God. But through the drudgery of theological studies, this passion for God has been replaced with cynicism, joy with bitterness, the earnestness to know biblical truth with apathy, intimacy with silence, and God-worship with self-worship. The desire to relationally serve others is erased, a deep, caring love for the local church is dead (though perhaps cloaked), and a fervent passion for God and His ways replaced with spiritual exhaustion. As one person exclaimed to me, "I feel numb."
Biblical and systematic theology that is faithful to the Scriptures is not the source of their problems as some ignorantly claim, wrongly diagnose, or maliciously assert. Just as we can deceive others, we can also deceive ourselves by blaming theology. But over the years of my experience as a student, pastor, and educator of theology, what I have discovered is that theology was treated as mere head knowledge. See, they failed to pro-actively love God from out of their minds as they studied theology (Mark 12:28-34). Failing to see one’s studies as an expression of worship generates interpersonal distance from God. Theology is not the problem per se (unless it is unbiblical). Rather, it is a failure to allow God's Word to seep into one's affections by not heeding its instructions.
Certainly, a division can develop between what we intellectually know and our deep-seated affections--which is the control center of our personality. To claim that we need "heart knowledge" and not "head knowledge" is illogical; it is a false dichotomy, a logical category mistake. It is as if we are saying, "The color purple tastes good!" No, the problem is a failure to worship God. When we worship God these truths seep into our soul, heart, and mind; truth changes our disposition to greater conformity to Jesus Christ.
Or we can think about it this way:
When theology is mere head knowledge…
1. Jesus Christ is not your focus of worship.
2. You are negligent of God’s reasons for knowing theology and its intended consequences (e.g., Psalm 19:1-11; John 17:17; Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3-4).
3. You pursue knowledge for the sake of knowledge and promotion of self.
4. You study by means of the “flesh” and not by means of the “Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16-18; Eph. 5:18).
5. You commit the fallacy of reductionism by focusing on formal theological arguments to the neglect of both the (1) existential struggles of the soul and (2) significant practical applications (personally, relationally, corporately, and culturally).
Sadly, when theology is mere head knowledge and you fail to allow God to allow theology to seep into the soul, change your life, and develop your disposition unto His glory. The results are costly:
1. Pride finds solid footing.
2. The need to always be right develops.
3. Blindness grows about the condition of your own spiritual life.
4. Intimacy with God becomes cold in your every day experience.
5 Other theologians look like competitors & not partners in ministry.
6. You value your own opinion over and against others.
7. Conflict with others becomes known.
8. The pressing existential desire for “revival” grows… on one hand you find yourself longing for intimate encounters with God but at the same time you might dismiss these events as silliness.
9. The intimacy gap between you and God becomes evident to those who know you as you fail to appropriately handle problems.
10. Callousness towards sin becomes evident in what you appreciate, permit, and tolerate.
11. Sin becomes more attractive; you are amused by sin.
12. The failure to thoughtfully listen to other point of views takes hold.
13. Self-idolatry becomes your activity.
14. Division between thought and practice finds expression.
15. You may seek to assimilate the personalities of other theologians you admire. Their ideas occupy your thoughts more than God.
16. The capacity to really trust God with your circumstances diminishes.
17. You feel the angst of hypocrisy within your own soul, as your theology is divorced from appropriate and intended application.
18. Comfort in ministry becomes important; it is all about you.
19. Disagreement with you is an act of insubordination, a sign of disloyalty.
20. The littlest theological issue within your church or among your “rivals” becomes encompassing, overriding, and taxing.
21. You fail to continually develop interpersonal relationships within your sphere of ministry.
22. Spiritual exhaustion becomes evident to those who observe you.
23. Sincere repentance and mortification of sin is not taken seriously.
24. Serious prayer life is negligent or becomes routine.
25. Sincerely appreciating those who are different from you is difficult;
26. Taking time to do pastoral ministry is neglected.
27. You are not well rounded and healthy in your Christian life, thought, and Christian experience.
28. Serving others is a burden, not a delight.
29 In the midst of your studies you fail to remember, “God is both good and dangerous.”
30. You serve God out of orthodoxy, not fervent love.
But when you pursue your theological studies as an expression of worship…
1. God is ever so beautiful;
2. Accurate knowledge is translates into appropriate and specific applications in day-to-day living;
3. Loving others, even if it cost you, becomes a joy, a delight. This finds expression in how you serve others on a daily experience.
4. Your understanding of God regularly enlarges.
5. Your passion for God is contagious.
6. Your pursuit of God is consistent.
7. Your intimacy with God is dynamic.
8. You do not worship Him in a routine way.
9. Your prayer life is taken seriously; it is an ever qualitative, enriching experience.
10. Repentance and mortification finds consistent expression in your life.
11. It is truly okay if someone disagrees with you; you have nothing to prove to others. There is not a need to prove yourself right every time.
12. Duplicity is not commonplace in your ministry.
13. You value others to the extent that you want to enable them in ministry… not simply indoctrinate them with your knowledge or show how much you know and how little they know.
14. You appreciate the thoughts, insights, and enriching legacies left by those who came before you while not magnifying them above God.
15. God is God; you know your place as expressed in a disposition of humility.
16. Your spiritual life is growing, healthy, and well rounded.
17. Personal applications become significant as you study theology. You keep asking yourself how you can apply the truths you are learning.
18. You are burdened to equip others.
19. You model truth carefully knowing that people are watching and perhaps following your example.
20. Intellectual and moral excellence is necessary (virtue). Therefore, you purposefully strive to translate biblical commands into habits for you recognize that character is the sum-total of your habits.
How can you make your studies an expression of worship?
In sum, when you study theology, develop a disposition whereby you find yourself praying, praising, and meditating upon Him. You must develop this disposition and practice each and every time you study. See, a worshipful interpersonal feedback occurs between you and God as you study-which inflames, influences, and impacts the state and condition of your heart, mind, soul, and bodily powers.
Therefore, before you open up any book, whether fictional or non-fictional, biblical or non-biblical, historical or contemporary, examine yourself and see where you stand in your intimacy with God. Probe your heart and your mind with the intent that what you are about to do is worship the one and only God. Sincerely confess your sins (1 John 1:9). Allow the Holy Spirit to control you! In other words, yield yourself before Him and invite God to enable you, exhort you, illuminate you, equip you, and even chastise you in order that you might deeply and reverently honor Him in life, thought, and practice (Romans 12:1-2). Ask the God of the Bible to help you harmonize your desires and your responsibilities into an expression of worship. Before you sit in a theology class, take time to probe where you are in your relationship with Him.
As you study and encounter a new truth or are reminded of a truth you once discovered in previous studies, pause and praise God! Worship Him! Thank Him for what you are learning! Ask Him to help you apply this truth to your life.
Maintain this disposition of worship throughout your studies. Afterwards, praise Him for all that He has taught you and ask Him to help you deeply know, diligently practice, and whole heartily protect the truth-no matter what situation you face. God will be more to you than a collection of facts. You will experience relief, release, and satisfaction. Your love for Him will dynamically grow rather than degenerate. Your fascination with truth will become more lovely to you because truth points you to the God of the Bible. So, you will not be merely looking at theology, you will be following it along to God, the ultimate source of all truth.
The opportunity is before you to pursue your studies in a manner that exalts God or you! The former yields blessings whereas the latter generates conflict, deprivation, loss, and obscurity. You will discover, as I have, that even if you find yourself in the midst of a hot sandy desert, life is teeming all around you. You simply need the requisite disposition to see and listen what is before you.
P.S. If this insight resonates with you or if you would like to pursue this topic more, I would encourage you to read B. B. Warfield's Religious Life of the Theological Student. In fact, if you are a student of mine, you are obligated to read this little pamphlet. Other outstanding sources I would encourage you to read and know is J. P. Moreland's Love God with All Your Mind and John Piper's, The Life of the Mind and the Love of God.
Friday, August 05 2011
ARE YOU A LOVER OF TRUTH OR A PRODUCT OF INDOCTRINATION?
Dr. Paul R. Shockley (C) 5 August 2011
Several years ago I had lunch with a person who argued that there were two types of “knowledgeable” Christians: “trained” and “well learned.” He confessed that he was “trained” but not “well learned.” As a result, he often found himself struggling with and negatively reacting to ideas, positions, terms, and words that were counter to, never addressed, or ridiculed by his former pastor. One substantive reason why he believed what he believed was because he had embraced, for the most part, the worldview of his former pastor, a man he sat under for many, many years. In essence, his basic problem was that he was not a lover of truth, but a lover of his pastor’s instruction. While I empathized with his struggle of indoctrination, I tried to motivate him to become a lover of truth. Because his pastor taught him what to believe, he not only habitually observed and judged all things from this indoctrinated mindset, but also become identified or characterized as a follower of his pastor.
A person who loves truth will pursue truth no matter where it is found or who proclaims it. In fact, the disposition of a lover of truth is one of honest inquiry, investigation, and rational discourse-no matter if the person holds different theological beliefs, shares foreign or unfamiliar ideas, or even communicates or expresses himself differently. See, one who loves truth realizes that one should not merely seek instruction but truth. Valuable instruction is that which is true. The importance of this factor cannot be over estimated because:
"What our mind LINGERS on will INFLAME our emotions which will slowly CAPTIVATE our will & eventually CONTROL our life [Romans 12:1-2]."
Quite frankly, indoctrination is all too commonplace in our academic settings and in our churches. As Christians we must recapture the wonder and pursuit of truth, not indoctrination. Indoctrination is imbuing or saturating another with instruction to the extent that this teaching becomes a habituated way of “seeing” and “doing.” We must be characterized with honest inquiry and possess a teachable disposition, ever delighting in “true -truth” rather than habitually distrusting, alienating or even mocking those whose ideas or expressions are unfamiliar or different. We must be bearers of truth and Christ-like love rather than people who obstruct, ridicule, and reject those who think and communicate differently. If truth is not harmonized with love and love is not harmonized with truth, then the indoctrinated Christian is not reflecting Jesus Christ, no matter how well intended he or she may be (2 John).
How do you know if you are a product of indoctrination? Consider the following indicators. If these sixteen “road signs” are true in your life, then perhaps you are a product of indoctrination:
1. You only represent what you have been taught. As a result you do not seriously consider any other possible viewpoint.
2. You habitually see and interpret all other views through your instructor’s teachings. In fact, it is difficult for you even to trust any other source or authority.
3. Your conversation and studies are spent articulating, discussing, instructing, programming, and re-hashing what you have been taught. As a result you honestly refuse to thoughtfully inquire into any other source or consider any other teaching even though they may be within the range of biblical orthodoxy.
4. You seem to only know and contemplate what you have been taught by your instructor. Thus, it is very difficult for you to think outside or beyond your instructor’s teaching. Any other category of thought or method is foreign to you. As a result, any other word, term, or idea used is an intellectual and emotional struggle; you are unable to wrap your mind around it. So, you tend to ignore or reject what you cannot understand rather than seriously work through it.
5. You identify yourself (or others fairly identify you) with the source of or beliefs of that indoctrination. Thus, you are known as a committed follower of _______ rather than Jesus Christ.
6. You readily dismiss any other presentation without honest intellectual inquiry. As a result, for example, you stay home when someone else fills the lectern or the pulpit; you refuse to listen to another, especially one who is not familiar or even rejects your instructor’s teaching.
7. If anyone disagrees with you, you take it personally and reject them.
8. You do not question your instructor’s truth claims. Rather, you readily accept it as being true without critically examining his or her justifications. His or her opinions become doctrine to you.
9. You are unsupportive of those who think differently than you.
10. You tend to misrepresent, mock, and ridicule other views and those that believe or proclaim them.
11. You only intimately associate with those who believe what you believe.
12. If you are honest with yourself, you are fearful to investigate what lies beyond what you have been taught to believe. Thus, you cloak your fear with dogmatism.
13. You tend to alienate those you know and or love even if they themselves have been hurt or damaged by either the source of or the implications that flow from that indoctrination.
14. Cult-like symptoms tend to surface. For example, you only promote and proclaim your instructor’s lessons and literature. All other materials are unacceptable or are held with suspicion. Or you refuse to quote any other source other than what your instructor has produced. Or even your instructor refuses to quote any other source other than him or herself.
15. Even when your instructor has moved on, become discredited, or passed away, you tend to live in and glory in the past with nostalgic sentiments while opportunities and possibilities slip away from you.
16. You equate intellectual or spiritual maturity with the amount of saturation of your instructor’s teaching.
Rather than being a product of indoctrination, be a pursuer of truth and as you conform yourself to truth in the way you live, you will go beyond what you ever thought possible-for people are longing for truth, for something to believe in that is true and trustworthy. If you seek to know, practice, and protect the truth, then you will bear the following characteristics:
1. Truth rather than personality.
2. Intellectually honesty rather than closed thinking.
3. Broad education-for you will go beyond the beliefs and personalities of your sub-culture.
4. Surprising insights as you discover truth in extraordinary ways.
5. A life established on truth rather than indoctrination.
6. Attractiveness because you are able to offer truth that goes beyond programmed instruction and propaganda.
7. Characteristically point people to God and not your instructor by words and works.
8. Adventure-because your pursuit of truth enlightens you in ways you never considered.
9. Competence and creative insight as you engage others rather than simply repeating what you have been taught to believe.
10. Scope of relationships continually enlarges as you engage others who compliment and add to your understanding, practice, and protection of the truth.
11. Practice truth and love and love and truth because you recognize that both are inseparable [2 John].
12. Better equipped to recognize what really is false from true.
13. Better equipped to recognize viable, reasonable options within the range of orthodoxy; you resist dogmatism when dogmatism is not necessary.
14. You avoid presumptuous, premature thinking.
15. You can refute lies with truth, not indoctrination.
16. Promote personal and social charity, not unnecessary criticism.
17. Habitually ask questions to any truth claim that is made: What? Why? Where? How? When? Therefore? In other words, you ask questions such as: (a) What is the justification for this view?; (b) Why is this the case? (c) Did they ever consider this…? (d) What are the implications if this is true?
18. You pursue truth no matter the source.
19. Worship… you realize that truth points you to the ultimate and emanating source of truth: God. Therefore, the pursuit of truth is not merely an intellectual inquiry, but an opportunity of worship to Him.
20. You experience the joy of personal discovery of truth rather than relying upon another’s interpretation of it.
21. You fervently avoid the vices of ignorance, apathy, agnosticism, and relativism.