According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My Faith Journey from Evangelicalism

 
"...In hindsight, my faith didn't require abandonment. No.
Simply a better resonance with what it wasn't hearing
in today's current generations of God's faithful." 

 
Years ago I began the process of investigating what evolution might mean to me as a Christian and found myself in the long process of re-thinking the fundamental progress that science has been making these past many years without my personal involvement and investment. However, about a year ago I began reporting on the Christian understanding of evolution and all the affects this understanding would have upon Christian doctrine if it were to be incorporated into a normalized view of Scripture (see the sidebars under "Science" on the right hand column) . I began by splitting articles up between anthropological and cosmological studies starting with what we know about hominids and the homo sapien genome structure and progressing forward towards Earth studies and studies related to the universe. Along the way I discovered a Christian organization by the name of Biologos to be deeply involved with the same concerns as I had and so, began utilizing their research and opinions to help more quickly form some basic ideas of what evolution means for the Bible and for the Christian dedicated to understanding the Bible's ideas about God as our Creator-Redeemer.

Having been risen in a culture of Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism requiring a form of biblical literalism and inerrancy, and holding to the more stricter view that evolution was fundamentally anti-biblical, I felt led of the Spirit of God to place these categories to the side and hold them in tension so that I could begin a re-investigation into what my faith might mean in light of all that we now know about ourselves and our world in evolutionary terms. From that day until this present I have undergone a radical change that has uplifted my reading of the bible and understanding about God. I have come away richer and more satisfied with the journey I've taken and now regard my past with some little bit of skepticism. The bible is no longer as literal as it use to be for me and in exchange I've come away with phenomenal spiritual insight to what God is presently doing in this world of ours. How I read the bible (cf. the sidebars Hermeneutics, Bible), how I understand Jesus in His many redemptive aspects (Gospel, Sin, Salvation, Love, etc), how I understand God (Theism, Narrative Theology), what I expect for the future (Kingdom, Eschatology), and for the church today (Faith, Church, Christianity) has become greatly enriched and fundamentally deepened. I did not expect this when I began. In fact, I expected quite the reverse (if not hell itself! according to disconcerted friends and family). But am amazed at how untangled I've become from the many binding cords of my more traditional faith heritage. An heritage which I can only have the deepest appreciation for, but one that I must transform away from towards  a type of one that I've been writing and describing as Emergent Christianity... which itself is in a similar state of transition. This is important to know as newer adherents like myself seek to gather into a broader space of faith acceptance, practice and worship. One more richly filled with an orthodox biblical tradition expanding outwards. But perhaps not spoken as well as it could be by some of our earliest emergent advocates.

In essence, I've evolved, or am emerging, into a Christian that is more open and freer of my more-restrictive, past traditional Christian beliefs and structures. And if you had started with me last April of 2011, when writing under the pseudonym of skinhead, you would've read of my dismay with Evangelicalism and my perplexity over a newer direction called Emergent Christianity that had gotten a lot of bad press and was being plied with a lot of misinformation. No less from the fact that I had to also sort out what my Emergent brethren were saying as they seemed to blindly stumble about the theological room examining differing parts of the same elephant and declaring "Aha, this is what faith means!" Or, "Oho, this is what it means now!" Each one using a differing non-rigorous structural, theosophic or philosophic, element to re-create a Christian faith that needed re-birthing, re-ordering, re-examination, and re-discovery. And it was this very thing that I felt I could do and had quickly become burdened to express. Driven by the Spirit of God as it were. Relentlessly. Tirelessly. Till I've arrived here in this present space tired and weary and glad for the burden to do what little I could in the area of Christian epistemology set within a postmodern framework. And since then have endeavored to take all the parts and pieces of my past training and understanding to reconfigure an expanded sense of evangelicalism that is more progressive. Less judgmental. More open to broader ideologies and methodologies. That is global. Transformative. Multi-generational. Pluralistic. And more attune to the postmodern cultures and societies of our times. Regardless of whether we call it Emergent or not. I needed a faith that saw Jesus in all His many forms and beauty. And this I believe is what God gave to me as my vision.

Thus, I have begged, borrowed and reconfigured every helpful idea that I could find among the brotherhood. And have dearly tried not to limit the power of God in this endeavor even as I've tried to recreate a more open conformity to Scriptures. Overall, I have first and foremost sought biblical direction and support for these newer (Emergent) ideas than simply stating mine own preferences and opinions. Or when I do, admit it while investigating these newer transformative ideas and insights. If ideas like evolution is true, or that God is closer to us today than He ever has been before, or that the essence of the Christian faith is Jesus, than I need to know how to arrive at these conclusions from a biblically supportive structure. At first this task was one of redefining Evangelicalism's ingrained "definition" of itself. I found those definitions self-limiting and fast becoming the very sacred altars of a church no longer living in this present world but in the past worlds of yesteryear's Christian endeavors, confessional commitments, and sanctified organizations. As such, it was no longer useful except for historic guidance and orthodox support. Otherwise, it seemed like all things Christian needed the probing scalpel of deep re-examination and re-orientation. This deconstructive effort was painful (both personally and corporately) but it promised a brighter re-constructive future. One that I've had the great, good joy of sharing however solitary its serpentine road of travel. There was no one road to follow but dozens of scattering bunny trails that went every which way requiring the sleuth of a detective to hunt out its main branches and estuaries.

And much like solving a Sudoku puzzle where one finds solutions to answers that are not there, so I began to examine my earlier Christian antecedents and theological structures for what they were not saying (not simply Evangelicalism this time, but denominationalism, and Christian traditionalism itself) to glean fundamental directions not earlier apparent to me. What I found was a space that was deafening in its silence and fearfully darkened to the willing traveller. But it was there behind the shut door (or doors in my case) and when pushed open, came upon a labyrinth of competing ideas and misdirections each requiring the lamp of discernment and patient examination. To venture into this mass of entanglement required a sturdy compass and the help of the Spirit, for without either I would be lost, and left either destroyed of faith or abandoned all together.

Consequently, my first 6-8 months of articles will speak to my dismay with the Christian rhetoric I was listening too. This then began the first part of my awakening. Part of that dismay was in Calvinism itself which I played off against with Arminianism to help re-balance my systematic heritage with a broader scope of heaven, hell, sin, and judgement. I needed to hear and see that God's mission of restorative fellowship to a broken creation is even now being remitted with His great, good love, and understanding of man in his human condition of pride and fallenness. From there I began to positively expand upon what a more progressive structure of Emergent Christianity may look like from topic-to-topic as I had time or insight. In the process I gained more confidence and began to use my own name for propriety's sake and in the great good tradition of journalistic ethics when doing the work of an essayist. At this point I knew I was moving in the right direction but that it needed further definition and structure as I could lend to it given time and information.

Where once I had been committed to writing poetry over the previous two years as a lifetime goal, and quite removed from the sacred worlds of ivory towers and flaming pulpits. Now my heart was burdened to lay my pen down for awhile and pursue, as I could, this newer task of re-igniting our Christian thinking imperiled by so many frailer (and untrue) epistemologies of what the Christian faith was traditionally considered. It had become a folk religion instead of a living faith. A divisive institution rather than a living fellowship. A political polemic rather than a compassionate faith ministering to the suffering masses around itself. A religion requiring too many rotten supports built upon the sinking sands of human idealism and disillusionment; and not upon the truer, time-tested bedrock of Christ Himself. As such, I began to write in prose using a combination of academic and devotional tracts. And before I could write I could only quote sympathetic Christian sources that were thinking aloud with me what I was thinking in my head. But speaking it much better than I could. And with much better background and information. From then until now I have been learning to blog my thoughts more openly, more intelligently, and hopefully, in a way that is helpful to other Jesus followers having the same questions, dismays and experiences as myself.

Eighteen months later I believe the burden of this webblog to have attained some semblance of transition and maturity that it did not hold when it first was begun. As marks of graduation, I can now read and listen to a wider branch of ideas and discoveries, and reconfigure them into a more helpful understanding of my faith, where earlier those same elements would've been ignored, discarded or heavily criticised. (But not all ideas or discoveries have been helpful, as in my experience of beholding the misdirectional, cultic expressions of New Ageism or Gnostic Mysticism of the Christian faith. Within them may lay some biblical truth that they have apprehended and made their own. But it is not the biblical truth that I recognize within my transformative Emergent faith based upon orthodox doctrine and biblical principle. To those groups my Christian faith will ever be at odds with, refusing to be waylaid along the highways of misguided inspiration.)

This journey is but a small beginning - but one that was necessary. And as encouragement, however imperfectly I may have written, I offer this blogsite as a source of direction into any-and-all areas requiring the postmodern care and acumen of Emergent Christianity. I have tried to create this blog as a wikipedia of sorts to theological questions. To my readers I give it away for comfort and guidance to be used as it can.

In hindsight, my faith didn't require abandonment. No. Simply a better resonance with what it wasn't hearing in today's current generations of God's faithful. These are my brethren, not my enemy. My brothers and sisters requiring better leadership and shepherding. And in its absence - constricted as it were by fearful judgmentalism and naive condemnation - I suspect that God is working diligently within the very rank-and-files of His body to help lead, guide, pray, and shepherd His fellowship until the church's pulpits and university staffs become more properly engaged with society's needs and advancements. At least this is my prayer.

Therefore, be at peace and know our God is great and will not be muffled by the ignoble speech and acts of men. Nor by his ignorance and pride whatever their positions in the church or in the ranks of men. God is great. And greatly will His works show forth both now-and-forevermore despite our best efforts to stop-up His voice. He speaks as a mighty river unbounded to the generations to come yearning for the sustenance of His gracious, compassionate, loving heart. No words of man may prevent His salvation to all men everywhere. This God is the God who will lead His Church unto salvation - by vision, by dream, by pen or by will. Sanctified in the blood of Jesus. Blessed by the power of the Word. Protected in the depths of the Spirit. May our almighty Redeemer be ever praised. May His glorious name be lifted up unto the high hills in shouts of acclamation. Amen and Amen.
 
R.E. Slater
November 13, 2012



 

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