We hear so much in the name of religion in our society. Much of what is represented is confusing and even contradictory. How can anyone identify the truth from the fiction? Some people rely on their church or more specifically on their church leaders to show them religious truth. Others are a bit bolder and attempt to inspect the sacred texts for themselves, hoping that the truth will be revealed to them directly in that way. Unfortunately most of this personal evaluation involves nothing more than an on-going attempt to validate and confirm existing beliefs. Since everyone's earliest beliefs are molded under the influence of the church, these personal studies are automatically biased toward what the church already teaches. Finally, some people, bolder still, seek to dig deeper and deeper into the implications of their inherited beliefs and ultimately rely on their reason and intuition to formulate a truly personal definition of what is religiously true. This final process is what I call "listening to the heart".
Those who live in the first manner, must determine the truth by selecting the right church/instructor. There are obvious many flavors to choose from. Seemingly selecting the right church from the endless possibilities would involve knowing something about what is taught and whether that teaching is proper or not. In reality I think most people select a church home based on a family tradition or simply because they enjoy the company there, regardless of teachings.
People who choose to study the Bible for themselves must be mentally capable of unraveling its mysteries, without falling victim to preconceived notions inherited subconsciously due to cultural influences. As long as people in this category continue to recognize certain men and women as church ordained teachers, they will feel a need to vet everything they read individually by a comparison with what the church teaches. This irrevocably moves the student to a point of reliance again on church doctrine. In effect, those in this group mostly ultimately align with those who rely exclusively on the church leaders. Dire warnings about heresy and excommunication are specifically designed to discourage real independent thinking and evaluation in the practice of personal Bible study.
The last group, those who are drawn by their nature into ever deeper religious issues, would seem to be subject to an even worse confusion. Who knows if the heart is telling it like it is or not. How can one who seeks the truth in this way ever trust what they think they are hearing? A very good question, indeed.
Well, for one thing the issue of dealing with doubts about the truth is equally as real under the other two paradigms. Some may find comfort and assurance from the fact that what they believe has a long church history, but too much of the history involves recantation and doctrinal change for one to be sure that today's church doctrine is not also flawed.
Finally, when one seeks the truth intuitively, he can test his conclusions against the intuitive insights of others who also seek the truth in this way. A common truth, intuitively ascertained, is much more likely to be real, especially if encountered across different cultures.