I was driving out to the suburbs with my friend the other day and we got to talking about theology that tries to determine the precise nature of God. We were wondering about how people were applying principles that might be found in a logic class to form an orderly, rational, and coherent conclusion about the nature of God. It’s hard to believe that human beings and especially those in academics are self-centered enough to think we can actually fit God into a book. It seems to me like systematic theologians, who generally argue for the total sovereignty of God, may not allow Him to sovereign over their own theology—that is to say, they may not allow their image of who He is to change, despite God being vast and unmeasured.
Most of the time, I think the creator of the world is more complicated than ink and paper can possibly be, so I wonder if we can ever really understand him as completely as we sometimes demonstrate. I generally believe that the more certain we are, the more of a barrier to entry we can be for others. If we are so certain and we need people to precisely conform to our way of thinking, then belief might be the end of our faith and then it would be normal for someone to ask “what if I don’t know how I feel about Jesus and the Bible?”
My goal for this post isn’t to convince you one way or another about Jesus and the Bible. I’ve never been one for scholarly and academic debates, because I think this is a deeply personal matter. Christian apologetics, or debating about the merits and plausibility of our faith, really has failed to do much.
I would rather convince you that this community is a safe place for you to exist.
I suppose the rest of the question might be, “Can I still be accepted? Am I still welcome? Will you still love me?”
And I appreciate that level of making it personal. I think our faith is personal, and in this series of frequently asked questions, I think we’ll find that most of the questions we ask and try to answer in this season are personal in their nature.
It’s not surprising then that the root of this question may have to do with whether or not we are accepted. So often, it seems like in faith communities matters of belief are what allow individuals to get included in a community or not. But for me, and I think for us, the fact that God created us is what grants us access to a community.
You’re a person looking for a connection and I think we want to be a safe place for you to express and explore faith, put in context by a community. If believe in “all the right things” was even possible or a prerequisite, I’m not sure how much we’d be following Jesus or the Bible at all, in fact.
It seems to me that Jesus found people that were willing to follow him, even before they knew who precisely he was and what he was doing. As you can see littered throughout the Gospels, Jesus is often declaring who he is through signs, through miracles, and even through predicting his resurrection. The disciples don’t always get it. Matthew is exhibit A.
I think it’s noteworthy that the disciples can’t seem to answer Jesus’ question directly. Jesus asks them who “people” say he is and they list a slew of answers. He then asked them directly and Peter seems to muster up the right answer—but it seems like the others don’t know (mainly because their reply isn’t stated).
Peter, in Matthew and other Gospels, is among the most vocal, so it’s not a surprise that he puts himself out there.
And so right away, we are noting that the question of who the “Son of Man” is (which is an endlessly debated title—it could mean any number of things in fact) is not even clearly known. Peter ends us saying the “Son of the Living God,” which flies in the fact of his Jewish customs, and I think he should be lauded. I believe it too, in fact, Jesus is the Son of God and my Lord and Savior.
But the willingness to believe something so readily, despite what we’ve learned, despite the apparent evidence around us, and despite our culture and its context, is impressive.
You can see how fragile and incomplete are beliefs are. How necessary a community is in surrounding us. As it turns out Peter turns around and says some of the most foolish things that he says in the Gospel. Jesus says on one hand he is the Rock that he will build the church, and on the other hand, he calls him Satan.
It’s an interesting moment that helps us see that we might not ever get it perfect—why would we think we could?—and the fact that Jesus builds his Kingdom of earnest individuals, who are trying to change, and grow, and transform. He needs faithful, available, and teachable followers.
So and if you in fact develop some level of certainty about who God is and how to read and understand the scriptures—I think that’s amazing. But I’m not sure that that’s the most important thing.
If you haven’t? Well, I think you’re pretty normal. At least as normal as the disciples were. And Jesus loved them and accepted them.