Friday, February 11, 2011

An Outpost of Love: Addendum

A friend of mine wants me to go further on my ideas. But before I can explore the "outpost of love" further, I need to post an addendum. My journey has been one of agnostic 20 year old to charismatic to fundamentalist to generous Evangelical and then simply to generous Christian. It has been an interesting journey. When I look back on this journey, I think two things. First, I see a life in process with God and second, I observe what it means to take scripture seriously. Let me take these two observations in order.

1) A Life in Process with God. It has now been 27 years since Christ came into my life. It has been a life that has reflected Psalm 150, Psalm 51, Psalm 150 and Psalm 27. There have been spiritual highs and lows. I have experienced grave disappointment and deep sadness but I've also experienced tremendous victory and the accompanying joy. As I look back on these 27 years I can see how God has used time, circumstance and Spirit to lead me along and indeed to shape me. I am who I am because of the great I AM. It is indeed a 'walk', a journey and as well a 'shared' walk or journey. Although there have been times where I walked without human company, God has always been there. The journey is shared first and foremost with Father-Son-Spirit and then with other human beings. I have been lonely, but I have never been alone since Christ came into my life. Now, I see life not only as participation in and with God, but as one of becoming* - by 'becoming' I mean transformation into that instrument which God utilises for His glory, His Kingdom and the benefit of humanity. It is only in this participation and transformation that I gain my true self.

2) Taking Scripture Seriously. Aye, here's the rub. As a young Christian, I became involved with fundamentalist influences. I don't see this as a negative, simply part of the process. For if there is one thing in which fundamentalists excel, it is taking scripture seriously. Many of my more 'permissive' friends don't truly take scripture seriously. Now don't get me wrong; they read and preach the bible - but problematically, they don't take its claims as seriously as they could, or as I argue, should. They have allowed another ideology- usually science, history or secular psychology - to determine how they will handle or understand the scriptures. Sadly, this approach to scripture inevitably leads to a diluted faith and a weak theology. In extreme cases it leads to a biblical atheism or unitarianism, where one posits the existence of God, but the Father is Mother, the Son is not deity and the Spirit is an ambiguous 'world consciousness'.

This is not acceptable to the fundamentalist. Of course, they have their own set of bizarre problems. They too tend towards a biblical unitarianism but it functions through a focus on the sovereignty of God the FATHER ALMIGHTY, and then proceeds to treat the balance of the divine Trinity hierarchically: the Son is divine, but he only gets it from the FATHER ALMIGHTY, thus it is a derivative divinity. The Spirit is the 'toady' of the Trinity, the errand boy of the Father or according to my fundamentalist pentecostal friends, the essence of God that motivates Father and Son, and, for a generous love offering and slaying of the Spirit, can be at your beck and call. Now I don't want this to become too negative or harsh, for I have benefitted from my Charismatic brethren as well. More importantly, in order to maintain a literalist, scientific approach to scripture, my fundamentalist friends have to affirm crazy millennial schemes, the marginalisation of women from ministry, the denigration of any type of evolutionary science and an exclusive focus on penal-substitutionary atonement as the only explanation of Jesus' death. If anything, my friends are not fundamentalists, but rather, 'saddamentalists'.

Let me make my point. Out of this trajectory, I have taken scripture seriously; and if one takes scripture seriously, you end up not with a rigid confessional theology as much as a theological ethos. I could not remain a fundamentalist because in actually reading and wrestling with the truth in scripture, I could no longer affirm the strange theological schemes and vacuous, angry ethic. I could not remain a Pentecostal or Charismatic because of their generally skewed understanding of the Holy Spirit.

What I found in taking scripture seriously was that a life informed by God does not dead end in confession, but rather explodes outward in transformation.

If we take scripture seriously, we find that God wants a personal relationship that results in a peripatetic, Jesus-like life. A life of grace, mercy and unconditional love. A life of loving the enemy, where forgiveness is our lone weapon. A life poured-out. Paul understood this. Peter understood this. John, James and Philip understood this.

Yet far too often, modernist, American Christianity emasculates the truth of the gospel and the scriptures in favor of an individualistic, commercialist corruption.

Too many well intended, bible-reading Christians make the confession of faith, only to hold transformation at arm's length. In this fashion, they can control the operation of God in their life. Their walk with God becomes stunted, precisely because they refuse to allow God to be in control of their transformation. The Christian life becomes a neat, tidy, acceptable way of living. They can even get away with a little sin if they are crafty enough. This is American Christianity at its best. I have lived this form of Christianity and it is ultimately vacuous and unsatisfying.

I want more and if you take scripture seriously, how you view and live life changes.

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