It would be worthwhile to explore the effect community is having on my beliefs even while it is happening.
I mean this:
I came in as a conservative, inerrantist-leaning believer. Then I found Christian pluralism and the silence of God in my life too hard to reconcile with my presuppositions. So I dropped belief and became a skeptic and agnostic.
Skepticism provides no m.o. so I have defaulted to certain patterns. To name them, I would say I am operating under pragmatism, self-interest, and Christian-informed ethics.
My skepticism allows me both to question the point of divinity school in general if there is no god, but also opens me to the idea that, if there is a right way of believing and practicing, Duke — with its mainstream, sola scriptura sed non nuda scriptura (idea I take from Daniel Treier, that Christians best use Scripture as the only divine authority but not divorced from tradition) approach to scripture and tradition, historical-criticism-informed biblical interpretation, and narrative based ethics — might have it. (I should probably drop the idea there is one right way of doing anything…)
If I do not come into contact with communities I can trust and identify with that hold different belief systems, I will probably eventually accept some version of Ducal Christianity. It would be the only option I have; there is nothing else before me.
In fact, I’m calling it now — I am going to become a Christian believer again. Considering my background and environment, the community of friends I most identify with here, I just see it so plainly before me. And that excites me; I’m happy about it: frankly, agnosticism/skepticism, while eradicating much of my guilt, have a metaphysical emptiness resulting in an existential sadness.
But I’m not at that point yet, and I also find this fated “return to the fold” sad, a failure on my part to push the skeptical envelope.
What could I do to avoid merely “becoming who I hang with” (to paraphrase dear old Mum)?
1) Drop out (problems here — I need a job, I want to teach something in university someday, Mum and Dad would not be happy).
2) Study somewhere else for a semester (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), for example – I could be comfortable in that environment if simultaneously frustrated with the foreshortened scholastic inquiry. However, now that I’m in Durham I don’t want to move).
3) Temporarily associate with a church or religion quite foreign to me (I don’t want to do this).
Questions: What other options do I have? Should I reconsider any of the above three?
How can we avoid being conditioned by the ones we most trust into the beliefs we have and hold?
If we can’t, how can we really believe Christianity is truth?
If people’s beliefs are determined by those they most closely associate with and if Christianity is truth, how can people growing up in non-Christian societies be faulted by God, a long-held soteriological position?