I wanted to include the following reflection on the last post I wrote (Balaam’s ass) – but aaaaahhh, my posts are WAY too long as it is! 😉 Like the friend’s message I quoted there, this piece is also about the faith journey as ‘recovering fundamentalists’ or post-evangelicals that so many of us are on…
We are finding ourselves more unsure about some things we used to believe without question and that we want to express the things we definitely do believe in a different way. We are discovering that we cannot be as dogmatic as we used to be – that instead there is a place of tension to hold, requiring us to stand between extremes and paradoxes in order to more truly represent a God Who is so much bigger than our boxes. We are having our eyes opened to see from a new angle and a broader perspective as we are being drawn into relationships with parts of the Body of Jesus who have quite a different history and journey to ours. We are realising the command to love supersedes being ‘right’ or winning arguments and that humility is far more important to the Master who left judgment to ‘the One Who judges justly’. (1 Peter 2v23). It seems God’s view is much more inclusive and less defensive than mine and He can see where all the paths meet and cross one another and even knows where we are all heading!
Reflections on a Theological Journey
I am a Universalist, who wants to see people saved;
An Educationalist who knows deep down that transformation is only truly possible by the inner work of the Holy Spirit;
A disappointed Charismatic who still believes in a God of miracle-working power;
A sensible, reasonable Bible Scholar, who still opens the bible randomly and intuitively, expecting guidance for life from verses taken out of context.
Furthermore, I think I’m an Evolutionist who believes God created and sustains our world; a Pragmatist who values the journey above the destination and the process more than the final outcome.
I believe in hell as God’s final solution for dealing with evil, not people – and that Jesus came to deliver us all from the inner and outer effects of sin and selfishness. I have observed how many people experience hell before death and I believe the church is here to help alleviate suffering and humbly sign post people to Jesus who openly offers the gift of Life.
I don’t know what happens when we die, but I know justice and mercy will be perfectly expressed by a Holy God who loves all people impartially. Neither do I understand the work of the cross: I find myself grappling with all its complexities whilst, at the same time, simply accepting that Jesus’ sacrifice of love dealt with the sin and death that separates us from knowing Him as a loyal friend and all-powerful parent.
I want my life to count. I want to make a difference. My life feels small, but I admire people who think big, fight injustice and take small, but significant steps to save the planet.
I probably have more unanswered questions about my beliefs than people who don’t share them. I feel the most comfortable when drawing alongside fellow travellers, sharing their journey, telling stories and reading the map of life together. I do have great stories to tell and not everyone who wanders is lost. Hearing God’s voice and thoughtfully reading the bible often illuminates my path and sometimes sheds light for others. Like Philip, I am happy to explain the things I do believe and see clearly, and if there is opportunity – and water(!), there is nothing more thrilling than baptising someone who decides to journey with Jesus.
I am glad I am part of the church with all its diversity and changing forms of expression. The idealism within me still hasn’t found what I’m looking for, but I have found God who fully satisfies my inner being, accepts my struggles and imperfections and bears with my limited ways of seeing and doing. I want to continue to walk and work alongside others so that, together, we can courageously attempt do all God intends us to do, and be all he desires us to be.
Used with permission.
This is a brave and honest statement of faith. Unlike my other anonymous friend’s quote it was written by someone who is currently working within a local church congregation as a respected prophet and leader. It is of course a prophetic and visionary declaration; these by their nature are bound to cause questions and ripples – thereby hopefully provoking thought and transformation!
How can basic truths change? Surely we believe in black and white, right and wrong, good and evil? If we start altering the tenets of our faith won’t the whole thing come tumbling down? Our lives, our churches, have been built on certain unshakeable foundations – like the truth and reliability of the Word of God: surely that is what keeps us secure, the Rock on which we are built?
Actually Jesus said Peter was the Rock on which He would build His church – and it was just after he had proclaimed Him Lord and Christ (Matthew 16v16-18)… so that’s about revelation, eyes being opened to Him. He also said its not when we simply hear his words but when we DO what He said that we are building our lives on rock (Matthew 7v24-25)… so that is clearly about obedience, lining up with His teaching and putting it into practice.
I suppose if we are on a journey to know more of Him and the Holy Spirit is leading us into all truth (John 14v26) and God is the Creator Who has the right and power to do new things (Isaiah 42v9) we shouldn’t really be surprised if our views and responses change with time as our relationship with Jesus grows. The basic truths cannot change – He Himself is the Truth who remains the same forever (John 14v6; Hebrews 13v8) – but our perception and understanding certainly can deepen and alter as Father continues to reveal things to His children, moving us on from milk to meat to bring us to maturity (Matthew 11v25; Hebrews 5v11-24). That’s the point of Paul’s great prayers in Ephesians – that we may have ‘the spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know Him’… that we may be ‘rooted and grounded’ to grasp the enormity of love so that we can be filled to fullness (Eph 1v17; 3v17-19).
So its about growth and change and relationship: its not a moveable foundation stone, but it is flexible and motivated by love because it is a Living Stone! Even in the verse in Paul’s letter to Timothy that talks about foundations, he is underlining the key tenets of relationship, revelation and obedience:
God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” 2 Timothy 2v19
Finally, how can we forget the beautiful passage in Ephesians 2 about foundations, where Paul famously talks about the people of God as the building of the Lord and His home:
You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2v20-22.
This is hardly the kind of building Paul meant, though it is very grand and glorious in its 18th century English way. We were admiring it this weekend: its Belton House, near Grantham. 🙂 But my point here is that no-one admires the foundations! Foundations are essential, but they are underground! The beautiful part is above ground – the functional rooms and hallways where the family lives and interacts and where the rooms are filled with life and treasures – and that is the analogy of the presence of God filling His house, flowing in the communication and relationships between the people.
Paul says the apostles and prophets are the foundations! Often we have made these particular gifts the pinnacle, the capstone at the top of the pyramid; perhaps this is because we think of them as the most senior and therefore ‘best’ gifts?! We have looked up to them – and respect and appreciation is good, but perhaps we have put them on a pedestal too much, become used to the name at the top of the list.
In Paul’s economy these foundational gifts are hidden underground! Apostolic and prophetic ministry’s job is to start things off so that the structure can rise on top of them. As Paul also put it, ‘the apostles come last’ like a spectacle in the procession going to death in the arena, laying down their lives in service so that the church may live (1 Corinthians 4v9-13). And this is what Jesus did – the Chief Cornerstone, also buried in the earth at the bottom of the building, out of sight yet holding everything together.
I believe there are many apostles (with a little ‘a’ not a BIG “A”) at work across the nations in hidden places, breaking new ground, mapping out strategies and establishing dwelling places for the Spirit to come. There are many nameless prophets too, buried deep in the earth, digging with their prayers and tears, pioneering for the kingdom across the spheres. They may never be recognised, but their work is foundational for what is to come – and that is their reward, to do the will of God. Beware the praise of men!
So I am glad my prophetic friend, who is also from a particularly apostolic church grouping, wanted to remain anonymous. Her pioneering words carry the hallmarks of grace, love and humility – the hallmarks of Jesus.