1.09.2006

A Part of my journey

Following is somewhat of a brief sketch of my Christian journey albeit just a portion thereof. I post this because I think it is best to situate or contextualize the things that I post on here so you could be better informed as to what and why I am reading and writing on the things as the below post and other familiar conversations. I hope that it serves well for this reason.
In the spring of 1998 my life took a turn from pursuing New Age religion to becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. In this time faith became real to me. That is, the Object of faith became real to me. Jesus Christ was presented to me as a Savior. A savior who gave me truth and pulled me out of a lie, a Savior who gave me a way from the wayward walk in the lie and a Savior who gave life to my dead self-projected destiny. I saw Jesus as Lord of the living and the dead. I saw God in the face of Jesus Christ. Faith to me was and still is a discovered/undiscovered reality of limitless potential of life under God in Christ. Discipleship, intimacy with God in the Spirit and the treasures of all that was in the Bible was my preoccupation and great interest.


After being introduced into the Christian framework that was operative around me I was compelled to study and show myself approved unto God. I sought God in the bible and attempted to understand how I could be a "witness" to others so that they too could be saved. At this time I was already exposed to the internal Christian community polemics over the KJV and every other translation. And because I had no close spiritual guide and was not "plugged" into a local church I was left to the winds of doctrines to be tossed to and fro in my naivete. After feeling confident to at least read the New King James I settled to put down the translation debates and move on to more "evangelism" with Ray Comfort, evidential apologetics and verse by verse Bible teaching by none other than good ole' Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel. By 2002 the Calvinism exposure showed me that there was an Arminianism and those two "friendly" sparring partners led me to John MacArthur Jr. who than became my next verse by verse man. The Mac-man showed me solid teaching on Jesus as Lord (Lordship v.s. Antinomianism) and what it means (at least in theory) to follow him. For a solid year I wrestled intensely with Calvinism and Arminianism. John MacArthur, James White, Sproul, Grudem, Piper and some Puritans passed on the reformed baton to me. Pursuit of intimacy with God and "soul saving" gave way to hard studying and thinking over theological books; introductory and polemic.


Reformed thinking made sense to me. Especially when presuppositional analysis took inventory of certain governing categories of thought which made certain reformed distinctions reasonable. However, I always felt critical of what was being done to scripture in this theologizing. The development of such distinctions and constructs and their related debates as in soteriology, eschatology, ecclessiology, the sacraments (or ordinances if you prefer; their both the same to me) and paedo/credo what-have-you impressed me with intense epistemic frustration. Without knowing what I felt and how to communicate it, I felt that systematic theologies and these categorical motifs and developments were suspect. There were so many polemics. It seemed every issue was up for interpretive debate. At one point I was actually leary of having conversations with certain persons for fear that I would be introduced to another polarizing debate or theological agenda. Truth was no longer God in Christ. Truth was now a metaphysical object that needed to be extracted from the text of the bible. Truth was all about "possessing" the right or "orthodox" propositions! Codifying your theological position was what the Christian venture was all about to me. Somehow a de-personalization occurred while I became wedded to these theological confessions. Even if it was well blended holisticly with spiritual devotional pursuit the abstract identity feeling of "truth" was an indication that something was still very wrong to me. It just all seemed to be out of balance or sorts. I did not know what to call it then but later learned that there is something terribly wrong in the marriage bed of faith & reason. I can now say that the feelings of suspect and frustration were telling senses to the tale of an unlegitimated epistemology, or said differently: a thinking and or approach to knowledge without warrant or a misuse of an approach to knowledge.

It was in this soul tension quandary of a time that I sought to get Danae and I grounded in a local church.......enter late 2003 at First Baptist Church of Carmel. It was here in the warm community of some peers that the balm of God's grace to be authentic with your tensions and with your voice that a very bright light of hope appeared. One fellow soon became the object of my inquisition. Not just because upon the first day we met him, he and his wife took Danae and I out to a very nice lunch. It wasn't either because after getting to know him more I realized this man was a fun dude to be around with and you could have good provocative conversations and bullshit allot. Rather it was because this guy had something called a "blog." But it wasn't that either. It was because this guy wrote freshly and had unusually different subject matters posted as links and topics of interest that he explored and readily put much thought into. Inquiring with Riley, I then was introduced into a culture within a culture that ever deeply resonated with my soul. This culture of sorts was also very intriguing because it had working labels as "emergent", "community" and ideas such as fluid theology and this idea of theology even had a different working definition than what I had adopted. It was a theology of embodiment. A movement in the church consisting of manifold expressions of passionate creativity, frustrations, dissatisfactions and courage to be honest in saying, " I find much of church and christianity leaving me disillusioned and cynical." I soon found myself in a forum of souls freely telling what they thought and felt. It appeared as if a good change was coming about indeed. However with that said I also was still apprehensive towards the approach of this "emerging" movement, fore at this time everything was open to question and scrutiny. I was critical and cynical.

Within the context of the relationships from First Baptist and the new conversations that occurred guidance and directions were indirectly offered to further investigate the issues that troubled me. I started to read some of Robert Webber's writings and found a host of other writers from his extensive bibliography within his two books The Younger Evangelicals and Ancient Future Faith. After this, I have gone to read writers like Stan Grenz, John R. Franke, R. J. Rushdoony, James. K. A. Smith, Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Lesslie Newbigin. Their critical thoughts on theology, ecclessiology, culture and the use of reason in the faith helped me to see the very foundations for the necessity of asking such questions as What is "the nature, task and purpose" of theology, and "What are the boundaries or limitations of reason?"
I have yet to better articulate what my reflections and findings have concluded thus far are on these questions. And the reason I write on my blog is so that I may have discourse over these things specifically. I believe I can say with many others now that something is definitely wrong with how some in the Christian community are handling scripture in making dogmatic assertions through a theological system or systems whatever tradition it be. I do believe our categories of thought are imposing alien methods to scripture that are in service to misdirected aims and provide more harm than good to the church.

I believe that I have been to general in what I have written but I hope still there is something here I am saying that may provoke you to ask some questions yourself about these issues.
I conclude in saying that an ecumenical orthodoxy is needed to be recognized. A generous orthodoxy needs to redefine our rigid notion of coming to absolute certainty on any given subject that the bible may teach and must be supplanted with an orthodoxy that is defined and marked by an attitude and humility in how we approach and use our reason with the scripture. I want to encourage you to be careful to not read into what I am saying and assume I am implying a negative plurality that removes the exclusivity of the message of Jesus Christ or that it is impossible to understand the bible and it is all a relatively subjective venture to interpret the bible, although to a degree it is. The clear warrant for me to make this assertion hinges upon what the scriptures teach about the nature of man as created/finite and fallible. And we are fallible because we are fallen in sin. Therefore reason needs and must be scrutinized and "chastened". This is an echo of the hermeneutics of finitude and suspicion of which John R. Franke speaks of.

I think it is reasonable to say in light of what I have already said above that in the current inquiries into the relationship between faith and reason and it's use in the development and handling of theology there is and are many important points that need to be addressed and questioned. This of course will lead to many people's theological understanding and cherished convictions being challenged. And the most prominent of our Christian leaders will no doubt be on the forefront and not immune to the challenges but should exercise intellectual virtue in seeking to eliminate false caricatures and a better understanding to what is on the table. The current dialogue that has been written on since the late ' 70's and advanced in it's understanding and developed proposal's till today are one of the most important cutting edge and pivotal subject matters that should urgently be required of all thoughtful Christians. What hangs in the balance is not whether Christianity will survive or the uncertainty of the advancement of God's Kingdom but one of redemptive faithfulness to the God who calls us into new life through his Son and in seeking to do His on going work of reconciling and redeeming the true character and nature of all things, and this includes our handling of the scripture and how we know what we know and what we do with what we know.

I really cringe at the thought of not being clear on what I have written because I hate being misunderstood but I do understand that the greatest learning does not come from monologues but dialogues. I know that what I am talking about is a work in progress in terms of a full understanding of the issues but I do feel confident in saying that I am informed enough to say what I have said however unclear I have written on it. So I invite and request your comments.


Peace be with you



1.08.2006

The Mesa Family
Danae and her brother Joshua
The Cloud Family, and one in the oven.

1.02.2006