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Apologetics and the Down Side of Tradition

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Mark Mittelberg: "Are we willing to step back and examine our inherited beliefs?"

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Excerpted from Confident Faith: Building a Firm Foundation for Your Beliefs 
By Mark Mittelberg (Tyndale)


The Traditional Faith Path: “Truth Is What You’ve Always Been Taught”

I lived in Southen Calilfornia for most of the past decade.

I know—it’s regarded by the rest of the country, and perhaps by much of the world, as a land of quirky health fads and eccentric people. I don’t take that personally, even if I do remember spending thirty-eight dollars one day at Trader Joe’s—and then realizing as the cashier was bagging my purchases that I had just blown two twenties on nothing but fresh fruits and raw nuts. I guess I was pretty well acclimated to SoCal culture.

Where else could you go swimming, hiking, or mountain biking virtually every day—about 50 weeks a year? I recall one day when I was out riding my bike. I was pedaling up a long hill, doing some serious sweating, and thinking to myself how I wished it weren’t so hot out—and then I felt guilty when I realized it was February.

I liked that we could ski in the morning on the snowy slopes of the San Bernardino Mountains, and then on the afternoon of the same day, after a short drive, swim along the sun­drenched shores of the Pacific Ocean. (I never actually did this. I just enjoyed knowing that I could.)

People in Orange County decorate their palm trees for the holidays. You just had to smile, seeing lights and tinsel hanging from the tropical foliage. I even knew a guy who each Christmas would turn on his air conditioner to its highest setting and wait until it got really cold in the house. Then he would light the fireplace, and he and his family would put on warm sweaters and sit around shivering together, pretending that it was, like, real winter!

Heidi and I—along with our kids, Emma Jean and Matthew—really did love our years living there, in what felt to us almost like paradise on earth.

So why was it that every year when the holidays rolled around, I started to feel homesick? I know that probably seems like a normal impulse to you—until you realize where the home I was longing for actually was … North Dakota.

Nothing against my beloved home state or any of my family or friends who live there—it was a great place to grow up, and the people are wonderful—but have you ever been to North Dakota? Probably not. It’s one of the least-visited tourist states in the Union. Why? Two major problems.

First, the state is simply not on the way to anywhere. Unless you need to drive from Bemidji, Minnesota, to Big Sky, Montana, or perhaps take a trek from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, you’re not likely to venture into NoDak territory. If you want to get there, you’ve got to be intentional about it. Not to mention that few airlines actually operate there, and for the price of a ticket you might have been able to fly to Paris or Prague.

Second, there’s the Winter Weather (yes, it’s so intense it must be capitalized). My brother-in-law, Glen, who lives 23 miles from the Canadian border, describes it like this: “We have nine months of winter, and then we have three months of really bad snowmobiling.” The week Heidi and I got married in her hometown of Velva, which is sort of a suburb of my hometown of Minot, the wind chill got all the way down to 90 degrees below zero. Can you imagine? We had to get married—just to stay warm!

I discovered the ultimate symbol of a North Dakota winter one day when my father-in-law, Hillis, was visiting our home in California and I noticed some scratches on the tops of his leather walking shoes. “Hillis,” I asked, “what happened to your new shoes?” Matter-of-factly he replied, “Oh, those are from the chains I clamp on when I’m at home, so I can go for walks through the snow and ice.” Of course, I thought, as shivers went up my spine.

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