Thousands of speeches have passed through my ears and countless millions of book leaves--endless writing into my eyes, all mentally swallowed, digested, and then later chewed like the proverbial cud. True, some of all this learning I couldn't digest, couldn't stomach, and so spit out rapidly. Other learning seemed so boring it was forgotten before I heard it.
But some writing/ideas/reflections became part of me, like Ecclesiastes says, “well-driven nails” hammered deep into my psyche, truths so powerful they are permanent.
One such lecture I heard online several years ago explained there are various levels of commitment for us humans. In the brilliant talk the speaker described the various levels of perception from the superficial to those so inner bone-deep, the ones which go to the deepest heart of things.
Here’s my own very different adaption:
I am very “low-church.’ Like small group Bible studies, spiritual sharing, active social concern projects, etc. I get next to nothing out of ritual, liturgy, repetition, tradition, hierarchies, etc.
All of those latter activities which so enthrall many, leave me wondering, what’s the point? Ritual activities seem outward, superficial,impersonal and boring.
I want the inward, the deep, and the intimately personal--the charismatic. Maybe this has a little to do with my history. I was one of the early “Jesus people.”
So I like loud Christian rock music, lots of worship action, dramatic sermons with visual illustrations, vivid art, inspired communities that meet in shopping malls, not in old traditional spired buildings, etc.
But all of these preferences--while 'luv'd dearly'--are just notions, personal likes, subjective enjoyments. I could easily leave them behind if need be, if God called me to a different way.
The Friends/Brethren denomination is, in my opinion, the best one to commune with other followers of Jesus. I greatly appreciate/like/admire/think the Friends and the Brethren (Brethren in Christ, Anabaptists, Mennonites, etc.) do represent well/best the Truth.
Though these denominations have their own smelly feet historically and locally, too. If a Christian leader could show me there was another denomination closer to the Truth, I would change immediately.
Based on my many years of studying philosophy, theology, church and secular history, geology, anthropology, biology, etc., I agree with some Christian scholars who think that God is Ultimate PROCESS, not Ultimate Substance, very relational, not immutable. Not so much 'being,' as 'BECOMING.'
That makes the most sense to my limited understanding. But it’s all only interesting speculation.
How can any human possibly know or understand the ONE who spangled the Cosmos into becoming before Time?
Besides how many hungry children did abstract theorizing ever feed? How many abused women rescue? How many confused teens helped to feel loved?
Too often, theological speculation divides and destroys, rather than heals. If in doubt, read a book on Christian history such as Jesus Wars by John Philip Jenkins.
The next deeper level of commitment concerns beliefs, some of which rose out of theological speculation.
The Virgin Birth. This belief is an important one for Christians and one I used to subscribe to, for about 55 years while I was a committed Christian. Christianity has a very large number of other beliefs which form various Church creeds, but I am not a creedal person, never was a believer in the Christian Church Creeds, didn’t even know of these theoretical abstractions until I reached college.
Instead, I grew up in a non-creedal denomination: American Baptist. We were moderate fundamentalists, but primarily concerned, devoutly, with helping every human being accept Jesus as Leader and Deliverer, and then live for him daily, following his ethical commandments. Doctrines only existed to help save humans.
But if Christians insist that I must adopt a creed (as many do) in order to be a follower of Christ, I would say while I identified as Christian, that I agreed/held to The Apostles’ Creed.
However, that was only a belief, meaning that I held it lightly.
If it had been proven by scientists and historians that the Virgin Birth never happened, it wouldn't have bothered me (other than wonder why Scripture claims otherwise/to the contrary).
Beliefs come and they go. As far as I can see, all of them or the vast majority of them have no impact, or very little, on day to day living for Jesus.
And since first writing this blog article, some of my beliefs have gone...
Very central beliefs up the ante to essential doctrines.
I trust that Jesus was inspired by God, that God is One, that God created us in his-her image, that the Bible has value, etc.
If one of these central doctrines were shown to be false, it would devastate me, leave me confused and uncertain what to think. But, probably, eventually I could experience recovery and move onward in my spiritual journey.
However, when it comes to the next level, convincements, if one of these were proven untrue, my life would never recover, at least not to any degree of worth.
I used to be committed to the view that Christian faith is the GOOD NEWS to every single human being, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, because God so loves the world and isn't willing for anyone to perish, that Jesus died for every single person who has ever lived, and for every single person who will ever live, that God wills only what is Good, what is True, what is Loving.
But then Augustinian/Lutheran/Calvinistic leaders took over most Christian churches and hark their prove their limited theological determinism as the Gospel. Like Charles Spurgeon claimed and now Matt Chandler, John Piper, Albert Mohler, etc. proclaim.
You know the poisonous T.U.L.I.P. of Reformed religion, the one that burned other Christians at the stake, drowned Anabaptists for refusing to baptize their infants, and foreordained most humans to eternal damnation, that slaughtered millions in wars, etc.
This version of Christianity claims God has a hidden will contrary to his revealed will. Supposedly, God has two contrary wills!
For instance, God really wanted/desired/willed for humans to sin; yes, God secretly plans every evil action and every destructive sin and all for "his own glory" and his own "good pleasure"!
It’s all about him. God is ultimately self-centered. God is essentially not love as various Scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 13 claim.
Rather God is essentially sovereign power; and God has foreordained most humans to eternal damnation, again for "his own glory." Yes, God even planned the Jewish Holocaust for his own sake, etc.
Since Augustinian-Reformed religion has been shown to be what Christianity really is, (beneath the Madison Avenue slick advertising of the apologists)...has been shown to be the "Gospel" (like Spurgeon claimed), that is why I came to realize this year that Christianity can't be true.
Yes, I oppose this horrific blasphemous view of God with all of my heart, all of my mind, and all of my soul.
Like John Wesley said, I would rather be an Atheist than believe in the Calvinistic view of God which makes God into a moral monster, little different from Satan.
Then, there is the deepest level of commitment--convictions, views which shape my inner heart.
Those values one holds/trusts in/lives by/views so deep one would die for. For instance, I think and trust that
the GOOD, Truth, Justice, Love are the Ultimate Truths of the universe.
If this were proven wrong, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I wouldn’t know how to live.
I suppose I would then exclaim, “Even if Love (meaning Altruism, Mercy, Kindness, Cherishing, Generosity, Patience, Meekness, Humbleness, Honesty, Equality, etc.) isn’t true, it OUGHT to BE!
That’s how deep this ethical conviction is within me. Much deeper than Notions/Likes, Speculations, Beliefs, Doctrines, and Convincements.
Love (Altruism) is Life’s blood.
Take away that and we only have a meaningless corpse called humankind, and an indifferent purposeless, absurd universe.
*Allusion to the philosophical autobiography of the theist and skeptic Martin Gardner
(This is a major essay I am working on... which is in process, so I would appreciate any suggestions as to how I can make it better and more lucid.
In the Light,