Reflections on Oxford Study Centre*
by Chelsia Van Hierdan
Agnosticism — that word plagued my mind like some sort of distasteful acid, unveiling my religion to be little more than a flashy masquerade. I’d never tried to end up there. In fact, my struggle against emerging doubt had been vigorous and unnerving. I felt benumbed, no longer able to maintain the facade I had constructed for so long. Maybe, just maybe, it would be easier to let the whole religion thing go?
My family, since I was young enough to comprehend the English language, had deluged us kids with theology and apologetics. Before my thirteenth birthday I’d watched Del Tackett’s The Truth Project three times over. I already had eagerly written rallying calls summoning Christians to take up arms against secular humanism and relativism. In retrospect, these tirades were agonizingly naive. And yet, they represent the enthusiastic state of my faith at that time.
As time wore on, my enthusiasm for Christian growth developed into harsh dissatisfaction. As I understood it, churches were prone to using as their foundations vague biblical abstractions, which not only resulted in insubstantial theology but also superficial relationships, neither focusing on right thinking nor right action. My own church at the time seemed a confused goulash of divergent and opposed doctrines and denominations and over time its liturgy had been replaced by a painful combination of hip Christian worship and hyper-charismatic invocations. Emotionalism was king, to the depreciation and scorn of the human intellect. After expressing my alienation to a church leader, I was rebutted with, “You need more emotion. You’re doing Christianity wrong.”
The intellectual wasteland of southern Alberta had devoured the last pint of my patience. A month after my eighteenth birthday, I packed my bags and fled for the Oxford Study Centre.