Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Heterodox Aftershocks 4: Context

As part of a comprehensive analysis of my shift in doctrine I'm trying to consider not just the pure arguments that have gone into the change, but the players involved as well. And I guess I'm the main player in my own play, so I'll examine myself first. I touched on this in one of the CSH (Considering Some Heresies) essays where I imagined what sort of emotional states could prompt this kind of shift in a person. The most obvious one would be a person who had lost a loved one to suicide. Most Christian doctrine considers them damned, so I could see an adoption of Christian Universalism as a coping mechanism in this case. While I don't think it has any bearing on the merits of the argument, it would cause me to be more suspicious of the idea if many adherents came from similar backgrounds and had similar characteristics.

So I'm looking at my life, and the particular time I'm at in it. If you read my last post you know that I'm riding pretty high right now. I just celebrated my first year anniversary to the greatest woman that God could have made for me. My kids have been improving in leaps and bounds. (though they still have several more leaps and bounds to go!)

When I survey my spiritual life up to this point, here is what I see.

Age 0-13: Infancy. Learning facts about Christianity, failing to apply them in any way.

Age 13-18: The Zealot Years. I got popular in my youth group, got into judgmental Christian music, and eventually started my own judgmental heavy metal band. I wrote lyrics about how there won't be any partying in hell, how grievously dead all the Catholics were, and how evil the wolves-in-sheep's-clothing who smoke and drink were. As a highly judgmental person I was equally judgmental about myself. This was a time when I had to struggle constantly with lust. I got engaged at 16 and after that I was hopeless.

Age 19-26: The Roller Coaster Years. (Mostly down.) Becoming one with a person can be the most devastating thing you can do. Especially when that person is a…. Well, I guess that's not important to this discussion. I had a high point where I quit my career because of my convictions, but the rest of those years were marked with total spiritual apathy. We'd try to go to church, mostly because of the momentum of the beliefs our parents instilled in us. But none of those churches were a 'good fit' for her. So our attendance was sporadic, and our Bible reading and prayer were almost non-existent. We were in one financial catastrophe after another. Our constant borrowing from our parents strained our relationships with them and with each other. The birth of our boys were certainly high points, but everything else was stress and misery.

Age 27-30: The Breaking Years. As Stacie pulled further away, I pulled closer to God. I took my dad's advice and started helping at a church. I had to go to the only one within walking distance since Stacie often had the car for days or weeks at a time. But I started going and serving consistently. Then I lost my job. Then I lost my wife. Then I lost my money. I learned what a panic attack feels like. I learned what it was to feel so scared for a person that you get physically ill. And finally I learned that I absolutely needed my extended family to survive. Not their money. But a relationship. At the same time I was learning that I needed God to survive. Not His blessings. But a relationship. This time is recorded on this blog. It was a time of shedding my old perceptions about a God of rules and regulations. I learned what the Old Testament was supposed to teach us: that we are hopeless to follow the rules. I found God coming to me as I was, miserable, broken and hopeless. And He pulled me out of it all. He used His faithful servants like my parents and Heather to accomplish that salvation.

Age 31-?: The Questioning Years. (For lack of a better title.) I actually started this process with the good ol' Problem of Evil back in the late 90's when I realized that the party line I had got of "Whoops! Mankind exercised his free will and is doing everything I hate now!" view of God just didn't cut the mustard. But what I find curious is the fact that my most intense questioning to date is happening when I'm most content with life. It seems to me like most people have to hit some sort of bottom before they start questioning life and their assumptions about it. But perhaps that only applies when they hit the bottom because of their poor assumptions. (Like alcohol will make me happy, or sex will make me loved, etc.) So if bad ideas bring you low until you have to address them, could the opposite be true? Could good ideas take you so high that you… I don't know… get board with them or something? And then go looking for new ideas? Well, that doesn’t make any sense to me. But I'm just trying to brainstorm here.

My point is that I don't understand what's motivating this exploration other than a simple discontentment with what I see as inconsistencies in the orthodox view. I've read what many call the very best arguments for those more orthodox positions and find them lacking. While I'm not a genius (I don't even know how to spell genius.) or anything, I think I'm bright enough to follow those arguments. A lot of smarter people seem to be content with them though. And I don't know how to explain that. Except in a way that could seem insulting, but actually would not be if fully understood. It goes back to that idea that God reveals parts of His Truth to some and not others. Effectively leaving some blind spots in everyone's vision. Which, to someone who disagrees with me, may seem like I'm calling them blind. But I'm trying to say that I'm blind too. But just in different areas. Of course that's assuming I'm right about any of these heterodox views. But I fully acknowledge that I could be pitifully wrong. In Mere Christianity, Lewis talks about the 'science' of theology. And Christendom being collaboration of millions of people experiencing God as a sort of telescope that figures things out about him. He goes on to say that a single person who goes against that collective knowledge is like a guy with field glasses looking at the stars and coming up with some new theory, then going to argue with the whole field of astronomers that they are wrong and he is right. Lewis failed to mention that Martin Luther was just such an individual. Besides, I'm not a single voice. I have found that there is a strain of Christian Universalism that stretches back to the very beginning of Christianity. Indeed, a strong argument can be made that most of the first several generations of the Church believed this way. So I don't see my self as a crack pot pseudo-astronomer or as a Martin Luther. I'm just a guy who sees a lot more sense and a better understanding of God in a theology that has largely been marginalized over the past 1,600 years.

So anyway… I guess the thing I really wanted to record is the fact that I'm so happy with my life right now. I'm in love with God, and know that whether I'm right or wrong, He is Love and He will be Just in all his dealings with humanity. And that's what is important to me. I may disagree with orthodoxy about what that Love and Justice look like, but I think I'm in full communion with them concerning those attributes of God.

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