Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Of What Kind

I took a “quiz” on a religious website that is supposedly designed to tell the quiz taker “What kind of Christian” one is.  The questions were primarily directed toward how one views the Bible in general.  Like any quiz or survey, however, the answers (four from which to choose) were not always close to what I believe.  The more I delved into the questions and the choice of answers provided, the more I began to question exactly what I actually do believe.

I can honestly affirm what is professed in the Nicene Creed, but I wonder if those particular points – which are specific points of Christian orthodoxy – go far enough.  Can it be true that I am a “post evangelical” Christian, a term I am not even sure I fully understand?

It doesn’t sound all bad, of course.  A “post evangelical” (PE) is one who has moved beyond the fundamentals.  A  PE has not stopped believing in the Messiah who came in Jesus but has begun asking more questions and considering more in-depth applications of these fundamentals.  I had long ago begun asking and challenging fellow Christians to expound on exactly what they mean when they say they believe, simply, “in Jesus” and that they have been “saved”. 

That He is who He claimed to be has to mean more than a simple acknowledgement of His existence because Jesus was not Himself the Almighty – He never claimed to be.  That He claimed to represent something much larger than even Himself also does not seem to quite hit the mark because this requires an understanding of what He represents. What restricts us in our human capacity to comprehend is that strange sense that one must be either/or; that is, one must be a fundamentalist who believes the entire Bible literally, or a liberal who literally takes “liberty” with what is written to make it fit more neatly into one’s life.  I suppose this is what I find most disturbing because what I believe – or what I think I believe – does not fit so neatly into one category or another.

There are many statements attributed to Jesus that allude to what must take place in order to “fulfill what was written”, but I have had professors who suggested these statements were later inserted into the text so that a case could be made for such fulfillment.  In other words, the Gospel writers were “making an argument”.  The same can be said for the Qu’ran and the Book of Mormon.  Each is expressing principles, of course, but each also has substantial statements of justification not only for faith but also, more or less importantly, for what is actually written.

In making a case, then, could it not be as easily stated that the Gospel writers were “searching the Scriptures” for those prophecies they believed had been fulfilled in Jesus?  So it may not have been that they were trying to “make a case” more than they were trying to convince themselves and their intended audiences that all that had been witnessed in Jesus’ life was indeed fulfillment of prophecy.  To suggest otherwise would be to suggest that some ancient writers were trying to manipulate more than they were trying to inform.  This all still begs the question: does it all have to fit so neatly into one category or another?

None of these questions can be answered in absolute terms but there is one component of the PE movement I can embrace: there exists a foundation upon which one can build.  The Kingdom of Heaven cannot be so neatly categorized in human terms, and maybe it is this concept we must first embrace.  It does not mean a continuing search would be futile; it only means the search must continue.  For the moment, perhaps it is enough that I am simply a “church-going” Christian (in my case, a pastor and preacher) who refuses to settle. 

Jesus said, “Seek and you will find”.  Let us pray, then, that this is enough for the moment – and not nearly enough for the moments to come.   

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