Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Knowledge is Responsibility

At a wedding this summer, the pastor kept opening every prayer with “Father Jesus.” I’m pretty sure the rest was the usual “just Lord” prayer, but to be honest, I couldn’t pay attention. I’d never heard the address “Father Jesus” before (is it common in some groups?), and it set off a spiral of theological thoughts. Jesus is the Son. The Father is a different person. Am I missing something where Jesus is referred to as a father? Or does this guy just not understand the Trinity? I think he just doesn’t know that that is theologically incorrect. But I thought Baptists believed in the Trinity. I probably overanalyzed the instance, but it brought up a larger point. The Trinity is a critical, often-mentioned concept to Christianity, yet it is complex and often-misunderstood. There needs to be more conversation and clarification of this basic belief. Can someone be a good Christian and not understand the Trinity? Yes. But shouldn’t a Christian know that there is one God in three Persons?

I believe God forgives errors of ignorance. That’s why one of the requirements that makes a sin a mortal sin is full knowledge and consent. Sometimes we mess up and don’t know it/don’t mean to. And in lots of ways, it’s easier to go through life without knowledge. If I don’t know what constitutes a sin or what is expected of me as a Christian, well I just do whatever I want. I’m not accountable for what I don’t know. Because I do know, I'm held to a much higher level of responsibility. God expects more of me and judges me accordingly. It would be easier to be ignorant and held to a lower standard. But God deserves my best. I choose the harder path because I yearn to understand Him. 

Ignorance of one's own faith tradition is both lazy and dangerous. I think anyone who claims to be a member of a faith has a responsibility to his community and God to be well-informed. This isn’t about difference in belief; I’m not saying a Protestant is ignorant for not believing in transubstantiation, but I am saying a Catholic should know exactly what transubstantiation is. I don’t know how much education people should have, but I think the basic creed is a good place to start (really knowing what each phrase means, not just knowing the creed).I know that not everyone likes studying theology like I do, but it’s important. Something as powerful as faith deserves attention to the littlest detail.

I don’t have a suggestion or a solution. I just know it hurts my heart every time I hear statements about Christianity made in ignorance. It hurts coming from nonbelievers who believe all Christians are creationists. But it hurts even more coming from Christians who just don’t know basics of their own faith. The Immaculate Conception is about the conception of Mary. Christ is both human and divine. The Trinity is one God in three Persons.

If you are going to represent a religion, you better know what you’re representing. If you believe in that faith, then you should believe that the faith deserves more than half-hearted interpretations and misrepresentations. There is always more to know. Go wider. Go deeper. It’s your duty.

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