It was at the end of May 2019 after I had watched the interview with Barbara Brown Taylor that I saw two Posts on Facebook from a man who had spent 30+ years in and around Pentecostal and Charismatic churches in the UK but who is now a very active Anglican who describes himself as an ‘armchair theologian’.
This is what he wrote:
Here are a few things I used to believe but no longer do (not an exhaustive list):
– That the Bible is the infallible, inerrant word of God
– That the “unsaved” will spend eternity in hell, a place of unending conscious torment
– That the “saved” will spend eternity in a place called “heaven”, out there somewhere beyond the blue
– That what we are “saved” from is God’s active anger towards us and our sinfulness
– That salvation is obtained through doctrinal conformity
– That what happened at the cross was essentially a legal transaction whereby Jesus took the fall for us so we would be spared God’s wrath
– That Jesus will one day return to slay his human enemies… but only after miraculously rapturing away his faithful followers
– That God is “out there” much more than he is “in here”
– That God is actively opposed to non-heterosexual relationships, and therefore so should his followers be.
Growth, by definition, is not static. It follows that if everything you believe stays the same, you’re not growing. And if you’re not growing, you’re stagnant at best and quite possibly dying.
Here’s to growing
Yesterday I posted a non-exhaustive list of a few things I used to believe but no longer do.Of course, just as growth involves letting go of that which has been outgrown, it also involves embracing and welcoming that which is new and life-sustaining for the next season of growth. With that in mind, here’s a quick corresponding (and, once again, non-exhaustive) list of things didn’t used to believe but now do:
– That the Bible is a very human, if divinely inspired, collection of literature that narrates humanity’s faltering path toward understanding God
– That we create hell for ourselves and others by transmitting our woundedness and pain and by relying on violence to solve our problems
– That our eternal future is much more about living on and caring for a fully restored earth than it is about whiling away the ages in a distant and ethereal heaven
– That what we are saved from is largely the consequences of our own inhumanity to ourselves and one another
– That salvation is a journey, not an event, and that the best guide to that journey is Jesus, who invites us to follow him in the way of peace
– That the cross was the supreme fulfilment and revelation of God’s all-embracing, self-giving, other-centred love; and that it was the place where we sacrificed God, and God in Christ willingly submitted to our sacrifice, defeated death on our behalf and returned proclaiming peace and reconciliation
– That Jesus is alive in the world, not only by his spirit but also through his mystical body
– That God is most reliably found not by “reaching up to heaven” but by daring to look and listen deep inside ourselves
– That God is not remotely concerned with skin colour, gender, sexual identity/orientation, religious affiliation… or any of the multitude of other barriers we construct to wall ourselves off from the “other”.
In conclusion, I’ll say again what I said yesterday: here’s to growth!
Can you relate to this?
I realised that those two posts represent a story of someone moving from Evangelicalism with its fear, guilt and shame (that I had only been vaguely aware of before 1995) to a place not unlike where I was as an Anglican some 60 years ago when I had been treasurer of the local church for 8 years, and before I had become disillusioned by what I had seen as a lack of ‘radical’ Christianity, and an inability to get answers to some of my questions, some of which related to the teaching of the trinity (that I had rejected when I was 13).
I had moved away from Anglicanism about 50 years ago. It was about 25 years ago that I was forced for a second time to reconsider just about everything I had ever been taught. This was the time that I was introduced to Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism as practised in America and very quickly became aware of how this results in so much fear, guilt and shame.
See “An Outside Observer of American Evangelicalism”.
I’ve now been drawn back to some of my Anglican roots – no such thing as hell and a recognition of the myth and symbolism of the early chapters of Genesis (as understood by both C S Lewis and J R R Tolkein). An understanding of the Enneagram and especially Spiral Dynamics have had an enormous impact on my thinking over the last few years. The more I have learned the more I have recognised how little any of us really know and how we are all seeing only a small part of life’s overall picture.
I don’t have any answers but if I can provide even a little “Food for Thought” that is enough for me.
People on earlier stages of their journey might find material that I posted over 15 years ago, helpful.