Something Dr. Norman Ericson said many years ago has always stuck with me. Although I don’t remember his precise words, it was essentially this: “Why are you a Christian? For most of us, it’s because our parents were Christians, and because their parents were Christians and so on. Our faith was passed down to us by our families. And that’s ok. It’s ok to embrace the faith of your family.”
At a very practical level this is obviously true. We are all products of our environments. The beliefs of our parents and our culture play a significant role in the development of our own beliefs. Yes, as we grow and mature we often discover that our parents didn’t have it all figured out, or that some issues are more complicated than they first seemed or even that some of those passed down beliefs and traditions were in fact completely wrong. But as much as our independent spirits might balk at the notion, we inherit the core of who we are through genetics and the environment.
We should always critically examine our beliefs, but just because we were born into a specific family, in a specific culture, in a specific time, doesn’t mean that we should scrap the understanding afforded to us by those circumstances. We should embrace the blessings that have been passed down to us, not reject them out of hand due to a misplaced desire for the new and the different. In our desire to discover the truth for ourselves we are often far too quick to reject the beliefs of our predecessors as hopelessly outdated, irrelevant and uninformed. We are all indebted to our family and our culture and it is important that we render proper respect and consideration for our roots.
When asked why we’re a Christian, we often respond with either apologetic polemics or experiential testimonies, when the immediate answer may be something as simple as “because my parents are Christian.” Of course this isn’t a complete explanation of why one is still a Christian or why one believes Christianity is true. But it is usually a far more honest response than a discourse on the minimal facts approach to the Resurrection or a teary story about being “born again.”
We are Christians because someone passed that tradition down to us. More often than not, we are recipients of the Gospel not through careful rational reflection or meticulous weighing of the evidence but because we were taught the basics of the faith by those who already believed it. Even those who come to Christianity as adults still partake in that tradition. As Christians, we stand on the shoulders of countless saints who came before us, and as Christians we should acknowledge and embrace the debt we owe them.