Tag Archives: heresy

God loves ugly messes.

I don’t quite know how to say what’s on my mind right now. And yet, I realize that I’d better figure out a way, because. . . well. . . this will be a pretty shitty post if I don’t. Since most of my shitty posts are shitty on accident, I’ll try to fill my boots and do this right.

I know, I know. ‘Why start now?” Wacka wacka.

I’ve mentioned before  the big blogsplosion that resulted from Jared Wilson’s post where he quotes Douglas Wilson complementarian words. Today I read an article written by Chaplain Mike of Internet Monk that details how the two men have responded to the criticism they received. You can read the article here, but that’s not the main thrust of my post today. No, this one is a little more personal than that. See, when I was reading Douglas Wilson’s response on Blog and Mablog (great name, btw) I came across this passage, which is referring to the people who have criticized him:

“They deny the authority of Scripture, they accept as dialogue partners advocates of every abomination that Leviticus contains, they attack those who are seeking to be faithful servants of Christ, they call the holy wars of YHWH genocide, and so on, down the street and around the corner. Other than that, they are good Christians.”

 

It was then that I realized that, without even knowing me, Douglas Wilson is talking about me. He’s not telling the truth about me (well, he’s not telling the whole truth about me – there are some truths in that statement that I am proud to uphold) but he’s stating an opinion about me, and he doesn’t know me from Adam.

Douglas Wilson thinks I’m a heretic.

I’m not proud of this label, because there’s nothing but negative connation to the word “heretic.” Then again, I was a nerd before being a nerd was cool, and I found in my nerd-dom the redemption that comes from the acceptance of a label. Sometimes you can turn that label around – just look at how we view nerds now, compared to how we viewed them in the ‘90’s when I was in high school.

This is our world now. Join us.

It’s not like I’m trying to be heretical. I’ve been doing the whole “Christian” thing for less than a year, but I like to think that I’ve jumped into it feet first. I’m reading the Bible, I’m reading Bible commentary, I’m reading books by respected theologians (and some not-so-respected theologians), I’m talking to God, I’m asking for prayer, I’ve been dunked in the water and felt myself come out reborn, I’ve had meals and beers with pastors where I plied them with questions the entire time, I’ve tried to help people come to Jesus, I’ve tried to help people who need help getting food or shelter, I’ve tried to get my 11-year-old daughter interested in Jesus again, I’ve taught my boys to pray every night, I’m praying for the world, I’m asking God with all sincerity for him to establish His kingdom on earth. I’m doing lots of stuff, and so far as I am capable of judging my own intentions, I would say that I’m doing all of this stuff sincerely and with the holiest intent that I possess.

And yet. . .

I’m one of Douglas Wilson’s “them”. I’m not blaming him – I’m agreeing with him. I’ll even break down that little blurb from his blog to support his opinion of me. I’ll show where I disagree with what he’s saying about me and where I agree with what he’s saying about me, just to be fair.

They deny the authority of Scripture

 

No, that’s crazy. The authority of scripture derives from God. I’m not denying God at all. I’m not sure what authority you’re referring to, aside from God. I didn’t know the Scripture was part of the Trinity, actually.

They accept as dialogue partners advocates of every abomination that Leviticus contains

 

I don’t know that I accept as dialogue partners advocates of every abomination that Leviticus contains. That book has a lot of abominations. But come on – seriously? Leviticus? Here’s the problem with that – educated, intelligent people read the Bible, too. And some of them have noticed that Leviticus also condemns rare steaks, ear piercings, tattoos, cheeseburgers, and poly-cotton blends. Why do people like Wilson keep ignoring this? Leviticus is the world’s worst argument against anything. Please stop expecting us to pay attention to it. Please. Please.

They attack those who are seeking to be faithful servants of Christ

 

That’s silly. We love people trying to be faithful servants of Christ. We attack the attacks.

They call the holy wars of YHWH genocide

 

Well, yes. But then again, I don’t believe those wars were of YHWH’s actual will. I don’t believe that God has ever, ever, ever asked a single person, in all of human history, to go someplace and murder children. I don’t believe that God has ever, ever, ever dictated that an entire culture’s unmarried women were to be divided up amongst the tribes of Israel as the spoils of war (the married women were just killed). The conflicts that you call “holy wars” are genocide, and they’re wrong. I’m sorry, but the early Israelites showed a brutal nature that was characteristic of the time and place in which they lived, and they don’t get to slap “scripture” on the retelling of it and pretend that God told them to do it.

Also, funny note – if someone were to commit genocide today with the understanding that God told them to do it, I don’t know a single living Christian who wouldn’t say, “I’m sorry dude, but the person you heard talking to you in your head was not God.” Why do we hold the ancient Israelites to a different standard? They sinned. Jesus redeemed them. We don’t have to pretend they were doing something good. They weren’t.

Other than that, they are good Christians

 

I don’t know if Doug Wilson is being sarcastic when he throws me this bone, but I’ll take it. Thank you, man. I’m trying to be a good Christian. I’m not trying to stir up a hornet’s nest (for the twelve people reading this blog), but the ways in which I disagree with the scripture seem so damn Godly that I have a hard time ignoring them because someone slapped “Bible” on the cover of the book.

“Oh sweet, it even says ‘Holy’ on the front. Guess I can relax and stop thinking about this stuff.”

Like the disciples going to Jesus after he told the crowd the parable of the sower, I often find that I’m confused by what I read in the Bible. Like them, I go to Jesus. Like them, I trust in my personal relationship with God to help give my heart insight, perspective, and wisdom. That means that maybe someday Jesus will help me to “see the light”, and I’ll no longer be a heretic.

But for now I have serious concerns. If I’m a heretic – and it seems very clear to me that I am – is there a place for me? Are heretics welcome in the Body of Christ? Are they like homosexuals – I have a place as a heretic as long as I resist the urge to commit heresy?

Can I preach, if I’m a heretic?

I wish I had a more graceful way to end this post, but as I said in the beginning, I’m having a hard time putting my feelings to words. That’s alright – like all things that bother me, I’ll take these feelings to God. Please, dear reader, allow me to present this morass of emotion to you the same way I present it to God – as a big bowl of ugly confusion, without a clear answer within easy reach, given with all humility because, let’s face it, we often give God the worst gifts.

Especially us heretics.


Sauron and other heretics.

Wow. What a week!

I debated with myself over whether or not I should write about the recent tiny-tornado-of-fury that What the Faith experienced over our post about Pastor Sean Harris. After I reached out to atheist blogger Justin Griffith about his interview with Sean Harris, he re-blogged my post on said subject on his own (much, much larger) blog. On that first day, I experienced twenty-times more hits on this li’l blog than I have on an above-average day. The next day I received about eight times the average hits; the day after that, about five times.

Yesterday, things got back to normal. Whew!

As a result of the increased traffic, and the comments that followed, I have learned some things about myself.

1)      To some people, I am hopelessly, stupidly, naively sucked in by the great scam that is religion.

and

2)      To some other people, I am a heretic, and I have been (in some cases literally) cursed as such.

Now, I don’t blame people for thinking I am the former – I’m guilty of assuming the same thing of people of faith in my own past. As for the latter, how awesome is that?!?! Little old me, a writer on a blog with a mere handful of followers, put in the same camp as Rob Bell, Jay Bakker, and Mel White! I hope there’s a clubhouse somewhere because, seriously, I want to hang out with these guys. We can chill, maybe play some Xbox, and undermine the church and stuff. It’ll be cool.

“So, THEN I said, ‘The Bible wants EVERYONE to get gay married!’ Ah, good times, good times. A toast, lads – to EVIL!”

One thing I noticed about the people who had less-than-nice things to say about me, something that they all seemed to have in common, is that they appear to live lives of far greater theological (or anti-theological, as the case might sometimes be) certainty than I am able to experience. And for that, I envy these people.

I really do.

Yesterday, Brandi and I had a very fun lunch with our church’s prayer team pastor, Nikki. It was a lunch we’d been planning for over two weeks, and as we were firming up yesterday morning, Nikki had this to say.

“Just so you know, I’m not the theologian on staff. I’m happy to talk about practical stuff, but if you’re looking for heavy theological conversation, you should really hit up somebody else.”

She laughed at her own self-deprecation. I chuckled with her, and then told her, completely honestly, that I was super tired of theology at the moment, and I would love some conversation about the practical applications of prayer. And sure enough, lunch was great – we talked about healing, prayer, and visions. Nikki shared some anecdotes about dramatic healings she has witnessed. We talked about loving God – and hearing God – in a murky world where ambiguity is just a fact of life. I had an incredible cup of coffee. For a few hours, God became a subject that brought me happiness without confusion. And I need more of that.

Plus, doesn’t she just LOOK fun? :D

But now I’m back to work (both literally and figuratively), and the questions are back. I no longer question the existence of God – He’s made that abundantly clear to me, and I’m comfortable with the fact that I am unable to prove that He exists to others. I also don’t question what God wants of me, in the broadest sense – I should love Him, and love my neighbor. And that may be where my certainty on the subject begins and ends.

In a way, my own lack of certainty is based on two traits that I am trying to encourage within myself. These traits are humility and trust. My chief sin is pride, without a doubt, and in my past I generally didn’t trust people enough to take their anecdotes about faith seriously. In fact, for a long time that lack of trust in humanity kept me from abandoning my hard-line skepticism. There are no scientific studies (that I am aware of) that prove the existence of the miraculous – but if you ask any faith community, you’ll hear lots of stories of miracles. And I’m not talking about stories from scripture – I mean you’ll hear personal anecdotes. You’ll be told about cancers that disappear for reasons no doctor can explain, or chronic pains that afflicted someone for years disappearing within the span of minutes after a prayer. You’ll hear stories that seem, in every way, unbelievable – but the person telling you the story is adamant that it is the truth.

In my pride, I used to assume that these people were superstitious fools – not the same breed of enlightened human being that I belonged to.

Without trust, I couldn’t accept these stories as legitimate. The person sharing the anecdote was an idiot, an ignoramus, or a liar.

I’m encouraging myself toward a greater humility and a greater trust in people. I’m not any better than anyone else, and just because someone is telling me an extraordinary story of the miraculous doesn’t mean that the person is a fool or a charlatan. My humility and my trust allow me to grow my faith. But here is where it gets tricky – I can’t turn these traits off.

Hollywood recently touched on the subject, with Denzel Washington playing “Humility” and co-starring Captain Kirk as “Trust”.

So when a homosexual person tells me that they were born that way, I am humble enough to realize that we’re all human, and I trust them enough to believe they aren’t just saying that as part of a massive agenda of deceit.

When someone of another religion tells me their stories of miracles, I am humble enough not to put God in a box, and I trust them the same way I trust Christians who share the same types of stories.

When an atheist Army chaplain reaches out in the spirit of compassion to people in the armed services going through a painful de-conversion into atheism, I am humble enough to admit that he’s loving his neighbor in need better than I am, and I trust him to have the best interests of those soldiers at the center of his actions.

When I live in a world of ambiguity, I am humble enough to admit to myself that I will never understand the mind of God, and I trust God enough to have faith that He will act out of a boundless sense of love for all people. This, to me, implies that a bunch of people who fall outside of the Christian community are probably not going to hell.

So here we go again, delving into heresy – I don’t think it’s as easy to get into hell as many Christians believe. Do I believe in hell? I do. On top of that, I want there to be a hell, because some people really deserve some justice. I just don’t share the same certainty that some Christians have about who is going there. I can’t share that certainty, because I’m trying not to be so proud that think I’m better than people outside of my “tribe”, and I trust people too much to blindly assume that they are ignorant or deceitful. In essence, the two qualities that I need to encourage within myself, the qualities that help me to grow my faith as a follower of Christ, are the same qualities that encourage me away from theological certainty, into the murky place where heretics hang out.

Is it Mordor? It’s Mordor, isn’t it?

Some people believe that the Bible is clear on who is going to hell. I’m not so sure.

Some people will say that this means that I’m going to hell – probably to share a fiery pit with fellow heretics Rob Bell, Jay Bakker, and Mel White.

If so, at least I’ll have company.

AWESOME company.