Just a quick little post today but with some big ideas. Like many Christians of roughly my age and upbringing, I have experienced in recent years what I’m tempted to call a “faith journey.” That’s a timid way of saying that my Christian identity has evolved into something radically different from what it was, and continues to change. A lot. Every day. Taking stock of these changes and discoveries, I realize that there are at least three major aspects of Christian faith that have changed profoundly for me. They are Bible, Jesus, and Faith itself. Here’s what I mean:
1. I acknowledge that our Bible consists of many human voices in conversation, often argument, and that genuine interaction with scripture will inevitably involve discerning those voices and (here’s the dangerous part) picking sides. If we learn to navigate the tribal, violent, sacrificial, exploitative, divisive rhetoric of the inspired religious minds that wrote the texts, we can encounter Jesus in his historical habitat and discover his divine beauty, all the more loud and clear for its proper context. This is how I believe our Bible can and does reveal truth about God, as often in spite of what it says as by it.
2. Jesus’ teaching is amplified by his death and resurrection, not diminished or irrelevant in light of them. The glorification/deification of Jesus represents a validation and veneration of his prophetic message, not the turning of a corner whereafter his earthly sayings are no longer as relevant or appropriate. Being God’s son, in ancient parlance, meant (at least) that one was like God. If Jesus is God’s Son, it means (at least) that God is like Jesus: meek, mild, driven by love and empathy, calling people to abundant life, exposing the emptiness and futility of human systems of sin and domination. To imagine that Jesus has abandoned his humble human vocation in order to become the Emperor of Heaven is to willingly lose sight of his own stated values and of the Kingdom of peacemakers he claimed to establish. Jesus’ divinity and supremacy are demonstrated at Easter, not in some future hostile takeover. To await his appearance (or “second coming”) is to anticipate the advent of peace and light, not doomsday.
3. True “faith” consists in trust and hope, not mere belief. In fact, faith-as-trust anticipates and acknowledges doubt. If salvation or transcendence depend on conformity of doctrinal belief, then most all of us are doomed – even (or especially) those who are consumed by theological correctness. “Faith” and “belief” in the language of the Bible refer to a living and vulnerable trust in the person Jesus, a counter-cultural hope that his Way is the way of life. We can hold a wide variety of technical beliefs about religion and the nature of everything, but faith in Jesus means that when both world and religion begin to look wrong and hopeless, we can find meaning and identity in Jesus, the one who was faithful to his own Way to the point of death, and of whom (we believe) God has made a victorious and peaceful example.
This is brief and incomplete by design, it is meant to provoke thought and invite discussion.