I am, as I said, a bit of a maverick (If McCain and Palin can use that term, so can I). I read widely and study many different schools of thought when it comes to the faith. That’s why you might see me refer to many odd bedfellows in my writings. I have learned a great deal from, say, a raging liberal like Marcus Borg and I have equally benefited from the writings of Chuck Colson. Politically and theologically, I am about as close to Colson as Tacoma is to Tierra del Fuego. Still, I find few writers who engage me as much as he does. Colson makes me think, just as Borg makes me think. So you see, if you are trying to find out a theological box to put me in, better get a shoe horn.
I’m a mutt!
With that said, let me share a bit about my views on several issues often discussed in Christian circles. I think you will see why I call myself a mongrel yet, hopefully, you will see that these positions are well thought out. None of my beliefs are of the knee-jerk variety and I am quite comfortable with what I believe. I see no reason to make any attempt to get others to view these things from my perspective. I say this not only because I believe each Christian has a fundamental right to establish and maintain a personal relationship with the Lord and his or her belief system is a big part of that relationship.
A second reason I do not seek to convert others to my way of thinking is the salient and inescapable fact that I could be wrong!
Just because I believe something to be true, doesn’t necessarily make it so. Our world in general, and the Christian faith in particular, are both far too complex for me to assume I have a complete understanding of anything. Second, even if you do disagree on certain point, I hope you will not cast me into the mold of an unrepentant apostate and put this blog on your Black List. I do believe, in the final analysis, we may all be surprised about a few of our cherished opinions when we get to heaven.
As to God, I have a firm belief in God as a creator and sustainer of the universe. I am not nearly knowledgeable enough to debate Creationism versus Evolution. It would not surprise me in the least if God used certain evolutionary principles in moving the universe forward. The closest thing I have discovered in terms of my beliefs in this area is Intelligent Design, but, as I said, I am not an expert here.
As for Jesus, I part company with the liberal theologians who deny his divinity. I believe in Christ as the Second Person of the Trinity; that he was a pre-existent being who came down into this world for a reason; and that the miracles really did happen. Further, I believe firmly in the Resurrection and that Christ indeed is still alive. In my view, the central theme of Christ’s mission was to announce and inaugurate the coming of God’s kingdom on earth.
In addition, Christ accomplished the reconciliation of God and humanity. How he did this is a mystery to me, but I don’t believe it had much to do with appeasing the wrath of a despotic God who demanded justice. As I will explain later, I am not a strong advocate of the notion of the substitutionary atonement. I think this doctrine was ill conceived and belittles God. Perhaps Christ, through his death, resurrection, and ascension, introduced a new, sacred presence or energy into creation which allows each of us to once again walk in unity with God, his plan, and his purpose. To me, this makes more sense than the substitution explanation. If this part of my world view makes me a heretic, then so be it.
Along these lines, I think that the implications inherent in the wonderful prayer of Jesus recorded in the 17th Chapter of John’s Gospel offer a far more cogent explanation of the results of Christ’s mission here on earth. Christ’s description of his unity with the Father and our unity with Him, is more understandable than any vicarious atonement explanation. Granted, the whole issue of dying on the cross as the perfect sacrifice would have made sense to a First Century Jew, steeped in Hebrew tradition. It is the same with the book of Hebrews in the New Testament. I am sure a Jew living in Palestine could easily make sense of what was being said in those pages. For the Gentiles of the day as well as the 21st Century non-Christian, these ideas are as alien as visitor from Neptune.
I also believe in the power and person of the Holy Spirit. I have never had the experience of speaking in tongues, but I do not question its validity. I am far from the view that the mighty gifts of the Spirit ceased with the Apostles. I think to hold the view that the gifts ceased with the advent of Scripture is a bit of a reach. I cannot fathom any reason God would choose to communicate his absolute truth through a book, or collection of books, when the vast majority of the world’s population was illiterate and further, there existed no means of mass producing the book. It just defies rational thought completely.
I know that God’s ways are higher than my ways, but that doesn’t mean God would do something that by any measure was just plain ignorant.
If I stopped right here, it would be reasonable to assume that I am a conservative or fundamentalist, but that would be a big mistake. Where I part company with my fundamentalist brothers and sisters probably start with the Bible. I do not see the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. I do not hold to a literal interpretation of Scripture, but instead tend to view it mostly as history and metaphor, revealing the grand story of God and the world.
The Bible is more about God than man and reveals his drama of creation, redemption, and restoration. I think the unique aspect of the Christian faith lies in the fact that it is the only religion where God chases humanity rather than humanity trying to work their way to God. As far as the “Jesus is the only way,” debate, I have my doubts. To believe this just on the basis of scripture alone (and only a few references at that) is an affront to both reason and common sense. Just because the Bible said something is so, don’t make it so. Scripture is of human origin, not divine, and subject to human fallibility.
For me, God is a being of grace and divine love who seeks our best. As far as original sin and the notion of atonement for sin, I find this to be a bit of a mystery. As mentioned earlier, I cannot fathom why God would require such an act. My reaction to Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion” was not like most. I walked out of the theater wondering, “What kind of God would require such a hideous thing?” My conclusion was: God wouldn’t.
So, as you can see, I don’t fit squarely in either camp.
Please keep in mind that I didn’t post this to initiate argument or debate. No, my only purpose is doing so is to stress the importance of clarifying our worldviews and share a bit about my experience in doing so. Also, I ask that readers understand that what I have stated here is just my personal belief system as it stands today. With this in mind, I offer two caveats, which I think a very important to this discussion. First, just because this is how I see things doesn’t make what I have said true. I could be wrong on some of these things. Further, I have no intention of trying to persuade you to see things the same way I do. I only posted this because several readers asked that I do so.
The second caveat is this: These are my views today. I have discovered that my views tend to evolve over time. That doesn’t mean that, like political candidates, I am often flip-flopping on the issues. Instead, it means that I do have an open mind and I am committed to growth and the discovery of truth. This necessarily means that God can, and often does, open my eyes to new realities that I failed to see before. Emerson once said that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” By this he meant that often times people do not change their minds on issues, even when evidence clearly indicates that they should, because they believe to do so would be inconsistent.
This post, taken together with Part One, hopefully communicates the importance of clarifying one’s worldview, especially in the culture we find ourselves living in. These days, with the shifting sands of post-modern culture and the general acceptance of moral relativity, deciding what one firmly holds to be true is more essential than ever before. For these reason, I encourage anyone reading this to set aside some time for prayer and reflection on this issue.
It will be time well spent.
© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved