So what may have appeared obvious to others for a long time has become clearer to me recently.
In essence much of my struggle has been between various groups who claim Christianity contains external truths that must be believed and defended. Over on the other side of the road we have various groups who consider Christianity to be a more existential, esoteric or spiritual reality that cannot be tied down to concrete dogmas, doctrines, rituals and practices.
While I’ve been going round in circles trying to figure out which brand of Christianity is historically accurate, they’ve been trying to tell me that none of them are.
And you know what…I just might agree with them.
Above, Beyond, Within.
The Hands of God
Caress my soul.
floods my being,
a peaceful stream –
The Fountain of Life.
Glowing Light Within
Rising to my throat
The Sound of Joy.
By Jacques Rothmann
So, here I sit again. Doubting everything I’ve been reflecting on over the last 3 or 4 months.
Once again returning to the path I’ve been on these last 10 years.
Once again exploring mysticism, because without it I feel disconnected from God.
Once again exploring panentheism, because surely God is in everything he has made.
Once again exploring interfaith and ecumenical spirituality, because surely God’s Love and Salvation reach beyond my narrow view.
Once again trying to connect the dots,
calling out for help and asking,
“Lord, you are truth, help me live in truth.”
My heart is burdened.
I know Your love, Your grace, Your patience, Your kindness, Your mercy…
I see all these people around me, so few of them know You, and even those who do seem to be getting themselves into strange places that put their relationship with You in danger.
I find it so hard to judge, but also so easy. But the easiness always gives way to distress and doubt and struggle.
How can so few be chosen, how can Your love not reach them, especially those who carry your name and share Your love with others…I’m confused!
Six months ago I wrote a post about feeling like I’m living on a spiritual merry-go-round. Like I just keep encountering the same issues over and over again. Perhaps the problem is that I don’t hear so well and God needs to keep saying the same thing over and over and over.
Well, I’ve actually had some movement again and so I thought I’d post a bit of an update on the 5 issues I was exploring at the time of the original post.
1) Who is Jesus?
Check out my last post for the answer to this one. Suffice it to say that I think Jesus is exactly who the early church claimed he was. The incarnation of the Word of God. The Logos of God, born into the human race, fully God and fully man. Born to redeem mankind out of the hands of the evil one and reestablish humanity in relationship with the Father through the Son’s redeeming death and the work of the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ.
2) What is the Bible?
The Bible is a collection of various writings from key members of God’s adopted family. I believe God fully intended for the Bible to exist and to be used by his past, current and future children as they learn about the history of the people of God, the climactic birth, life and death of Israel’s (and the world’s) Messiah and Savior and the New Covenant established by Him.
While there are translation and interpretation issues in all Bible versions I no longer consider this an obstacle to the truth. I believe the Spirit of God can and will help every true seeker after the One and Only God to understand and rightly interpret everything that is vital to our relationship and salvation in Jesus Christ.
I think it is advantageous to read widely on difficult passages (both in terms of Bible translations and scholarly and pastoral interpretation) and seek God earnestly for answers to those issues that we struggle with.
I also think it is wise to always approach our interpretation with humility, as pride can easily blind us to our own faulty beliefs.
3) The Law and the Christian
After much prayer and reflection I am finally starting to let go of the issues raised by Messianic Judaism/Christianity. I still need to process some of this issue through writing but I’m starting to feel released from a legalistic desire to simply return to the letter of the law in the same way Israel lived before the New Covenant.
4) Is there really a Christian Mysticism
This issue has become one of the biggest life changers recently. I continued to question my motivation towards mysticism and began to see a sensate desire for experience that seemed akin to other unhealthy desires to feel a certain way.
In addition to this I encountered some disturbing realities linking various movements within contemporary Christianity that I have serious reservations about. In all these movements, mysticism and experience are the key components and seem to be the ties that bind the whole thing together. This has caused me to reconsider many movements and schools of thought that I had once felt quite at home in.
This issue needs its’ own post and so I will leave it at that for now.
5) Christian Apocalypticism
This one was on the bottom of the list and I’m actually only starting to re-explore it at the moment. In light of my previous issue on Christian Mysticism this last point has suddenly sprung to the front of my mind again.
I’m been very weary of jumping off the deep end with issues and yet I’m constantly finding myself up to my eyes in turbulent waters.
As far as this issue is concerned I find myself looking at it in two distinct ways. One way of looking at it is that we are standing on the precipice of greatness. While the world may look troubling on the surface there are some deep spiritual currents moving over the surface and the Spirit of God is hovering, ready to usher in the kingdom of God. If the church would just fix some of the problems of the past we could truly usher in the Millennium of Christ and establish the kingdom of God on earth.
The second way of looking at it (and the one I’ve usually considered more biblical) is that the world is not going to get any better and that the church is not going to get any better and that it is going to become progressively more difficult to remain true to the kingdom of God is a world that is doing all it can to destroy the gospel and the people of God.
Again in reference to the previous issue on mysticism, I’ve suddenly become very aware of the current trends in Christianity. A couple of years ago I thought mysticism very good and I felt like one of the few who saw the truth and really desired intimacy with God. Now I realize that the mystics are not the isolated visionaries, but rather they are becoming the staple stock of the new/emerging church. I light of this and many other issues I can simply say that I doubt what everybody thinks is the Truth and the Light is in fact going to turn out to be so in the end.
After a somewhat bumpy ride, which involved poring over digital and printed sources while laying all my concerns and struggles before my Heavenly Father, I feel I have found peace in my struggle with Jesus.
Of course I in no way mean that I now “fully understand Jesus” or that I have “conquered the mystery of Christ”, but simply that having wrestled with my issues over Jesus in the presence of God I have felt led to my current position. From here God may still take me much further or lead me down another road, but whatever the case, I know that it will be for my good and His Glory – Come What May!
For those of you who are interested I have recommitted myself to a Trinitarian understanding of God. While the Bible itself can be interpreted in various ways I think there is a danger in trying to view the text from a particular vantage point. By reading as a Unitarian I missed many of the clear markers of Jesus being more than just a man (even the perfect man).
N.T. Wright’s “The Challenge of Jesus”, together with the earliest Apostolic Fathers like Irenaeus and some help from other historical and theological sources, has left me firmly believing in the Incarnation of the Word of God who existed with and as God from eternity.
Where I may differ from other approaches to the Trinity is that I find myself in the Pre-Nicene understanding of the Trinity. Contrary to popular belief this is not the same understanding taught by the bulk of the Church today. The Eastern Orthodox position remains the most faithful and a number of individual Protestants and isolated churches are realizing this fact. This doesn’t mean that the rest of Eastern Orthodox theology is equally Apostolic (though they would like to argue otherwise) but I must with conscience side largely with them on this one – though I would rather say I side with the early church than with Eastern Orthodoxy.
A brief description of the position I now hold is as follows:
I believe that the Bible and Early Church taught the Monarchy of the Father and that the Father alone is the source of Deity. The Son and Spirit, while eternal and uncreated, derive their Divinity from the person of the Father.
The East has focused on the Unity of the Godhead as coming from the person of the Father while the West has focused on the Unity of the Godhead coming from the Essence or Substance of God. In a sense this makes God an eternal substance rather than an eternal person. I could say a little more about this but I direct you rather to some excellent scholarship on the matter.
For an easy read on the history of Trinitarian thought see, Christian History for Everyman.
For the Eastern Orthodox position as opposed to the Western (Filioque) position see, His Broken Body – The Filioque Controversy. This second link does much to describe some of the source of my struggle with the Trinity in the first place by describing the main differences between the logical outcome of Eastern and Western thought on the Trinity.
Finally I give you a Protestant description of the same issues with a slightly different conclusion but still wrestling with the same important dynamics. I include this perspective because it highlights the difficulties with the Calvinist/Reformed position and offers another Western position which I feel comes closer to the original view of the church (but still, in my opinion, falters on the filioque issue).
My chest heaves heavy.
Breath filling my lungs like thick black smog.
My brow like a bar of lead,
stretched across an aching dullness
My eyes red, dry – strained to failure.
My God, My God! Why have you forsaken me?
by Jacques Rothmann
I feel a fire within –
a spark ignites my heart
and floods my soul.
The Burning peace Engulfs my being.
But the flame flitters and fails –
an icy grate drains like a bottomless pit
choking ashes leave me panting.
With Cold and Thirst to swallow the world.
Then it kindles –
heating my heart like an ocean wave
streaming from my chest like a shining star.
The chasm consumed by the Blazing Flow.
The fire is water and the water is life –
a sapling grows in the street of the city
with healing leaves to make me whole.
But the River trickles from the throne of Fire.
My soul is a desert and my heart a wasteland –
blazing river flow within me
feed the sapling.
Let it grow.
By Jacques Rothmann