Sunday, November 7, 2010

Acceptable to God

There was a time in my Christian life when I was dead sure that I was a fundamentalist. No one ever really defined that term to me in a theological way, and so I accepted it when I was told I was a fundamentalist.

I knew God's Word to be truth. What I meant, was that God spoke to me through the Bible in highly personal, directly applicable ways that were profoundly meaningful to me. I meant that I believed as true that the Person of Jesus literally came to redeem mankind in the flesh, fully God and fully man. I accepted this (and still do!) along with the truth that He conquered death and (in today's youth parlance =) re-animated here on this planet, walking around in His own resurrected body, the same one that had been crucified earlier. This body apparently had some dimensional qualities we lack, in that he could instantly appear in a room and vanish at will. But he still ate food, as proof that this body was real flesh and blood, not merely spirit.

If someone asked me, "Do you believe in a literal Adam and Eve?" I would have said yes. If someone asked me, "Do you believe God created the world in six days?" I would have said, "I don't know. He could have if he wanted to." If you asked me, "Was Jonah really swallowed by a big fish?" I would have said, "Why not?".

But the real truth is, I did not have permission in my mind to even consider there questions. I was told repeatedly from the pulpit that fundamentalists were the only "real" Christians, and I believed it. I was told that to accept any part of the Bible as anything less than historical and scientific fact would mean I could not accept the coming of Jesus, his death and resurrection and therefore my own reconciliation with God would fail. And I accepted that assumption as an absolute truth.

It's not.

While I accepted that, that all those other Christians around the world and here in my country were not really "saved", I just shrugged off these questions. How does scientific reality fit with the explanation in Genesis? Don't even go there. Too scary. I could wind up an atheist!

Now this assumption makes me laugh, as there is no way on earth I could ever become an atheist. I KNOW the Lord Jesus Christ! He is my Good Shepherd, the friend who sticks closer than a brother, the closest and dearest Love of my life. There is no substitution for experience, friends. From my earliest days, God has been wooing my heart with His loving-kindness and I am fully, completely His.

But for others, for those who internalized this idea, that "to accept any part of the Bible as anything less than historical and scientific fact would mean I could not accept the coming of Jesus, his death and resurrection and therefore my own reconciliation with God would fail", it has proven spiritually deadly. Some who truly believed this idea have found real evidence that the words in the Bible (a book meant to lead us to a living relationship with the Living God)are not historically and scientifically accurate.

Since they were not taught that the Bible is primarily concerned with man's relationship with God, they cannot accept it as fulfilling that purpose. By their religious instruction it must be historically and scientifically accurate or all a lie. Then they discover the physical evidence of reality points to an old earth/universe. And so, they decide the whole book is a fraud, a series of obsolete stories.

Well, guess what I am discovering? Fundamentalists were wrong! The rest of the church really DOES have a living relationship with Jesus! So-called "liberals" are not on their way to hell in a hand basket! Smart, educated people who believe in evolution also love the Lord! *gasp*

This is a beautiful thing God has done, is it not? Faith in the Risen Lord is not dashed to bits by an old earth. Faith in God's great love for us demonstrated in the death and resurrection of Christ can even survive in the heart and mind of a person who believes in evolution! Wow. God is much bigger than the fundies would have me believe. 0.0

A friend recently posted this little video on the internet. Like all analogies it is meant to highlight one particular truth, not serve as a definitive explanation for all metaphysical reality. It is accurately titled in this blog the Cupboard Analogy.

Fundamentalists will hate it, of course, because at the end it seems to imply that even other cultures and religions might have a relationship with God. This insistence that what a person believes, rather than what Christ has done, is what really saves a person has always been confusing to me. Apparently I am not the only person to have these thoughts.

But aside from that issue, it is a great analogy for how the rest of the body of Christ differs from fundamentalists and yet are still very much Christians. It is also unfortunately an accurate representation of their intolerance for other Christians who integrate their faith and this world in non-fundamentalist approved ways. =(

Here is an essay by one such brother in Christ. This author does not fit the fundamentalist mold, and yet his faith in Jesus is obvious. I was told this was impossible by fundamentalist preachers. *big grin* I guess all things are possible for God after all! (I read that in the Word of God too.)

Human Evolution in Theological Context.


  1. SS--I'll have to read your link later, after more coffee! But I want to agree with a most resounding YES to your indictment of narrow-minded Christianity.

    Your description parallels my experience exactly: I was taught that literal, anti-intellectual, anti-scientific fundamentalism was True Christianity and that anyone believing (or even considering) anything to the contrary was suspect.

    So when fundamentalism quit making rational sense to me (as it must to anyone who takes literalism to logical conclusions), I threw the whole of Christianity out the window. I tried to be an atheist because it made the most rational sense.

    But, like you, I continued to experience the Divine in ways unaccounted for in either science or fundamentalist Christianity. Having to accommodate that Divine reality made me realize that no fundamentalist paradigm--either scientific or religious--is ever going to have all the answers, or even know all the questions to ask. Reality is both science AND spirituality; Genesis AND evolution.

  2. You know what really blows my mind? How angry and ugly my fellow believers get when I ask questions, or express ideas other than the (insert religious tradition here) party line. It really amazes me.

    It's not like these are brand new thoughts. And it's not like no one else is asking these questions or critically thinking about these issues.

    And beyond that, Christian love and humility are highly prized in scripture. Jesus commands the love, and promotes the attitude of humility when he says the least are the greatest, and that the right attitude is that of a person taking the lowest seat at the banquet.

    Not one place does Jesus call us to reject or ostracize anyone for differing with us in our peripheral beliefs. Not one place! Not one. He never calls anyone ever to "defend" the faith. Jesus was a turn the other cheek guy. n_n

    It still shocks me when I get a face full of wet hen when I humbly share non-fundamentalist ideas with a fellow disciple.