Saturday, February 13, 2010

Less Certainty, Deeper Conviction and Relationship

When the pastor of the church I am currently attending said things like this...

Deep conviction, not deep certainty.
Closer to God, more aware of short comings and faults.
The more you know about God, the more you realize you do not know.
Less certainty, deeper conviction
Not all figured out...God so much bigger...willing to listen to others.
The more you grow, more you know, more you realize that you don't know
Hold fast to convictions...deeper experience with God...recognize that you don't have all the truths.

Well, they've been stuck in my head ever since.

The statements were said in the context of talking about Jesus' enemies, particularly the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the "Religious Right" of Jesus' time; God loving, worshipful, but rule oriented and legalistic. When Jesus first started out, the Pharisees were moderately supportive, but suspicious. As Jesus continued his ministry, and broke more and more of the Pharisees' rules, they began to hate him, and in the end, were part of the group that arranged His death. The pastor was trying to give people some handles on what it was to be a Pharisee, and that pharisee type philosophy was not just a first century phenomenon. He gave two examples: The first was noting that those Christians who actually believe that they have "made it" to complete sanctification are truly not there. Truly holy Christians know that they will never "arrive" on this side of Heaven. The other was the way that the "Christian Right" and the "Christian Left" (yes, there is a Christian Left) have their positions and their certainties, and that they are correct and no one else could possibly be more correct then they are.

I have felt this leavening effect both in my faith and in my political positions. It does not help me much with political thought, since my thoughts are so, not "mushy", but so "in process". I'm a terrible debater anyway, having not been trained in forensics (debate, not CSI), but this has made me even worse. Sometimes, I think to myself, "That ain't right. I can't tell you why, but that ain't right." At least, with theology, I have some training and vocabulary, backed with a little bit of philosophical training. I know my convictions that provide the basis for and of my Christian faith. Who Jesus Christ is. The Bible's inspiration. The importance of repentance, the reality of grace through the work of Christ on the cross, His sacrifice. The way the Holy Spirit works in the believer's life, etc. However, I don't know all the details of how the Trinity works. I can tell you the different theories of soteriology (the study of salvation) but as far as which one is right, not so much. I agree with CS Lewis: If you hear one, and it makes sense, it makes it live for you, then that is the theory for you. I also have come to believe that while it is much better to make salvation certain by a repentance and commitment to follow Christ, the love of God for Man and the strong effect of the Cross may cause some people that will be unexpected to end up in Heaven. It is not my business to say if someone is saved; it is my business to witness about Christ, and what He has done for me and others, so that more may hear and have a clear opportunity to understand. That other stuff is "above my pay grade." and so I leave it to God. The whole predestination and how much we participate in our salvation thing--one of the major differences between the Wesleyan/Arminian/Methodist et. al. traditions and the Calvinist/Reformed/Baptist traditions--none of us know for sure, and no one should be ruled out of the Kingdom of God for holding one position over the other. Same with issues surrounding Holy Communion and the method of water baptism (total immersion verses pouring verses dripping, to put it simply, and the other controversy, adult baptism verses infant baptism). The more I learn about the Christian faith, the more I realize there is much that is not known for certain. The Bible, for us fallible, finite humans, is not always clear. We see unclearly. Only when we get to Heaven, will we know for sure. Then it won't matter as much, since we will be worshiping and loving God face to face. I must admit, I am looking forward to that.


Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
Meant to ask--who is the religious left? And are they all living in the tundra right now?

Ann T.

the observer said...

Ann T:

In a nut shell, the Christian left is progressive, like Woodrow Wilson and Barack Obama, and somewhat socialist in its outlook, with a lot of emphasis on justice and "doing good." Sojourner's Magazine is a left leaning Christian source. Some would call "Liberation Theology" Christian left. Theologically, they can be conservative, but are pretty uncommon in evangelical/conservative churches and more common in mainline protestant and liberal Roman Catholic congregations.

Clear as mud?

The Observer