Victims of Circumstance Part 1

July 23, 202

     Everyone has a past, everyone has some collected experience and beliefs which inform their views of the world. It has become a popular notion in our time that people’s beliefs and behaviours are determined by their past. I recently heard someone say they were probably only a Christian because they were born to a Christian family in North America. He went on to conclude that he could not condemn someone born in Saudi Arabia for being a Muslim and God couldn’t either. 

     Closer to home those among churches of Christ have sometimes been heard to say “it’s because you are a member of a church of Christ that you believe as you do.” If you were from some other background you would believe that only mental assent was necessary for salvation. You would have no problem worshiping with an instrument. You would not take an issue with women in leadership. And you would only take the Lord Table a couple of times per year. 

     As I thought about this statement the first thing I did was recognize that there is some truth to it. We are affected by our circumstances. However the more I thought about it the more I realized there is more to the discussion. First can people do better than their circumstances would allow? Certainly they can and in some cases must. An abuse victim is expected to know and act better than to abuse someone else. In fact our society punishes them if they don’t. A student is expected to finish high school even if his or her parents didn’t. We consider it a bad thing that welfare recipients often come from families who were welfare recipients. And beyond my simple thoughts on the subject there is also evidence that people can and should move beyond their circumstances.

     Many people have been able to move past their past, Lots of people in my generation will tell you that they are the first in their family to graduate from university. They did this despite the fact that their parents and grandparents didn’t and in some cases didn’t place much value on doing so. Considering past history reveals numerous examples of those who defied their circumstances. Martin Luther was a Catholic through and through but changed when he began reading his Bible. He went so far as to nail 95 points of debate to the door of the Castle church in Wittenberg Germany. Abner Jones was a member of the free will Baptist church but became convinced that sectarian names and human creeds should be abandoned and that piety alone should be the test of Christian fellowship. Thomas Campbell was a Seceder Presbyterian until becoming convinced that their sectarian attitude was unchristian. Michael Behe was a convinced atheist until his close study of the human cell showed that it could not have evolved. My own grandmother was a committed member of the brethren in Christ denomination. After being challenged on some beliefs she read her New Testament in a day. The next day she was ready to be baptized into the Lords Church. All of these people and many others could be mentioned to demonstrate that people can and should base their beliefs on closely considered truth rather than on the dominant beliefs of their past.

~ Kevin Cleary