It’s one of the most common questions I get when I talk with Christians who are struggling with what they believe. They’ve stumbled across some problem in the Bible or some issue raised by critical scholars and they don’t have an answer. Then they ask:
Why didn’t my pastor tell me about that?
Lurking behind this question is the concern that perhaps they haven’t been given the whole story. Perhaps their pastor (and the Christian church in general) has been holding things back so as not to upset their faith. Maybe all they’ve ever heard is one version—a sanitized, idealistic version—of what’s in the Bible.
And, this concern is often partly true. Of course, this doesn’t mean that most churches are intentionally hiding the difficult parts of the Bible. That may happen on rare occasion, but I don’t think that characterizes the average evangelical church.
But it does mean that many churches offer a rather light diet of Christian theology, teaching, and biblical instruction. And therefore the average church member—even after maybe twenty years—has only received a smattering of Christian teaching, most of which does not seriously probe the challenging aspects of the Christian faith.
This problem is particularly acute when it comes to Christian college students heading off to a secular university. Even though they may have grown up in a solid church, they often find themselves bombarded with ideas and concepts that they’ve never heard before. Stunned by the whole experience, they may stumble back to their home church and ask, “Why didn’t my pastor tell me about that?”
Of course, it is for this very reason that I wrote my recent book, Surviving Religion 101: Letters to a Christian Student on Keeping the Faith in College (Crossway, 2021). The goal of that book is to help college students think through these complex issues that perhaps they never heard about in their churches.
But there are other ways that we can help inoculate Christians against the “Why didn’t my pastor tell me about that?” phenomenon. [Read more…]