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What's This All About Part 2

Warning: The following is a brutally honest, religiously charged article about a 30 year old's Christian experience.

I don't get it. I don't remember completely not believing it. I don't remember completely believing it. I've wandered away from it, beat others up with it, ignored it, immersed myself in it, been saved by it, been lost by it. I've learned from it, but it's confused the hell out of me (or into me). It keeps me up at night, it helps me fall asleep. It makes me angry, cry, laugh, cower and wonder. I love it. Part of me hates it. I've watched it bring people together, I've watched it tear people apart.

When the Bible refers to itself as a "two edged sword", I can't think of a better metaphor. I've spent the better part of a decade slowly biting away in the form of a theology degree on the meal that is Holy Scripture. Last year I went back to college full time after a two year hiatus, and I've had more restless nights lately than I can remember. My father, a pastor, missionary and theologian sleeps about five hours a night. I remember waking up early to always find him reading and studying scripture. I'm starting to learn why. The truth that is contained in that book, that many have given their lives for, brings with it a haunting reality - mess up understanding it, and you mess up one of the clearest avenues to understanding the Christian God.

Some of the truths of scripture (or is it just an "interpretation"?) crash against my mind like tidal waves. Some days I feel like a good reformed Calvinist. Other days I'm taking up the case of free will with a vengeance. Phrases like the "inerrant word of God" are beautiful, until I realize that in the Christian dictionary the list of definitions are endless. Some explain this away and say the Bible is inspired like watching the movie Forest Gump, and I guess that helps them maybe sleep at night. It's a "nice" book with a "nice" message about a "nice" person. Not me. Jesus is a terrifying prophet. If he was a film maker, the moral message of his film would make us never want to watch a movie again. Ravi Zacharias once said: "Herein lies the difference between the moralizing religions and Jesus’s offer to us. Jesus does not offer to make bad people good but to make dead people alive." You don't come face to face with Jesus and expect a fuzzy feeling. You come face to face with Jesus to repent, be forgiven and be made alive.

Other Christians treat the Bible like the Quran. They forget that it was written by men. If something doesn't 100% perfectly add up to the most rigid scrutiny of some extremely far fetched definition of inerrancy it's not God's word. They are busy determining how much water was required to cover Mount Everest and the square footage to animal ratio of a really big boat. It appears that they have deeply entrenched theology with history. If the later is shaky their whole system tumbles down. They will figuratively and literally toss their Bible in the garbage if say, creation is allegorical instead of historical. It's an understandable position, for it shows great reverence for God's word. I find this crowd much more comforting, even if I do find them confusing. 

Did you know the first time I had alcohol I was so burdened in my heart that I felt like I condemned myself to hell? I am not exaggerating. I was a total wreck. I had come to think something about life because of a twisted view of biblical morality. A proper view allows me to enjoy God's creation with a clear conscience. 

Yes, it's that influential. 

Yes, it's that dangerous. 

Yes, it's that liberating.

Some of us read the Bible through the lens of a particular "ism". For me, the Bible vindicated Marxism. Perhaps due to my small minded understanding of the materialistic implications of the Marxist worldview, I was able to synthesize the two. The historical struggle of the rich and poor seemed to be present in the life of Jesus. Didn't Jesus treat the poor better than the rich? Ah yes, equality and liberation is the message of the Bible! While it is true, that Jesus does elevate the poor, and challenge the powerful, I seemed to forget that Jesus allowed himself to be crucified by the most powerful system of his day, Rome. I see myself chanting Hosanna! Hosanna! as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, expecting him to lay waste to the rich and powerful. I forget that moments before that triumphant entry Jesus was weeping over the hard hearts of his people. Jesus doesn't produce change from the outside in, he produces it from the inside out. Jesus said "my kingdom is not of this world".

I don't get it.

I love liturgy. I love Marty Sampson. I love Peter Kreeft, Donald Miller, C.S. Lewis, Francis Chan, Rob Bell (!), Brian McLaren, R.C. Sproul, Saint Augustine, Pope Francis, and even the odd Mark Driscoll book. I invoke common prayers in my times of need. I never take communion as a mere symbol. I will defend the priesthood of all who believe, but wish desperately I could participate in Holy Confession. Some days I feel a real conflict between "science" and "religion", other days the debate gives me a headache. I spend hours wondering about the juxtaposition of the words "born again" with the phrase "of water and the Spirit" in John chapter 3. I am an evangelical and a catholic. I don't want a label, but I always end up giving myself one.

Some nights I go to sleep feeling like throwing in the towel. Maybe the universe does add up to zero. Maybe there is nothing of actual worth. Maybe love is an illusion. I'm tired of defending the biblical view of homosexuality. I really am. I get knots in my stomach when I think about giving up. Or I could be one of those Christians who seemingly gets amnesia when the Bible gets difficult. Hell? Let's just pretend like those verses mean something different. I could become a master of grammatical gymnastics. I'll just invent an exegesis here, ignore centuries of Christian tradition, and soothe my confusion. That works right? Just add the word heresy to the long list of things that are "culturally" relevant and you have a free for all, choose your own version of Christianity. Unity wasn't really a big deal for Jesus right?

"If there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the bottom of everything there were only a wild ferment, a power that twisting in dark passions produced everything great or inconsequential; if an unfathomable, insatiable emptiness lay hid beneath everything, what would life be but despair?" Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling 

I've despaired a few times in my life, that can't possibly be "it". So what's it all about?

It's been about two and a half years since I started writing this blog. I can tell you that it doesn't get any easier. The more I study theology, the more questions I have. I wonder how anyone can actually stand in front of a congregation and open up the Word of God without trembling. I hope they do. All of this confusion from a single book? Allow it to be what it is, the Word of God. Allow it to terrify and shake you. Let it shape your conscience, but remember what's at stake. I feel like I am at the crux of my faith, but that  the answers will never come. Maybe that is how this faith thing works. You crawl along with the truth just beyond your reach. Maybe faith is the only thing that can keep humanity moving. 

It's a beautiful journey that is still just beginning. I wouldn't trade my sleepless nights away if it meant not being on this journey that the Word of God has brought me on. 


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