Friday, June 20, 2008

Confessions of a stumbling theologian, revisited

I'm no theologian.

(Well...DUH...)

I'm no theologian and spent most of my Christian journey glibly accepting various theological assertions as truth with no real idea of whether or not they were actually true, as in Biblically sound. It was "what I'd always been taught" and saw no reason to doubt their veracity, especially as no one else was.

I knew "what I'd always been taught," with no real idea of the various theological labels attached to this position or that. I only knew what denomination I belonged to and could fairly accurately describe what we were against if nothing else. I will say here at the start that most of "what I'd always been taught" is in fact Scripturally and doctrinally sound, so please don't hear me picking a fight with my teachers or pastors or denomination.

Several years ago I found myself at something of a crossroads in my journey of faith. At the time I certainly did not recognize it as such, nor would it have occured to me to describe it so. And maybe crossroads isn't a good term as it seems to indicate a specific instant in time, a critical moment of decision. No, my experience was more gradual than that, yet it defined me all the same.

I'd gotten a taste of the meat of the Scriptures and it was a whole new world to me. My eyes were opened to see wonderful things in His law, and I realized there was far more to know of God and His Word than I'd ever imagined. I became determined to know His Word and discovered along the way that this pursuit was sometimes a lonely one, that I could not depend solely on someone else to tell me what to believe about God and His Word, even if that someone else was the most godly, passionate Bible teacher on the planet. God in His sovereignty placed me in a position where I had to take ownership of my faith, hammering out what I believed in light of what God's Word actually said and not "what I'd always been taught."

I don't mean to discount the profound influence of Godly, Biblical teachers and preachers. Their ministry is critical and necessary, no doubt about it. I am eternally grateful for the impact of many scholars and teachers of the Word. I know the privilege of hearing God's Word proclaimed from the pulpit of my church with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. It is a privilege I have yet to take for granted, a privilege that overwhelms me with gratitude.

But just as I tell my Bible study group at the start of each study, if you want to grow spiritually, it will never happen apart from personal study, just you and the Word and the Holy Spirit. My faith, my walk, my relationship with my Savior is just that: mine and not another's. I am to work out what God works within me.

I've described myself as a stumbling theologian, more or less falling into the sea of doctrine and theology on my own. Or maybe I was pushed in. Either way, I was driven to discover the truth first out of curiousity and then out of desperation. "What I'd always been taught" wasn't enough to hold me and sustain me. Mere tradition or orthodoxy never is.

I'm no intellectual. My faith, while comprised of far more than just "what I'd always been taught," is continually being refined there in the fiery crucible of truth. I delight in studying God's Word, in asking questions and finding answers, or perhaps even more questions, in the pages of my Bible.

What a thrill to discover a truth that "I'd always been taught" sustained by the weight of Scripture! And what a thrill to discover a dearly held tradition was merely that and nothing more! What a delight to know God and His Word, to mine the riches contained in His living Word, and to see Jesus there on every page!

Do you know what you believe? Do you know why you believe it? Is your faith your own, or another's? Have you heard God speak to you through the pages of your Bible?

God's Word is a sharp, two edged sword, piercing and dividing. Living and active. It is truth, truth that sanctifies. More precious than gold and silver. Eternal. More critical to us than bread. Everything we need for life and godliness. God-breathed. Equipping us for every good work.

May we crave it. May we hunger and thirst for it. May we tire of knowing secondhand, and seek instead to know for ourselves. May we say with the Psalmist that God's Word is more precious to us than thousands of pieces of gold and silver. May we delight in and meditate on its truths, becoming more like Christ as we are transformed from glory to glory throught its sanctifying work.

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Author's note: This is a re-post from February. Please do not read this and hear a lack of respect for the necessity of pastoral preaching and authority. My pastor (who reads my blog but has not paid me to say this) has been granted divine authority, not to mention years of schooling, to teach me the truths of the Word of God. For this I am grateful. Yet I bear responsibility in the process of my sanctification, to humbly examine "what I've always been taught," testing the spirits as John has told us (1 John 4:1), and that is the point I am making here...

5 comments:

  1. "and that is the point I am making here..."

    Point well made.

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  2. I enjoy reading others, that hunger for His word, and are willing to invest by seeking it out for themselves. Picking it up, digesting it, lingering, simply soaking and finding answers for themselves.

    Bless you!

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  3. Loved this post in February. Love it still.

    Excellent words and very important, especially for those of us who cut our teeth on church pews.

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  4. Excellent post and not at all disrespectful. We are to test all things. Wonderful insights.

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  5. My faith was developing slowly too. How I made the leap into more active "Christian" was by completing the challenge of reading the Bible in one year and journaling each day about what I read. It was like running a marathon where you barely have time to look around you or understand all that is going on while running. But it led me to a Bible study class through crown.org called the 10-week Life Group study (learning what God says/commands us to do about finances and possessions). We now facilitate that small group Bible study yearly.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Alyson LID 01/27/06

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