Scot McKnight has a very interesting post over at Jesus Creed. The comments are equally as interesting as the post, if not more so. As I read through the post and some of the comments I find myself thinking about my own faith journey. In the comments some have pointed out that in those who lose their faith there tends to be the shared experience of a very rigid systemic idea of Christian doctrine. A common saying during my upbringing that reflect this is – “If you start saying Genesis isn’t literal than pretty soon Jesus didn’t have a resurrection!” Today I fail to see the logic of such a statement, yet at one point in time I would have heartily agreed to it.
My own faith has moved from a fundamentalist “you must believe like this,” to a more Evangelical™ idea of “we’re okay as long as we believe (insert list of ten important doctrines that must include verbal plenary inspiration and inerrancy),” to finally where I find myself today – somewhere different all together. I would say now that as long as you believe Jesus is the son of God, died to make atonement for the sins of the world and literally rose from the grave we’re okay. Perhaps we could just say the Apostle’s Creed, or the Nicene Creed, and be okay. But I’ve reduced things even further than in my Evangelical™ days. Some doctrines which I used to hold quite dear (a pre-tribulational rapture – which I no longer ascribe to) I now care little about. I’ll have fun discussing things, but at the end of the day I hold very few doctrines closely to my heart. In fact, Jesus is pretty much it – him and perhaps the idea that as Christians we must live out the Jesus Creed, as Scot calls it.
Because of all this, I wonder at times – am I on the road to losing my own faith? I don’t feel like I am, which is perhaps the difference between myself and some of the others that are mentioned in the Jesus Creed discussion. Nevertheless, in recent years I have radically rethought the way I interpret the Bible. This has lead to some conclusions that would have be anathema for me just a few years ago. Chief among these is that you can be a Christian and believe in evolution – and that makes quite a bit of sense given the genre of the first chapters of Genesis and it’s ancient near eastern background. Yet for me these discoveries haven’t really shaken my faith. They’ve made me think. I’ve been forced to adapt some (okay – many) of my preconceptions regarding the Bible and various doctrines. But I have never really felt that my faith was in jeopardy. Perhaps I owe some of this to Dr. Snyder who taught me that the Bible could stand up to questions, and that regardless of what we may discover God has inspired the Bible and it is good and profitable. In many ways I am more…”passionate”…about the Bible today than I was even back when I viewed it in more conservative terms.
I do, however, find that when I get together with my brothers and sisters in Christ of a more conservative viewpoint I am often uncomfortable. This lack of comfort comes, I think, from two things. First, I think I often feel that I can’t be real with my conservative brothers and sisters. I fear that if they find out that I don’t care how one views Genesis 1-11 they will start questioning my own faith in Jesus. I fear that if they hear me use a profanity on occasion they will somehow view me as less spiritual than themselves. I fear that they may dislike my discussion of the editors of Proverbs or Qohelet (to say nothing of Acts or the Gospels!). Second, and this is really an internal issue within myself, I’m prideful. In some ways I believe that I have gotten beyond those kinds of “lower” questions and so I dislike having to be put through them again. I have a very difficult time, on occasion, remembering that once I shared the some conservative view that these brothers and sisters now hold. Because my own faith has evolved (and that very much is the right word for this) I assume that I am “beyond” them – when I have no right whatsoever to do so. Part of this assumption of being “beyond” comes from my own memories of when I shared a conservative view. Looking back I see how illogical and inconsistent many of my own views were. So because of a combination of my own issues (pride) and my fears coupled with experience (the possibility of being rejected and unloved by conservatives) I end up very uncomfortable around conservative Christians – who, it would appear, are the most populous bunch of people anywhere I live who have any interest at all in the Bible. Faith can never be a lone ranger proposition; so I wonder – is this the position that others have found themselves in? I think perhaps not, but how can one know?