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23 November 2007

Unbiased or intolerant -- the only options?

Is it possible to teach without bias?
Is it even desirable to do so?


For several weeks last year I was posting a series on “What’s your worldview?” and “How do you express and present your worldview through your teaching and your art?” We discussed a few points of my worldview here and here and here. I’ve been meaning to revive that series, so maybe I’ll do so soon. But there’s a basic assumption underlying that second question (“How do you express and present your worldview through your teaching and your art?”), which is that it’s good to express and present your worldview to your students or audience. Even more: that it is good and desirable to convince your students/audience of the truth of your worldview.

Now, there’s a tricky line to walk here. There’s been something of a consensus in discussions on this blog that an artist should not push her beliefs on her audience, because then the art is degraded to propaganda. There’s been agreement that if you want to present your beliefs to someone else, you have to do so in a gentle, non-threatening manner and leave your listener to decide for himself the truth of your claims. And in class this past week, several people proposed that education should proceed without bias; that all sides of a question should be presented with equal weight to a student who will then decide for himself which position, if any, is true or correct. The example we discussed was the Evolution vs. Intelligent design. AVA suggested that parents and/or school supervisors should hire two science teachers or practicing scientists for lectures on origins: one who believes firmly in and works from the premise of macroevolution, and one who believes firmly in and works from the premise of young-earth creationism. Then students should be allowed to determine for themselves which position is correct.

Well, that sounds like a good proposal. But there are at least two problems with it from a covenantal Christian point of view. First, we Reformed Christians believe that human beings are totally depraved, and therefore incapable of accepting or even recognizing the good without the work of the Holy Spirit and the teaching of more experienced Christians. Second, most Christian parents take a vow (at the time of their babies’ baptism or dedication) to raise their children in the Word of God, to train them up in the way that they should go. Therefore, if the parents strongly believe that one position or another is the Biblical position, they have made a promise to try to train their children to understand and commit to that position.

Maybe Evolution/Creationism is a touchy example, because there are plenty of Christians who think that Evolution and the Bible are perfectly compatible. But think of other “issues” for a moment. Think about other debatable doctrines, such as Predestination and Free Will, or Infant vs. Adult Baptism, or interpretations of the Lord’s Supper—Transubstantiation vs. Consubstantiation vs. “Real Spiritual Presence” vs. Memorial. Or consider moral/social/political issues rather than doctrines, such as abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, illegal immigrant status, gun control, health care, education, global warming, the War in Iraq.

In these doctrinal and social debates, wouldn’t the ideal parents present both sides to their children and then also present all the arguments in favor of the side in which the parents believe? Wouldn’t ideal teachers lecture from both points of view but then announce which side they support and why? Because the perfect parents and teachers care about their children/students from a holistic point of view: as a teacher, I want you students to become well-rounded, godly people, and I’m as concerned for your salvation as I am for your grades.

I know that sounds intolerant. How dare I believe that I know what’s good for your soul? But I do believe that God has revealed what’s good for human souls, and I want my students to follow God’s way instead of the world’s way. I want to teach that, as well as teaching facts about when and where Shakespeare lived and how many lines make a sonnet and how to pronounce “epistemology” and what are the major characteristics of Romanticism.

Here’s the bottom line: Is communication with a view to persuasion always propaganda? Is certainty bigotry? Is commitment intolerance?

What do you think?

15 comments:

Darlin said...

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

I think that everyone... no mater what your background or religion has a worldview. Everyone is biased in one direction or another and deals with every situation with their own perception. Furthermore, I think that it is wrong to proceed in any direction (teaching...studying...talking etc.) without your own worldveiw and beliefs as a sort of filter.

Christians seem to be called intolerable alot...
And this is because we take stands against things that contradict what we know to be the ultimate truth.

Unfortunatly... often times when we take stands, we do not stop to show love to the people right in the place they are and encourage them to change... "intolerable" seems to be another way of saying: "you dont even know me, or what I have been through, so how can you judge me like this?"

I think that it is important to know all sides of the argument, if not to change your beliefs, but to know what other options there are and why you do not believe them.

In philosphy...i seems to always be drawn back to an underlying theme...I think the necessary theme here needs ALWAYS to be love...
In everything we do.

Understanding does not come through hate. And Thought seems must to be based upon belief...because even reason came from somewhere!

Steve Hayes said...

Much depends on the situation. Parents teaching children is one thing. A catechism class in church is another. A university lecture is yet another. The first tweo certainly try to communicate a worldview, but the third is a bit different.

I once taught a course on African Independent Churches to third-year university students, and one of their assignments was something like this:

What theological criteria would you use to evaluate the theology of the African Independent Churches, and based on what you have learnt so far, what preliminary conclusions would you come to on the Christian nature of these churches?

95% of the students who did the assignment failed to answer the first part of the question -- they did not say what theological criteria they would use.

And even those who did often gave daft answers -- a Roman Catholic nun said she would use Reformed criteria, because those were the ones used in the text book for the course.

I set exactly the same question in the final exam, after explaining what had gone wrong in the assignment, and still only half the students gave their theological criteria.

ava said...

"But there are at least two problems with it from a covenantal Christian point of view. First, we Reformed Christians believe that human beings are totally depraved, and therefore incapable of accepting or even recognizing the good without the work of the Holy Spirit and the teaching of more experienced Christian"

going off of logic here, if God has ordained specific people to be saved, nothing we can do can stop them from being saved...so presenting them with all sides of an issue shouldn't be a problem.

And even if we did teach them only the creation view, if they're not going to be saved, it's not going to do anything anyway.

But then again, that's like saying if God's in control of everything, i don't have to look both ways before crossing a street, or shouldn't take medicines for sickness because if God's really in control, God can save me if i don't take the medicine, and if i do take the medicine, i can still die.

"In these doctrinal and social debates, wouldn’t the ideal parents present both sides to their children and then also present all the arguments in favor of the side in which the parents believe? Wouldn’t ideal teachers lecture from both points of view but then announce which side they support and why?"

and with this, i think that is the ideal way to go as long as they don't state what they believe and why as fact. They can explain why they came to believe what they did, but after that i think it borders on propaganda. Also, i think they shouldn't make the other students or the kids feel stupid for believing something else. For me, i can respect anyone who has taken enough time to figure out what they believe and why, even if it's not what i believe, and i find it hard to respect people who believe the same things i do, but are only parrots. It's like they've been brainwashed.

"Is certainty bigotry?"

I would ask how you can be certain of anything. I think everyone has to work off of a base, and build their world view from there. They have to accept something as truth, but they never can really prove it. I would say it would depend what your certain on. If you're certain the beatles is the best band ever, i would say that's not something worth stating as fact, but if you would say love is the only way to live, i would have no problem with you stating that as fact. But it still can't be proven.

If we only taught what we were 100% certain of, we couldn't teach anything. Does that makes us bigots? I don't know, but if it does, than we are all inescapably bigots from birth. Because we are certain of something, no matter how trivial.

Iambic Admonit said...

Darlin' -- Well said! The intolerance accusation probably comes from our attitudes, rather than from the bare facts of what we are trying to convey. If I really care about someone as a person, he or she is like to feel my compassion and is less likely to be offended by whatever viewpoint I am expressing. "Love covers a multitude of sins."

Steve: Thanks for your valuable comments. Would you be able to explain in a little more detail what you mean by "theological criteria"? I'm not sure if that's the same as presuppositions, or if you just wanted students to articulate what they consider orthodox, or what.

AVA: ask our pastor, but I'm pretty sure that we Reformed Covenental people believe that God ordains the means as well as the ends towards salvation, so He might use our teaching of our children as the means by which they receive grace. And since we don't know who is elect, and since God commands us to witness to the ends of the earth and to teach young people the truth, we are required to spread the truth as much as possible.

I like what you said, AVA, about respecting people who have worked hard to come to their conclusions. Telling the story of why you believe something can be the most effective way of helping someone else to consider the value of your truth-claims.

Would you say there are degrees of certainty? I am certian of the major points of the Christian creed, in that I guess I would die for them if the necessity arose, but that does not mean that I understand teachings like the Trinity, or that I always feel the truth of my salvation every minute of every day. Living in doubt while sticking to my commitments is often a part of my faith.

What are some things you are 100% certian about??

Steve Hayes said...

Theological criteria are what you use to judge theological ideas as orthodox or heterodox. They will differ from person to person and from one Christian group to another.

ava said...

"In philosphy...i seems to always be drawn back to an underlying theme...I think the necessary theme here needs ALWAYS to be love...
In everything we do.

Understanding does not come through hate."

Right here i think you nailed it. I've found that people will listen to anything you have to say if they know you love them. I ecspecially like what you said "understanding doesn't come through hate" because some people i was debating with on an online forum claimed to be Christians but thought it was okay to kill muslims because God told the Israelites to conquer the promised land in the old testament.

"ask our pastor, but I'm pretty sure that we Reformed Covenental people believe that God ordains the means as well as the ends towards salvation, so He might use our teaching of our children as the means by which they receive grace. And since we don't know who is elect, and since God commands us to witness to the ends of the earth and to teach young people the truth, we are required to spread the truth as much as possible."

I guess it just doesn't seem like a real decision to trust Christ as savior if it's the only beliefs you were ever taught or came across...It seems more to me that Christianity is just your default settings for morality until you come across another worldview either at college, or work, or wherever.

"What are some things you are 100% certian about??"

People Lie.

People Hate

People Are Deceptive.

People Hurt

People Are Broken.

People Need Love

Everyone Feels Alone, No Matter How Many Friends They Have. This isn't to say they always feel alone, ecspecially when they're with their friends, but after the friends go, they will still feel empty just like the rest of us.

People Need To Be Saved From Themselves.

People Respond in Like Kind. You Hate Them, They Hate You. You Love Them, They Will Respond if It's Really Love Your Showing.

People Need Hope, because once they lose it, they don't care what they become.

There is truth to be learned from anything, no matter how small or insignificant the object. Same with people, no matter how obnoxious or bratty or spoiled or proud they can be, i can still learn something from them.

People are all the same inside. Broken. They react differently to pain, but they all feel it.

Everything a person does can be traced back to trying to nullify or numb the pain they feel. Some look to sex, drugs, drinking, others to religion or politics, or family and friends, but the driving reason for this is to forget that we're all alone down here.

People misunderstand each other a lot of the time.

Every person wants to be unique and loved for their individuality.

People are scared that they're missing out in the happiness in life. they look around, and everyone else is smiling and laughing and seemingly living life up, yet here you sit, the only one who isn't happy on the inside. But in reality, all those other smiling happy people feel just like you, and are just playing the part to try and forget their problems.

People pretend to be things they're not.

Iambic Admonit said...

Steve: Thanks for the clarification. Do you walk your students through a process to help them recognize their theological criteria? I'd like to do that at some point. Sounds very valuable.

Rosie Perera said...

Admonit wrote: "We Reformed Christians believe that human beings are totally depraved, and therefore incapable of accepting or even recognizing the good without the work of the Holy Spirit and the teaching of more experienced Christians." Yes, but who are the "more experienced Christians"? As people grow in the Christian faith from school children just coming into an understanding of Christianity to mature followers of Christ, they develop along multiple paths, depending on what theologies they are exposed to, what they are reading, what their Christian friends believe, etc. Some of them become more convinced of certain fundamentals of the Christian faith and believe those are non-negotiable. Others become convinced that many of those things are areas in which God has given us freedom. Some become focused on one or two issues that tend to galvanize the biblically, politically, and socially conservative branches of Christianity (literal six-day creationism, pre-tribulation rapture, stamping out abortion and homosexuality, saving souls, personal piety) while others develop different -- more traditionally "liberal" -- passions (care for the poor; working for peace and reconciliation internationally; stewardship of creation; integration of faith and learning, faith and work, faith and the arts; Christian ethics on a more communal scale).

You suggested that perhaps the creation/evolution example was too touchy since there are plenty of mature Christians who hold different views on it, so you proposed several other debatable doctrines. I'm not sure any of those is any clearer as far as how one would introduce one's children to them, though they are perhaps not as polarized in the public square.

So, given such differences even within the ranks of mature Christians, how do we "train up our children in the way they should go"? That conundrum is partly an artificial one, because I believe the "train up a child" verse is often misunderstood. I can't remember what Christian writer (might have been James Dobson, whom I rarely agree with but in this case I do) said that the verse is not talking about training children to grow up to behave and think the way you want them to (making them into a little clone of their parents). But it means discerning where God created that unique child to go and steering him or her in that direction. The image the author gave is of a vine which you train to grow by tying strings around it and fastening it at certain points to a supporting frame. You don't direct the tendrils towards precisely where you want them to go; rather, while giving the leading runners freedom, you keep them from falling down with their own weight, you help them to reach up to the sun which is where they are naturally inclined. So it is with a child. I think that means exposing the child to different viewpoints and talking about why you believe one thing more than another, but being honest with her about the fact that not all Christians see it this way, encouraging her to explore on her own later, not being shocked if she comes to a different conclusion, not being threatened if she wants to disagree with you, and feeling secure enough in who God is that you trust Him to lead her by His Spirit as she gets older. A child who grows up with that kind of relationship with her parents is not going to stray far from "the way she should go." She is especially unlikely to rebel against the repressive religiosity of her parents which is I think more of a cause of children going astray than any exposure to misguided ideas from the world could ever be.

In a later reply, Admonit writes: "Ask our pastor, but I'm pretty sure that we Reformed Covenental people believe that God ordains the means as well as the ends towards salvation, so He might use our teaching of our children as the means by which they receive grace." I believe God does work that way, but the part of your statement that I want to poke you about is the first half. Sounds as if you're essentially saying: "I'm not sure myself, but ask our pastor, because whatever he says is what I'm supposed to believe because I'm a Reformed Covenantal Christian, and we're all supposed to believe the same things that our pastor does." Is that really what you intended to say? I would have thought you think for yourself more than that. You might listen to what he says and give it weight because in general you tend to agree with the Reformed Covenantal positions on things, but there isn't even one "Reformed Covenantal" answer to every theological question. And even if there were, there are sure to be some Christians who just don't fit into the entire "Reformed Covenantal" mold. These labels are convenient groupings of similar sets of beliefs, but they are by no means prescriptive about what one should believe.

Ava wrote: "I guess it just doesn't seem like a real decision to trust Christ as savior if it's the only beliefs you were ever taught or came across...It seems more to me that Christianity is just your default settings for morality until you come across another worldview either at college, or work, or wherever." Well put! I believe that I had no idea what I was really doing when I "made a decision" to give my life to Christ and "prayed the prayer" as a young person. I had been presented with no other options. Either you do this, or you will end up going to hell, so of course I wanted to "get saved"! I believe that somehow God honored my prayer even though I would later grow up to renege on that commitment, and he stuck with me through a period of wandering in agnostic apathy, to bring me back to himself in a way that was truly my own faith and not just parroting what my mother wanted me to believe. But I can't explain why my brother, who also prayed the sinner's prayer as a kid, didn't end up a believer. I know that isn't necessarily the end of the story for him. (I just picked up a book today the famous former atheist Anthony Flew, called There Is A God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind -- fascinating! I'm looking forward to reading it.)

Darlin/gem said...

AVA:
I agree with your certainty list.
In a nutshell...
We are a fallen people, in a fallen world.

Now, I havent grown up as a christian, it was only about three years ago that I was saved.

However, I had always grown up kinda thinking I already was... and I thought that I knew what it meant. I think that even if it the only option you grow up knowing...there is a certain maturity point where you reallly must choose to truly accept it ( or deny it). And I think there HAS to be a point where it is no longer just mental realization.

HOwever, I just had a interesting discussion last night. Some people have come to me, and told me that they think it is wrong when I read contraversial books, or books that take a differnt worldview from mine (which I do read semi often).
Now, I do not continue with a book it its just purley pointless and inapropriate. However, I think it is important to be knowledable of all other deabatable optionsgoing on....1. so that I know what I DO NOT believe...and why.
2. So that I can empathize with other people in a witnessing situation.
3. To defend my belief!!

So I think this applys to the growing up Christian ideal.
I have always believed you should teach your children other ideals....and then show them why we dont believe them....just like we analyse works in school.

But it is important to guide your child to know the things you truly believe it to be an absolute truth. Because isnt that part of your job as a parent?

To raise your children right....you need to pray. Because we are fallen...we CANNOT raise a perfect child. No matter what.

Iambic Admonit said...

Rosie: I find it ironic that you and I, childless women, are discussing how to raise children. However, since we are both involved in various ways in the teaching of children and/or families, of course it is important to develop our ideas on that subject of child-rearing. I agree with the interpretation you shared of the "train up a child" verse. The only difference I that I tend to lean a little more towards parents actually teaching children the doctrines in which the parents believe; yes, sharing the other viewpoints, but actually teaching the children their own personal creed as a matter which they have studied and about which they are firmly convinced. Otherwise they may end up conveying mere indeterminate mush. I believe that parents and teachers can foster an environment of healthy debate, free speculation, and honest exploration while at the same time teaching from a personal commitment to a believed truth.

You also took issue with my comment about asking my pastor, suggesting that I implied: “I'm not sure myself, but ask our pastor, because whatever he says is what I'm supposed to believe because I'm a Reformed Covenantal Christian, and we're all supposed to believe the same things that our pastor does.” No, that is not what I believe. I would like to encourage students to talk to their pastors and find out what the “official” position of their church is on various doctrines, and then search the Scriptures to see if that doctrine is true. I would also like young people (including myself) to respect their pastors, parents, and teachers. Those who are older and who have dedicated their lives to studying the Scripture (or literature, philosophy, theology, etc.) are more likely to understand difficult passages in the Bible or complicated propositions in philosophy because they have intellectual tools I do not. The simple fact that my pastor knows Hebrew and Greek raises him to a level above my own in Scripture interpretation. The fact that he has spent a handful of years in seminary and half a lifetime in ministry means that he has vast practical experience in the application of doctrines and ideas. This does not mean that he is infallible or undisputable, but it does mean that he is respectable. And he is a good resource. So I would like to suggest to readers that before they toss a doctrine out the window, they should consult with those who have dedicated their lives to studying that teaching.

Of course the above discussion might led to the natural objection that there are any number of people who have dedicated their lives to studying the very same doctrine and have come to totally opposite positions. They might all have the same knowledge of ancient languages and culture, of hermeneutical and exegetical methods, of church history and tradition, and still be ready to die for a teaching that their brethren in the wider Church repudiate as heretical. I know. So therefore each individual Christian needs to respect the teaching under which he or she sits, and then go and study the matter individually. And here’s where individual conscience, the work of the Holy Spirit, and faith leap the gap left by scholarship and rhetoric.

And this leads into AVA and Rosie’s discussion of the impersonal inevitability of growing up in a Christian home:

Ava wrote: "I guess it just doesn't seem like a real decision to trust Christ as savior if it's the only beliefs you were ever taught or came across...It seems more to me that Christianity is just your default settings for morality until you come across another worldview either at college, or work, or wherever."

And Rosie wrote: “…I had no idea what I was really doing when I "made a decision" to give my life to Christ and "prayed the prayer" as a young person….I believe that somehow God honored my prayer even though I would later grow up to renege on that commitment, and he stuck with me through a period of wandering in agnostic apathy, to bring me back to himself in a way that was truly my own faith and not just parroting what my mother wanted me to believe.”

Never pondering, wrestling with, or questioning the faith of one’s home and childhood is unlikely to lead to certainty. There are those who are blessed with sure and solid faith through their entire lives, from early childhood onwards, but my experience has been more like AVA’s, wondering and challenging and growing through questions and doubts. This resembles what Darlin’ wrote: “I havent grown up as a christian, it was only about three years ago that I was saved. However, I had always grown up kinda thinking I already was... and I thought that I knew what it meant. I think that even if it the only option you grow up knowing...there is a certain maturity point where you reallly must choose to truly accept it ( or deny it). And I think there HAS to be a point where it is no longer just mental realization.”

Thank you, Darlin’, for your excellent apologetic for reading controversial literature! and for reminding us of the necessity of prayer.

Jo said...

I guess it depends on your definition of propaganda, but I think that we can try to persaude someone to come to our point of view without necessarily forcing our beliefs on them or twisting our beliefs to make them more appealing. I think that's it's impossible to absolutely know for sure that our beliefs are right, but we owe it to ourselves and to others to try to come as close to the truth as we can. And I guess that goes along with the next question about certainty. If everyone in the world is unable to be completely certain of their beliefs then we don't have a right to say that anyone else is wrong, since we can't really know. But that sort of contradicts the whole "absolute truth" thing, which I do believe in, so I think I'm just making a bunch of contradictions. Anyway, on the last question - I think that you can be committed to something and really believe it, but that doesn't mean that you need to be intolerant of other beliefs. Sure, discuss your beliefs with others, but try to see both sides of the issue. Besides, going around saying that everyone else is wrong and you're right isn't really the best way to get people to listen to you. Sorry if this was confusing, I only got four or five hours of sleep last night. :]

hmmm said...

Well, I don't think being committed means being intolerant. I mean, I'm committed to not do drugs, but that doens't make me intolerant. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, which wasn't a very sheltered way to grow up...it wasn't horrible, but not like the country (Pennsylvania :)Some of my friends did stuff I would never do and had beliefs that I definitely disgreed with, but that didn't make either of us intolerant. My beliefs told me I was right, their beliefs told them they were. We didn't break our friendships off because of it and I tried not to preach to them about it. :)
I believed I was right and they were wrong; they believed they were right and I was wrong.
That didn't make me completely shut out to them or their opinions.

little sarah said...

"Is communication with a view to persuasion always propaganda?"

No. I think that propaganda is any form of expression that uses false, or misleading and information that presents a twisted, and at times extremely convincing and convenient, worldview. When I state what I believe, I'm not trying to take away all the credibility in what someone else believes. There are rights in every viewpoint, as well as wrongs. When I disagree with someone I do not find myself thinking he is a bigot or he is trying to purposely deceive me through propaganda. I think that gossip is more a form of propaganda then witnessing/sharing. Gossip is trying to hurt and the witnessing is trying to show love...at least I would hope so. Some Christians go around with big signs that blame the Twin Towers crashing on the homosexuals. I would say that is definitely a form of propaganda. Everybody sins...Christians as well as atheists; that is usually quite clear.

“Is certainty bigotry?”

No again. From a good old Webster’s Dictionary: A bigot is “one who regards or treats the members of a group with hatred and intolerance.” Hatred and intolerance are wrong; not being certain of what I believe.

“Is commitment intolerance?”
...I don’t think so. But it is certainly something to think about. I’m being kicked off of the computer, so I have to end this.

Don said...

On a semantic basis, and even more of a relative basis, I don't believe this to be the case. Propaganda is speaking with intent to harm some specific group or person, and that's certainly not always the case when you're trying to persuade someone of something. To the second, certainly not. Certainty is, at the least, the best thing we've got. It's true that we can't really have conclusive proof of anything, so we only have a cercumstantial basis for any belief, but the world would be in chaos if we didn't have any certainty about anything. As to the last question, I'm not sure I fully comprehend your meaning.

Rosie Perera said...

Admonit: You wrote "I find it ironic that you and I, childless women, are discussing how to raise children." Ironic, indeed. :-) But both of us were children once and have watched how friends raise children and (as you point out) have been responsible for the care and/or teaching of children in various situations.

You went on to say: "The only difference I that I tend to lean a little more towards parents actually teaching children the doctrines in which the parents believe..." I lean towards that too, in fact I fully support it. I have just encountered some parents who lean too much towards fear that their children might ever question anything they believe, so they protect them from ever hearing anything contradictory. I had a really good role model in my pastor and his wife out in Seattle, who had raised their children in the Christian faith and definitely taught them that this was true. But when the kids got to be teenagers and started exploring other ideas, the parents didn't freak out and start clamping down on who their kids could spend time with (as some Christian parents do). Rather they allowed the kids to raise these questions at the dinner table, and they actually talked about them in an adult-like manner as a family, certainly explaining why they believed the Christian perspective on these issues. The kids all did go through brief agnostic periods, but all turned out to be wonderful, faithful Christians who are now teaching their own kids the Christian faith, and one is married to a pastor. So I was merely trying to balance out the fearful, isolationist approach of some parents I know. I don't support giving kids a mushy faith environment and expecting them to decide on their own what they believe when they get older.

"You also took issue with my comment about asking my pastor." I didn't take issue with the asking your pastor part. That is of course an excellent source of wisdom, and I never intended to imply you shouldn't ask you pastor when you don't understand something having to do with theology. The part I quibbled over was just your wording later in the sentence where you said "I'm pretty sure that we Reformed Covenental people believe..." If you'd left the word "we" out, I would have had no issue with your sentence. If you aren't sure what you believe about something yet, you can't throw in your lot with those who believe it and say "we believe." If you are inclined to want to believe what Reformed Covenantal people believe (either because that's the tradition you grew up in, or because you've learned enough of it to believe it is the most faithful interpretation of the Scriptures), then of course it is fine to expect that what Reformed Covenantal people believe is going to be what you believe too once you've asked your pastor and understand it. I just didn't think you meant to be asking your pastor "what do I believe about such-and-such, seeing as I'm a Reformed Covenantal person?" which by including that pronoun "we" you were in effect implying. So it was more a quibble over wording than a theological or ecclesiological disagreement with you. Sorry for making it sound like a big deal.

There is some indeterminate age (some say 7, or it could be as much as 13 which is the age of accountability in the Jewish faith) below which children cannot know what they believe independently from their parents, and it might be appropriate for such a kid to say "Mommy, what do we Christians believe about Jesus?" But I think as adult Christians who have had to at some point make our own decision to believe what we believe, we cannot ask "what do we believe?" anymore in that same sense that children do, that of automatically having imparted to us the faith of another. We do have to figure things out for ourselves (with input from our pastors, of course!). Hope that explains what I was getting at.