My Life in Circles

Over the last few months I’ve spent most of my time investigating the claims and theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Well, that came to an end recently and I’ve begun to see this exploration with some outside clarity again.

Most of the posts on this blog are in praise of Orthodoxy and while doing the research I had been more or less convinced of the Churches arguments for historical credibility. But now, while I’m still pondering somewhat, I’ve begun to sense the holes in some of their claims. An old friend and a new friend have challenged me to reconsider what I know and to spend some time with the bible – both of which have left me doubting many of the Orthodox positions. In addition, I’ve come to some new insights regarding claims to historicity and the ease at which one can use history to support your claims (in the same way one can use the bible to support your particular theology).

I can’t tell you how many times I simply feel like I’m going round in circles. Just when I’m quite confident that I’ve left something in the past and moved on…I hit a wall and realize it’s all too familiar.

My hope is that rather than circles I’m moving in some kind of spiral and every time I re-encounter something I move towards greater depth of clarity regarding each issue. This is my hope…but I’m in no way sure that it’s the case. It’s equally possible that I’m simply stuck on a theological merry-go-round with no way to get off!

Through my recent critique of Orthodoxy I’ve bumped into some familiar “old friends” that I thought I’d laid to rest…but apparently they’d like me to spend some more time with them.

So what are some of these recurring themes that I keep slamming into?

1.  Who is Jesus?

Are the ancient councils of the Roman Catholic Church really the only options regarding who Jesus is? If we believe that the Church of Rome corrupted so many apostolic doctrines and practices, why do we simply take it for granted that they were right about Jesus? Who were those early heretics that claimed the churches interpretation of Jesus was wrong – do we just accept that it was the correct one or have we actually given these other interpretations a fair hearing and understood why these men (and woman) disagree/d with the status quo.

2.  What is the bible?

The best-selling book of all time! But how many of us really know the issues surrounding the book that we all hold so dear. Like the fact that most contemporary translations of the Old Testament are made using the Greek translation which differs from the Hebrew manuscripts. What does it mean for us that there are a total of 4 different categories of ancient New Testament manuscripts and that nobody agrees which ones actually match the original autographs of the New Testament. Do we really realize how much interpretation goes into translation and that it has serious consequences for our understanding of the bible’s teachings.

3.  The Law and the Christian

Mainline Christianity has always taught that Christians don’t need to obey the Old Testament Law. The Catholic Church officially changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday (with no scriptural basis for doing so) and removed the second of the 10 commandments from their catechism (splitting the last commandment in two to retain the number 10). In recent years Messianic Christianity and other prophetic movements have claimed that the Catholic Church parted ways with the early church on this issue. They say that realizing that the Law cannot save us and discarding the Law are two very different things. What exactly did Jesus mean when he said that not a single “comma or full stop” would be removed from the law (except those parts that he fulfilled – like the abolishment of the sacrificial system) and that if we break the least commandment or teach others to do so we shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Should we be keeping the Sabbath and all the other Laws in the Old Testament?

4.  Is there really a Christian Mysticism?

I loved mysticism and spiritual experience before I loved Jesus. And when I found out that Christianity had a mysticism I was immediately interested. At first it did concern me that the only places I would find this mysticism were in Catholicism or Orthodoxy, but my desire for experiencing God transcended my fears. It just had to be true, otherwise, why would I want it so badly. But recently I’ve been wondering what exactly it is that I’m after with my mysticism. Am I simply wanting to wallow in the energies of God because they make me feel good? Did I simply replace my one time drug addiction for a God addiction? Just what is the relationship between mysticism and my desire to feel good?

5.  Christian Apocalypticism

No matter how you read it, the bible is an apocalyptic book. It is full of warnings, signs and prophecies relating to the end of time. I once held a very negative view of the world based on my understanding of the bible and its’ apocalyptic warnings. But the negative outlook became too much for me and I tried hard to see the world with different eyes – to have some hope that maybe the institutional church and the institutions of the world were not all as bad as the bible said they would be. My engagement with the theology of the emergent church and my exploration of Orthodoxy was part of my hope of finding some light in the church. But recently I’ve been challenged once again to stop looking at the world and the church with rose colored glasses and to accept the truth that I saw many years ago. Are we naïve to believe that there is still some hope left or are we just in denial about the true spiritual emptiness of the world around us?

Well, these are my current struggles and I’ll probably be writing more about them in the weeks to come – they’ve veered me quite far off the path of Eastern Orthodoxy and that’s okay. I simply pray for God’s grace to see the truth in a world that hates the truth and tries to extinguish the Light wherever it appears. May Your Word be a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

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About jacobsstruggle

My name is Jacques - a French variant of Jacob. I Love God, my Family and this wonderful gift of Life. In my experience the Spiritual Life can be quite a Struggle - this is mine.

Posted on July 2, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Hey buddy… my gut says ‘stop trying to find a context’. I think every philosophy, or brand of theology is ultimately self serving and so too often ends up being about institutional maintenance rather than Truth. You know too much now, and have great questions which are too big for any context without causing threat. I know this road is a lonely one but it may be the only way. The constant search for the ideal context will only leave you frustrated. The only other option is the beautiful, scary freedom which comes with being a homeless follower of God, rigorously seeking the Truth. Hang in there mate.

    • Thanks Sean, you’re probably quite right…Chris tells me similar things…I don’t seem to listen well 😉
      I think some of my biggest struggle is with how much of a struggle this is. When I accepted the Lordship and Salvation of Jesus I thought things were going to get easier…ha ha ha! I hate feeling like I’m walking around in a spiritual maze…I turn a corner, walk for a while, notice the paintings on the walls and the color of the carpet under my feet and enjoy the new surroundings for a while – but then I hit a wall. I back-track and end up going down a new passage, with new paintings and a tiled floor and some interesting chandeliers hanging from the roof but eventually this new path also ends up going nowhere. I feel like the servent who’s been given the talent and isn’t sure how to turn it into more. I’m seriously tempted just to bury the thing and give it back when the Master returns…but we all know how that story ends! So my only option is to keep working with what God has given me and trying to turn it into more…just not sure how to do that yet.

  1. Pingback: My Life in Circles – An Update « Jacob's Struggle

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