I Went to Seminary and Still Don’t Know What I Believe


Yeah, I said it. I even told my preacher daddy, too. What I am about to reveal are ugly confessions and uncomfortable truths but I am willing to expose myself and cease living a lie. After growing up in a Christian home, going to seminary and preaching sermons, I am not sure about the things I have been taught my whole life.

Of all people, I should be sure of the things I was taught. I was raised by deeply committed parents, classical Pentecostals. When I went to seminary, I didn’t just go to any seminary- I went to Oral Roberts University, the center of the charismatic world. The lessons there extended far beyond Koine Greek and the twice a week chapel services. There were classes about divine healing, signs and wonders and a host of other lessons on the miraculous couched in academia. It was simply assumed that everyone believed in the authority of the Scriptures and the reality of Jesus there. The goal was to move beyond these primitive core beliefs and follow in the footsteps of the university’s founder into the world of the supernatural.

So what is it that I believe today? Well, I really don’t know. While in my former life I was struggling to believe my physical hands could be used as a conduit of God’s healing power, today it is the very basic elements of the faith I struggle to accept. Did Jesus die for my sins? Am I ultimately in touch with truth through this Christ? How do I understand Paul’s statement that, “All Scripture is God-breathed?” And whatS Scriptures was he referring to? The Canon, you say? Which one? The Catholic? Coptic? Orthodox? Everything is on the table for me right now; there are no sacred cows. This is most distressing because until I know exactly what I believe, I’m very uncertain of how I shall live.

At this point I’m certain of only a few things. I do believe that there is a Creator. But that’s all I got, unfortunately. The critical question at this juncture is whether that Creator intervenes in the affairs of humankind. Or, as the deists believe, did this creator merely wind the clock and simply walk off? This question is everything for me. If this creator does intervene, there is hope and perhaps all suffering can be redemptive. If this Creator does intervene it is possible that even my own struggles are a part of some larger, dynamic plan. If this Creator does not intervene, then we are simply on our own – a sobering thought. What if every struggle and hardship just is? What if Superman isn’t coming to save you?

If this latter view of the world is the accurate one, world history begins to make much more sense. Name a millionaire who wasn’t shady? Personally, I’d feel very uncomfortable ascribing the wealth of many 20th century German corporations or 19th century American capitalists to the blessing of God. Could it be that they were simply individuals who, understanding they stood or fell on their own, determined to enrich themselves by any atrocious means necessary? All the while, the saints sat quietly and suffered, looking to the sky. It is thoughts like these that have begun to breed a certain degree of cynicism and perhaps even the beginnings of a calloused heart toward religion.

I must be honest and confess that there is a side of me today that almost despises the faith of my youth. My father calls me every Sunday evening to pray. As he prays, there is something in me that wishes he would stop and assess how the faith he has lived worked for him. I take no joy in confessing that observing the life of my parents makes me further leery of their faith. If the prayers you pray have yielded the results you’ve gotten, perhaps I’d prefer if you did not extend those prayers this way.

In all this you must not lose sight of the true cry of my heart. No, I’m not certain of whom this God is or whether this God is accessible. Yet, with extreme sincerity, I wholeheartedly want to know. I believe there is a Creator and thus my heart reaches out for this God. “Are you knowable, God? Do you intervene? Can you guide me in such a way as to ultimately do something about the oppression of my people?” These are my questions. This is my heart.

Deep down somewhere in the secret shadows of my thought I believe my life will be meaningful for the oppressed, the vulnerable and suffering. My concern is reaching a level of success and not knowing the God who caused me to succeed or if it is God who would be responsible in the first place. I would hate to be on the world stage and give credit to God merely because that’s what I’ve been taught to do. That is most disingenuous. On the other hand, if it is God who creates success I certainly want to give credit to God. But who is this God?!?!

This is the exact dilemma Moses had in the Scriptures. I honestly don’t believe Moses knew God. If he did, why would God need to introduce God’s self to Moses as was the case at the burning bush? The question Moses had for God was a simple one – “When the people ask who sent me, what or whom shall I say? Who are you?” To which God answered, “Tell them I Am sent you.” This is my question. When I reach the huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, whom shall I say sent me? Who is this God? Who are you? Like Moses, I’m desperately in need of an introduction.

D'Juan Hopewell is a consultant who specializes in messaging, outreach and influence strategies for political, nonprofit and governmental organizations. His organizing talents have been instrumental in passing some of the most significant pieces of legislation in Maryland state history and he is passionate about economic development in distressed communities. He earned his bachelor's degree from The Ohio State University, an M.Div. from Oral Roberts University and studied public policy on the doctoral level at UMass Boston. Follow him on Twitter @dmhopewell.