Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Orthodox Heretic

Today, I posted on Facebook about how I accidentally completed an online doctrinal questionnaire that I didn’t really need to fill out for the job I was applying for. Doing so, though, helped me think about some really important things, so I thought I’d put some excerpts here.

These are not the actual words I wrote. I sounded smarter, gave examples of how this impacted my life, and generally tried not to pick any fights. What I have here is the spirit behind what I wrote for many of these.

They’re important things to think about…even if you don’t have to fill out any applications in the near future.
The Trinity:We believe in one God — eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent existing as three persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one in nature, attributes, power, and glory.”

You want a God that makes perfect sense? You’ll have to invent one. And believe me, you won’t end up with something that even remotely resembles the God of Christianity.

Also, Jeremy Begbie’s illustration of the Trinity as a three-note chord, which is quite literally the only metaphor for the Trinity I’ve ever heard that doesn’t wind up as some kind of heresy if you think about it too hard.

Jesus’ Nature: “We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ… is both true God and true man.”

Basically, when you talk about Jesus’ nature, you’re saying, “This is true…and so is this other thing that’s pretty much the exact opposite.” And I love that.

Lots of people make fun of these type of paradoxes in the faith, but see my answer to the Trinity question above. That doesn’t mean that we should just shrug off any questions we have about our faith without trying to understand them. It just means that we need to have the humility to say we might not be able to find all the answers.

Sinfulness of Man: “All human beings are born with a sinful nature, and we are sinners in thought, word, and deed.”

Have you been paying attention lately to any of the following: history, current events, or yourself?

Good. Then why are we even questioning this right now?

Grace: We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures as a representative and substitutionary sacrifice and rose again for our justification; and that all who believe in Him are justified on the grounds of His shed blood and are saved by grace through faith wholly apart from human merit and works.”

Wow. Gets me every time.

There were other questions, more specific ones about the end times, gifts of the Holy Spirit, or details of how creation happened. For those, I couldn’t say with 100% certainty, “Yes, I know exactly what the Bible teaches about these things.” So I wrote longer answers, trying to explain what I thought, what I didn’t think, why I’m fine with other Christians disagreeing, and so on.

That's probably why I call myself an orthodox heretic. The heresy part isn't really heresy against the Christian faith. It's heresy against the Christian way-we-do-things. It allows for tough questions and understanding other points of view and not coming down with 100% certainty on all the points of your favorite theological acronym. I'm not ashamed of the fact that there are a lot of issues where I just don't know.

But those things are not really that essential, despite the fact that we might spend most of our time talking about them. Maybe that’s a little off-balance. I mean, when’s the last time you’ve had a good discussion about why God chose to speak to us through Scripture and what that means instead of arguing about predestination or worship styles or gender roles in the church? (If you haven’t had any theological conversations lately, call me or send me a message. I can help you out with that.)

I learned today that when I give thanks for my blessings, I only list things and people (which are great, don’t get me wrong). Filling out this application made me grateful for things like the ability to communicate, the hope found in our faith, the joy of constantly seeking out truth, and the sheer fun of not knowing all the answers.

Today, find a doctrinal statement from something—your church, maybe, or an organization or ministry you support. Think about the things it says. Talk about them with others. Disagree in a few places, but understand why you disagree. And don’t forget the basics.

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