Posted by: dacalu | 30 August 2009

Love Actually

I had an interesting conversation on the campus mall this week. Some of you may know that I spend some time on the University campus wearing a collar and bearing a sign: Spiritual Advice, 25c. It starts some great interactions. This Wednesday it started a wonderful conversation about what I believe–and presumably about what my fellow talker believed. He wanted me to admit to certain statements on the basis of Bible passages. For him they were perfectly straightforward and easy to understand. I tried to explain that I don’t interpret them in quite that way, but more importantly that I almost never have 100% confidence in anything. In all things, I try to accept that God knows more than I do. We see know as through a mirror darkly, but then we will see face to face.

I could tell that my neighbor was upset, and by the end of the conversation he was calling me a relativist. I too was a bit upset, because I felt that I was not really communicating what I wanted to. I also worried that I had been distracted by details instead of staying on message. So I’ve given some more thought to the conversation over the last few days.

My neighbor wanted to know what I believed “inerrantly,” and I admit to being a bit caught up in that. Inerrancy has a particular meaning for theologians that has to do with the impossibility of scripture being misinterpreted. Those who believe in the inerrancy of scripture tend to think the Bible contains no contradictions and is completely free from error on all matters theological, historical, and scientific. I believe in the authority of scripture. I believe that the Bible contains all things necessary to salvation. But I do not believe it to be inerrant.

So, my first response has been to say, “OK, what do I believe.” Perhaps I should have stuck with this during the conversation.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty
maker of all things seen and unseen

I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ…

A bit predictable, I know, but I really do believe all those things. Moreover, I really do believe that we are created in the image and likeness of God and that God loves and cares for us. (Luckily, I did remember to say these things during the conversation.)

The more I think about it though, the more I realize that this is not the central message for me. This is not the good news I have the opportunity to share. In the end, Christianity will never be something I do with just my head. It is not a set of statements to agree to. It isn’t even a set of beliefs that change my life and my actions. Christianity is a relationship. It is something I strive to do with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind and all my strength. I do not believe in the doctrine of the church so much as I believe in the Lord. My end is not the truth (though I seek it) but the Way, the Truth, and the Light (aka Jesus Christ).

It’s a scary sort of religion that seeks full communion with God. As CS Lewis has said, “he’s not a tame lion.” God does not stay in one place. We must follow. We must risk. Above all we must risk being wrong, we must risk the possibility that others have a closer relationship than we do.

It can be quite scary. Who is this God that we do not fully know? How do we deal with someone with so much power over us, who is nonetheless unpredictable? Is there any way to live with that kind of uncertainty?

Love.

Yup. We love God and one another. It’s a question of relationship. To use a phrase so often spoken by Evangelicals, “I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior” (or, as I prefer, “We accept Jesus Christ as our corporate Lord and Savior”). It’s not mentally accepting that Jesus saves, it is personally, emotionally, lovingly, and with quite unreasonable trust opening ourselves to a relationship with God, through God’s Son.

We see know as through a mirror darkly. I do not trust to my own beliefs. I do not accept scriptural inerrancy or papal infallibility or dogma as any sort because I know myself to be flawed. I am not a relativist, because me compass always points toward Jesus–not the idea of Jesus, never the idea–but the person, incarnate, still living, and still working in the world.

So I’ll end with a prayer. May each of us see God face to face this day. May each of us know enough to serve and doubt enough to follow. And may blessed uncertainty lead you to all good works by him who hold truth for us, Jesus Christ.

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