Statements of Shape-shifting Faith
Over the past few months have been reading and following some people’s stories with interest. These people are on a journey of discovery and rediscovery, a journey where nothing is taken as read or black and white. A challenge of what were called fundamentals of faith and doctrines. There would be those who would call this a crisis of faith but I think these stories are altogether different, these stories are anchored in a faith strong enough to challenge the very heart of the axis it once swung around. It is almost like a post-Christian Christianity is arising that holds close to belief in the eye of the storm of shape-shifting faith. We have had post-evangelical and post-charismatic but these people are post any and everything, challenging and inspiring, questioning and yet certain. Below I just want to share some of the things I have read over the last few weeks;
“…so happy to have evolved so completely out of my box we call ‘evangelical Christianity’ …I think I can finally say
IT IS FINISHED lol not the evolving …but the ‘Christian box’ part!!!! I think I can safely say I no longer recognise or identify myself in terms of ‘evangelical Christianity’ any more.
I think it’s the way we idolise the ‘The Word of God’ that keeps us there for so long when everything inside cries out to be free…at the core of who we are is love, we are not bent on learning to be good through pain and suffering. Happiness and Love are joined together.” Joanne Gravell
“The bible points at him but not everything it says or implies about him is something he himself would always agree with. The bible is a record of a journey of mankind, a conversation, where the authors were at completely different stages in their view of God. Even the letters of Paul represent a journey; the letter of James has a certain lens and so does Hebrews. The problem is, if instead you take it all as equally inerrant, you must necessarily turn off your natural antennae for revelation and end up with a very schizophrenic view of God which runs deep deep deep. Evangelical christianity has layer upon layer of false views of God (even Jesus as a ‘sacrifice’ we’ve looked at through the lens of OT Jewish sacrificial system in order to retain our false belief in our own sinful identity). Whole doctrines have been built around Genesis which rely on it being a literal narrative of events (and it is not). We’ve tried and tried to balance one scripture with another, and until you slap your forehead and say “ENOUGH”, you are unwittingly stuck inside a system and a world view which is totally distorted and prevents one from growing and enjoying life. The bible needs to take a back seat and be understood for what it is and not be elevated to what it is not. Okay, if you ditch the bible as an inerrant principle-book you are then left with a temporary feeling of vertigo, disorientation, a sense of vacuum – but take my word for it – as soon as you do, your mind is open and (coupled with the fact that you are ALREADY united with God, no separation, and given that your true identity is GOOD – was never sinful – given that you truly ARE in His image) you will begin to see an unfolding like you’ve never seen before.” Steven Bennett.
“16 things people report about their shedding religion journey:
1. You’re losing your religion but gaining your sanity.
2. You left church because it wasn’t helping you know God or grow spiritually.
3. You know you are on the right path but trying to explain that path to others is like nailing Jello to a wall, and you often feel misunderstood.
4. Your new life beyond religion isn’t quite as defined as things used to be.
5. You have twice as many questions as you do answers but strangely you’re okay with this.
6. Sometimes you doubt yourself, and crave a religious fix to make you feel better.
7. You desperately wish someone (anyone!) would just accept you where you are right now.
8. Oh, for just a couple of people you could sit down with face-to-face and talk with about all this stuff without the threat of judgment and condemnation!
9. On Monday you feel free, and on Tuesday you wonder if you are going crazy.
10. Christ without Christianity, truth without theology, and community without church makes complete sense to you but it also makes you a heretic among some of your former friends who avoid you in the grocery store.
11. You don’t know how to answer the question, “Are you a Christian?”
12. You refuse to divulge the books you are currently reading because you know it’s going to alarm the people who already think you’ve gone off the deep end.
13. You get nauseated when you hear Christanese.
14. You’re not sure where your Bible is.
15. Suddenly you’re liking the people who were previously classified as “them.”
16. Prayer is more an authentic and powerful desire for the liberation of others and contributing to it, rather than a magic God-wand to save the day.”
– Jim Palmer
For me the contradictions and inconsistencies were simply becoming too much. What I’m about to say next I don’t mean to be condescending at all, but I feel like I need to say it…
It’s only people who become REALLY serious enough in their “walk with God” who will discover just how full of holes their beloved Christian religion is,” Andre van der Merwe.
Worrying Trend or Glorious End?
Of course stories like this can cause great concern, people turning their back on their faith, the church, their heritage, centuries of solid Biblical teaching, becoming a stumbling block to those weak in the faith, rejecting fundamentally held beliefs and practices. What happens to fellowship, evangelism, preaching, all those things we hold dear and close to us? This is either a worrying trend that we should be prayerful about and warn others about it, or can we look at it from a fresh perspective and say maybe God is up to something through those who are willing to have their own ‘Wittenberg Door’ moment? Are these people any more heretical than those that have challenged the status quo in the past? We have been praying for and believing for a reformation for years, are we now getting what we prayed for and not liking it now it is here? Many have spoken about Luther reforming belief but not really reforming the system the belief was wrapped up in, is this a total radical reformation going on that will be hard to control and contain because it will be taken away from the pulpits and centralisation and given back to ordinary people. Has what we prophesied for years into being now here amongst us and we do not recognise it because it is not in our image or form? It offends us and therefore cannot be a God thing. We all wanted a liquid church and now it is flowing with the contours of the land we want to give it walls again, walls of doctrine, interpretation, gathering, church, evangelicalism.
Kingdom Has Come and Is Coming.
I think in all the stories we need a true kingdom perspective of present and future. We need to realise that what has and is evolving is not the complete picture. People are working the issues through and they would admit that. There is nothing fundamental to hang the coat on and so they continue to wear it happily in full public view. There is a break out and a break through but no one has arrived or worked out where they are escaping to. Yet there is such a security like never before in faith and in the One who is faithful. The best thing to do with fellow travellers is not point out the flaws in their journey but to walk alongside them for a while loving and respecting them for being brave enough to walk on water. Not saying I told you so when they get it wrong and stumble but pick them up, dust them down and give them the freedom to go on their way again. Every story will be different and take on a completely different shape, and will continue to change shape. It is not about a follow me and do it my way but a follow me and do it your way in Him. We may not be comfortable with the shifts but it was never about comfort.
Millions Like Us.
For years those that have ventured outside the walls have been outside the remit. There are thousands in this boat. Held onto faith, struggled in the confines of organised religion, could not walk in the confines and walk life so they chose life and because belief was tied up in the place and going belief was left behind too. But I still think many have a faith, I see it, hear it all the time in people I talk too. There is now room for this faith as the walls fade and need to join the church fade, the walk of faith can be rekindled. It is vibrant, exciting, ever shifting, real, connects with life and family and work, rather than being another add on. Rather than a ‘you must believe x y z, there is a freedom to explore faith on the journey and see God who is bigger than Christianity at work in numerous, miraculous ways. Cole Moreton calls it ‘the church of everywhere’, and he says millions belong to this church without ever signing a membership form. To believe is enough. What about discipleship? Life is discipleship, love is discipleship, walking alongside is discipleship. What about neglecting gathering together? Gatherings take place all day every day. What about winds of doctrine? I ask back what if doctrine is the wind that we are being warned about and not just a creed of belief? Is this the day of the post-Christian Christian? Only time will tell. Or will it. will time ever be able to tell on something so fluid?