“That’s not how I was raised,” he said.

I was having lunch with a college student almost twenty years my junior. We were discussing some thorny theological problem. He was wrestling with ideas that were new to him and not consistent with the training of his childhood.

College is a difficult time. Professors and peers are pressing in–sometimes challenging the ideas of our parents. It’s a time of gaining nuance and exposure to the world of ideas. Of growing into adulthood. Of sifting the worldview you inherited, adjusting it where necessary, and owning it.

Do I want students stubbornly clinging to what they were taught by their parents, grandparents, and home churches? It depends, obviously, on what we’re talking about. I don’t want generations repeating the sins of their parents.

But I also like the idea (especially when I’m engaging a student who has obviously been very well formed in his eighteen years) that the people who have loved him most enjoy the pride of place when it comes to intellectual authority.

I often encounter the very opposite–the view that parental influence is automatically assumed to be archaic and irrelevant. According to many, to hold a belief simply because one’s parents hold to it is considered naive (at best), irresponsible, and possibly dangerous. However, it’s actually impossible to validate everything they taught you. It’s impossible to validate everything anyone teaches you. At the end of the day, we must trust–and choose wisely who gets to influence us and how much sway they are allowed to have.

Naive or not, according to modern sensibilities, the Bible actually commends believing something because of “mothers and grandmothers.” The ones who bore us, nursed us, taught us to talk, fed us, changed us–these voices are important, and need to be honored as legitimate influencers into adulthood (2 Timothy 1:5, 13-14).

We may laugh at Forrest Gump’s, “My momma always said…” sayings. But we also cry when he teaches us “…what love is.”