Over the years I’ve been in countless theological debates. As a person with a PhD from a Reformed Christian Seminary, I can tell you that I have known all too well how bloody and pathetic some of these arguments are. One of my life’s saddest and most regretful sins is how I mistreated so many of God’s children (my brothers and sisters) over issues surrounding the bible.
A decade ago, I loved to get in these scrimmages. Now I see them as unfruitful distractions and mostly a terrible waste of time.
Why is that? Some may assume it is because I’ve lost my love of God’s word. Not true. I read it on the same schedule as I have for the last decade; namely that I read the bible cover to cover three times every year, 10 chapters every day and if I miss a day I usually read 20 chapters the next. Prior to that, I’ve read at least a chapter a day since I was 12 years old. I’ve now clocked close to 40 laps through scripture and have studied it in its original language. A person doesn’t dive into the bible like this unless they are really passionate about it.
No I see most doctrinal arguments as a waste of time because I’m much more concerned about something else. Pointing people to God. Yes the bible does this, but not so well when filtered with people and their traditions.
Think about this way.
We have the bible which is said to be God’s word. This is what all people argue about. They get upset about translation, or people use (misuse) countless texts to prove their point which is another way of saying that they believe they are proving God’s point on his behalf. I do the same thing. What else can anyone do? The problem is that we can focus on the meaning of words and miss God himself. How is this possible?
Level 1: God’s Word. The point of contact is the words on the pages of scripture. This is the battlefield.
Level 2: God’s Voice. This is the ability to actually understand what is said. This is the thing beyond the thing. If we get that, then we capture his tone, and posture, his emotion and disposition.
Level 3: God’s Mind. This is the beautiful, perfect, precise wisdom of God as it relates to our individual life. This is the thing, beyond the thing, beyond the thing.
Level 4: God’s Essence. This is the highest place. The place where there is nothing beyond. This is God himself. This is the force, the light, the power, the influence behind all there is. The uncaused cause. This is the before, the after, the always present moment, this is pure unfettered love, bliss, and the union of heaven and earth.
You see? Theologies and denominations want to argue and fight all on level one. They assume the other levels exist but they are absent from the discuss. As you get to the thing that is higher up and further back than the thing before, you eventually get to union with God. These levels are not steps, they are not a path to him, they are however the landing points of people’s spiritual progress. Many dance with words and miss God. Many get at what he said but miss him. Many still capture his wisdom and even employ it to create empires. But others seem to struggle to really get him. To touch the garment, to feel his presence and find a stillness and transcendence in his perfect moment. To be transformed.
While fundamentalism is invalidating every other religion in the world, many in those religions are celebrating level 4, even if they don’t have the categories or language behind it, all the while Christ is bringing them together. Just as he does for me and for you. Is there a time before you knew him? Is if fair to say that even then he was drawing you to himself, before you knew it?
Humility is the by product of touching that which is behind all of our churches, religions, doctrines, and rituals. If this is absent and instead you have a desire to take down heretics, or argue orthodoxy, or defend religious tribalism, then I fear your motivation may not be coming from where you think it does.
The more I read my bible and asked honest questions, the more I moved out of the fundamentalists fight and into a new place of Shalom. Now I have the ammunition to fight just about any battle on level one (and probably win) and surprisingly the only one I care about is the one inside that strives against my maker. The bible now allows me to see between the lines into someone so much brighter and beautiful. I go back everyday because I love him and I love the me that is being made by him. I no longer am motivated by duty, only love. I no longer long to know verses by heart, I long for the world these verses will one day create.
My path is full of bloody corpses from my life as an argumentative fundy. I hope to find forgiveness and to prevent others from this awful path.
Grace and Peace.