Seeking a higher way to look at things

June 22, 2007

church / theology

Sherman on the Mount says this:

I happen to believe (like a number of other evangelical thinkers) that my tradition has failed to examine itself critically and to reinvent itself … it’s appalling how we readily and conveniently compare other peoples’ worst with our best and thereafter engage in self-congratulatory affirmations, when all along our worst may have been worse than other peoples’ worst.

Powerful thoughts that I’ve been fortunate(?) to learn the truth of, and still struggle with.

In every kind of theology, and for that matter in every part of life, this is true and I’m constantly learning the truth of it.. both in other people and in myself. I met Jesus in a Pentecostal church, and attended a Pentecostal college to study Pentecostal ministry. Pentecostals are incredibly good at this kind of thinking. We at times want to compare Azusa Street to the Dark Ages, and we forget about the things we neglect in our theology and our view of life in the Spirit, and the things we’ve done wrong.

Pentecostals are typically evangelicals. Evangelicals are incredibly good at this, too. We’re very good at comparing our perceived vitality to the death we think is inherent in liberalism. “Liberals believe…” or “Liberals don’t believe…” and therefore they don’t know Jesus. And liberals do the same thing, in different ways.

The list can and does go on and on in this. Recently I was honored to sit and discuss this idea with some youth. One of them, at least, has serious questions about the reliability of the traditional evangelical understanding of Scripture, as it has been taught to this youth. Upon expressing these, youth in our tradition are usually shot down without a lot of dialogue, and unfortunately this is what had happened prior to our discussion.

When I encountered the issue, I felt blessed to be able to present the idea that there’s another way to look at most issues in theology, different from and learning from both sides. Whenever there is a conservative side, and a liberal side, we all know that they’ll argue and usually ignore whatever valid points the other side may have. Politics, theology, ministry, whatever. Usually, they’re both missing something. I’ve been fortunate to learn the truth of this, by having a close friendship with a guy who’s way more liberal than I am, theologically, but seeks and loves the heart of God at least as much as I do. And that’s what it’s about. Seeking and knowing the heart of God.

There are countless Christians who adhere strictly to whatever definition of orthodoxy they think is right, without seeking or knowing the heart of God. I’ve had times where I’ve been like that. I think it’s very easy to be at that place. Much easier than it is to spend time seeking and knowing the heart of God.