In setting forth the purpose of my blog, I have written that I want to be about loving Jesus with all of my heart, soul, strength, and mind.
This blog is dedicated to all those who desire to do that—making Jesus Christ central and supreme in every way.
Here is what I have made clear about myself and the blog:
As a young academic and an aspiring Christian mystic, this blog is unashamedly a reflection of my pursuit of Christ in spirit, soul, and body—the realm of the intellect as well as spiritual imagination. It is my desire that this blog would contribute to biblical academic dialogue, encourage humble Christ-followers, and challenge honest skeptics.
Those who follow my blog regularly know that I’m not afraid to press our collective evangelical buttons. I don’t do this because it’s in vogue, or because it’s the new hip (even “progressive”) thing to do these days.
No, I write about where I’ve been and where I am currently in my walk. I seek to remain teachable for the future. But I’m not afraid to be passionate about those things I’ve been convinced of in the present.
I wanted to share that with you. I suspect there are others that can relate to my own journey. I pray that you find this blog a place to think out-loud with me, even come to some much-needed conclusions.
I want to be flexible as I grow up into Christ. I truly want to be “semper reformanda” (always reforming). I hope you will commit to this principle of Christian growth with me.
I do recognize that it’s no easy thing to question long-held beliefs, or to challenge deeply rooted traditions. It’s a hard and often uncomfortable road. Many folks are just not willing to wrestle with new thoughts and ideas that seem to threaten their basic theological framework.
But I’m convinced it’s part of discipleship.
“Disciple” means we are learners on a journey. Learners change and grow.
While we may not be willing to embrace a new teaching today (or an old one that’s new to us), we might be in a better position later on to see the wisdom of it and experience its life-giving freedom. We must be careful. Overreacting to new ideas can actually make it harder to accept them later on when/if we begin to sense a change in the wind of conviction.
Of course, it may be a teaching we never accept because we feel it’s not compatible with our interpretation(s) of Scripture. Regardless, we must remain humble and teachable, allowing others to follow the Lord as best they know how, even if we decide we just flat out disagree.
This requires an attitude of humility and a willing spirit of forbearance with others. If we’re going to love the Lord with all or our mind, as we seek to hold together faith and reason, we must be intentional about these things.
In humility we must all recognize that there is inspired Scripture, and then there are our interpretation(s) of Scripture. We must remember this when we’re in dialogue with others. And we should always think the best of those who disagree with our interpretations.
Finally, we need not be fearful of intellectual challenges to our faith when we are getting all of our life from Christ, and entrusting others to him also.
When we’re doing this, we can allow each other freedom and space to grow.
The following video is a Greg Boyd sermon excerpt from a 2009 message on eternal punishment. He is prefacing his message by talking about the need for intellectual inquiry in our pursuit of Christ.
Are you encouraged to think and question in your church? What rewards have you experienced from loving God with all of your mind? What can the church do to be a safe place for intellectual inquiry?
D.D. Flowers, 2013.
February 8th, 2013 at 6:03 am
Love this approach, it’s not being different for the sake of being different. It’s seeking God, and in the seeking, there is trust, and there are human based concepts that shatter like glass when we position ourselves in a Proverbs 3 mindset (…and don’t lean on your understanding).
and Jesus said…”And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”
February 8th, 2013 at 7:51 am
As always… thanks for reading, Jim. I appreciate your input.
February 8th, 2013 at 6:21 am
February 8th, 2013 at 7:00 am
To answer one of your questions, here’s what I’ve experienced from loving God with all of my mind: When I engage my mind in wrestling with a tough question, I often find that there exists alternative answers for a Bible-believing, Christ-following person. Usually at least one option resonates a YES! in my soul – aligning my heart and mind. This congruity frees up energy that was used to quiet my restless heart or to ignore my frustrated mind and results in a passion so great I can’t stop talking about it! So in my zeal, I appreciate the warning/reminder to “remain humble and teachable, allowing others to follow the Lord as best they know how, even if we decide we just flat out disagree.” Great post!
February 8th, 2013 at 7:50 am
That’s awesome, Jessica. Thanks for sharing!
February 8th, 2013 at 7:56 am
I have found that by questioning long held traditional beliefs the Lord has caused a growth in my life that I don’t think I would have otherwise experienced. It has driven me deeper into scripture and opened me up to hear what others have been thinking even if I don’t always agree. Not that it hasn’t been difficult and painful at times when I’ve had to let go of long held beliefs. But I feel, believe and trust that the Lord has been and continues to be faithful to lead me in seeking His truth as I continue to examine the scriptures and pray for discernment that He may be “revealed to us by His Spirit.” Amen!
February 8th, 2013 at 7:58 am
February 8th, 2013 at 9:20 am
February 8th, 2013 at 9:28 am
I feel I have been on the very same journey as you for several years. I struggle with being so excited about what I’m learning and wanting to share it with others only for them not to really care or even think I’m way too ‘out there’. I have no desire to persuade others to see things as I do, I just want to share the joy and excitement of what Jesus is showing me. I often struggle with how to do this. Your thoughts in this post helped me tremendously. Thank you.
Sometimes its so hard to talk to other Christians about Jesus because, like Greg said in his video, “they know it all already” and sometimes my thoughts or questions about things aren’t welcome or are too different or aren’t mainstream enough.
February 8th, 2013 at 10:08 am
Hey Cori, you’re not alone. I’m glad this helped. Keep pressing on!
February 8th, 2013 at 1:27 pm
I really enjoy the thoughtful ideas you share here. Keep the conversation open. That was a major theme in the Vibrant Dance conference in Austin a few years ago where they sought to bring science and faith communities together to keep the dialogue going on intelligent design and scientific discovery. The fact is we are all too often ready to shut the convo down because science threatens our ideas on God, and God threatens our ideas on science. When it comes to pet doctrines it is even moreso the case; reformed theology threatens our ideas on freewill and freewill threatens our views of a sovereign God. Love, love, love, love, love…. it is the only way to keep talking and maybe actually find balance.
February 8th, 2013 at 5:00 pm
Well certainly you have the right to be wrong. 😉 Seriously, I accept the need to be teachable. However, I think too often we are drawn to the “new” when time and sages have already proven out the truth. A “new” teaching is exciting, like a new discovery. But there are many dangers. The pre-trib rapture, new in the mid 1800s, is one such example. I am very wary of “new” revelation.
February 8th, 2013 at 7:10 pm
Please explain to me what you mean by “Christian mystic”?
February 8th, 2013 at 7:19 pm
Colleen, it refers to the idea that we can commune with the Lord in spirit through intentional meditation and imaginative prayer.
February 9th, 2013 at 2:54 am
David, what exactly is “intentional meditation” and ” imaginative prayer”?
February 9th, 2013 at 8:44 am
Jan, I’m talking about the sort of stuff mentioned in classic books like “The Practice of the Presence of God” (Brother Lawrence) and “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ” (Jeanne Guyon). The book The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism is a collection of works.
Greg Boyd has written an excellent book called Seeing is Believing: Experience Jesus Through Imaginative Prayer.
The descriptions of these books at Amazon will give you a good idea of what I’m talking about.
February 10th, 2013 at 1:04 am
Really enjoyed this. I read a couple of other posts as well. Your writings welcomed and needed! Thank you…
February 10th, 2013 at 10:32 am
Thanks, Keith. I appreciate you taking the time.
February 10th, 2013 at 8:36 am
Hi, David. A very important topic! I feel I can relate to your journey also, all the way up in Norway. Scepticism and honest disernment of traditional doctrines and traditions is essential to grow in christ. Honesty is a virtue, and always the first part to taking a step in the right direction. When we, once upon a time, came to christ it was ultimatly our honesty that made us face ourself and that we couldn’t make it on our own. So why shouldn’t this same honesty continue to stay essential on the rest of our journey, also?
Keep up with the honest thinking, David.
February 10th, 2013 at 10:34 am
Thank you, Eirik! You’re right… why wouldn’t this honesty continue on the journey?
I’m glad you shared.
February 10th, 2013 at 5:02 pm
Love it! If we’re getting all our life from Christ and entrusting others to Him, we need not fear intellectual challenge. Inner peace and peace between brothers!
Also, I suspect that there’s an element of mysticism in anyone who’s been deeply touched by God, though many may not want to acknowledge this. Seeking deep personal communion with The Lord, and experiencing His love, is key to inner healing: To paraphrase Greg Boyd, if someone has grown up with rejection (for example), then until their EXPERIENCE of God’s acceptance is at least as profound and as frequent as their previous experience of rejection, they will probably continue mainly to experience feelings of rejection. No amount of reciting perfectly good (but intellectually appraised) truths can convince the heart: it needs input on a completely different level.
Love your blog!
January 14th, 2014 at 3:45 am
I’m curious about the intellectual structure that you write about here and that Boyd describes in the video. In your post Support Us or You’re a Bigot?, you shared your feelings on Progressive Christianity (that it was a bit extreme, but that you heard Jesus in their leaders) and Liberal Theology (that it was too far from historic Christianity to even be called Christianity). The interesting thing to me is that many (if not most) Liberals/Progressives profess the same belief-evaluating system that you and Boyd describe: an emphasis on the relational elements of faith (or getting your “life” from God, as Boyd would say) alongside the questioning of anything and everything. But, by definition, Liberal Theologians as well as some Progressive Christians (including Marcus Borg, among others) have come to conclusions on issues like the sinfulness of humanity, atonement, the divinity of Jesus, miracles, bodily resurrection, etc. that you described as separating them from historical Christianity. Many of Progressives/Liberals are both deeply spiritual (as far as an outsider could tell) and extremely intelligent. Some of them are Biblical Scholars who think that they’re actually being more faithful to Jesus and his first followers than historical Christianity on the fundamental theological issues that I mentioned, often arguing that various elements of the New Testament (including bodily resurrection, miracles, and claims of Jesus’ divinity) were intended to be interpreted metaphorically. If the correct way to do Christian faith is committed spirituality and honest intellect, many Liberal and radical Progressive Theologians are A+ Christians.
I guess my questions are How do you account for the risk that this kind of intellectual framework entails?, What went wrong (if anything) with many Liberal and Progressive Theologians?, and Do you believe that saving faith is independent from doctrine so long as it’s coupled with personal commitment to God?
PS: I apologize for the length of this comment. Please don’t feel like you have to address all of these questions; I’d love to hear any of your thoughts on the matter.
PSS: Your blog rocks!
January 14th, 2014 at 9:49 am
Hey Tyler, good question(s).
Without going into too much detail, it seems to me that folks like Borg (a very likeable “liberal” guy) are operating off a deistic, anti-supernatural, enlightenment framework. I do believe this is mostly a presupposition, while I suppose it is also a conclusion a skeptic draws from making faith more intellectually palatable. What I mean is… intellect alone doesn’t produce faith.
I believe, and I suspect Greg would agree, that true faith also involves the embrace of mystery—that God can and does bend or break through the “laws of nature” to reveal himself in spectacular ways. Of course, these laws are merely human observation. God is not really breaking anything to raise the dead… except for the purely naturalistic and rationalistic framework we attempt to cage him with. Sure there is risk involved in using our minds, but I believe God prefers it that way.
Is saving faith independent from doctrine? Well, the NT doesn’t allow for it. However, the Scripture clearly testifies that God’s grace often surprises us when it collides with honest seekers. That is to say, God alone is capable of judging a person’s salvation status. But I’m comfortable with saying that there can be no real commitment to God without some doctrinal system at work.
I’m glad that God is the judge… and that the judge has revealed himself in Christ.
January 14th, 2014 at 2:02 pm
I hear you. It makes sense that Liberal, naturalist Christians could be doctrinally too far from historic Christianity to actually commit to God. The hard parts for me are:
1. Addressing people in the middle, like Borg (definitely likeable!), who affirm foundational doctrines of historical Christianity but not in the normal way. For example, Borg believes that Jesus is the Son of God in the same way that Jesus is the Light of the World- metaphorically, not literally. He believes that Jesus was raised from the dead, but not necessarily in bodily form; according to Borg, the important part is that Jesus is still active and “alive” in a mystical sense, regardless of what happened to his physical body. Borg also believes in literal miracles and would probably agree with everything that you said about naturalism and mystery. Further, Borg affirms that Jesus is Lord in personal commitment to Christ and accepts everything that he believes (as a historian) that early Christians and Jesus himself believed.
2. Addressing spiritual Liberal/radical Progressive Christians (like Borg). It’s hard for me to believe that people who live by the Spirit (which John describes as evidence of salvation in 1 John 3:24) can’t be saved because of their (by my estimation) deviations from historical Christian doctrine. Especially people like Borg who have “converted” many people from Atheism/Agnosticism to life-by-the-Spirit, almost-not-historical (or simply not-historical) Christianity. It appears that many Liberal Christians back in the day were very similar to Borg in those aspects. I would describe many of them as honest seekers, so it’s hard for me to understand why they didn’t come to what the NT suggests is saving doctrine (unless I’m interpreting the NT wrong, as Borg would suggest)
3. I guess the reason this matters is that if a certain amount of doctrine must be affirmed for salvation, it wouldn’t make sense to question those beliefs in the way that you and Boyd suggest. In the same way that Pascal famously realized that the eternal risk/benefit of belief in God makes atheism unreasonable, I wonder if the eternal risk/benefit of belief in the core doctrines of historical Christianity makes honest rational inquiry unreasonable. Is there a way around this?
January 14th, 2014 at 4:07 pm
To be clear… while I affirm that doctrine is important, and that it shapes our living and practices (oddly enough not always in logical, consistent fashion), only the Lord himself can know a man so completely to determine one’s inner dealings with truth. But this shouldn’t cause us to be lax in our pursuit and affirmation of the truth about Christ.
My understanding is that Borg’s writings reflect a proto-gnostic view of Christ that was at work in the first century, and was in full bloom during the 2nd & 3rd centuries. The way I see it… you just have to say that the Gospels and Paul (e.g. 1 Cor 15) were simply naïve, superstitious buffoons living in a pre-scientific age. Interpreting the resurrection as metaphor (spiritual/mystical) undermines the entire Christian hope. I’ve written this before: “The early church didn’t experience explosive growth in the face of relentless persecution for believing the resurrection was a metaphor.” N.T. Wright believes this as well. There is simply no way that I can account for the growth of the early church without a physical resurrection and radical transformation of his disciples.
January 15th, 2014 at 1:15 pm
It’s funny that you mention NT Wright! I just finished The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions, written by Wright and Borg. That’s what inspired most of the questions that I posted here. I agree with you and Wright – bodily resurrection seems to be by far the best explanation for the early church’s writings and experiences. Wright also argued convincingly that, as you mentioned, bodily resurrection is essential for Christian hope. But after finishing the book, I was also convinced that belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus is not a requirement for (at least) a relationship with God through the Spirit. Of course, as you point out, only God can truly determine someone’s heart. But from my admittedly limited perspective, Borg’s personal confessions of faith throughout the book and his description of the Christian life (which was strikingly similar to NT Wright’s) are as moving and Christian as anything I’ve ever read. Perhaps salvation is a bit stranger than our doctrinal formulations may be able to account for?