After reading the introduction to Peter Enns’ The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins, I decided to research a little more about the Torah and the Hebrew Bible as a whole. My roommate Brian is taking an introductory class on the Hebrew Bible, so I bought the same text book he had. After realizing it was only the “brief” introductory book, I then bought the longer one.
I also picked up the study Bible Brian’s class has been using – The Jewish Study Bible – and have recently begun to read it. In the introduction material to Genesis Jon D. Levenson (the author/scholar to the intro material) says something that stood out to me:
“The relationship of compositional history to religious faith is not a simple one. It Moses is the human author of Genesis, nothing ensures that God is its ultimate Author. If J, E, P (short-hand ways of referring to differing strands within the Torah), and various equally anonymous redactors are its human authors, nothing ensures that God is not its ultimate Author,” – Pg. 11
I agree whole-heartedly with him. Faith through uncertainty, which describes the compositional history of the entire Christian Bible, is never easy. It challenges much of what has been previously believed or assumed throughout history (i.e. understanding Creation). But in my personal experience, I have often found my faith in God deepened and strengthened through the various questions and/or intellectual issues that have been raised.
I bring this up because it’s something I’m looking for in a new church home. With Calvary and Danny O’Neil, it was second-hand nature to follow God wherever He leads even though it might be calling many Christian doctrines into question. I loved that church for that specific reason: doctrines were not the foundation for Christian faith; God was.
I still see many of Calvary’s faithful from time to time and when I ask them where they’re going, the answers are pretty similar: “I’m kind of floating around churches,” “Not really looking,” or “Haven’t found one yet.” When asked why this is it’s usually because of rigid doctrinal beliefs, which were rather open discussions with Danny. Of course, not all the cases were about belief, but I’d say most of them were.
I think the subjects of Levenson’s statement and finding a church home are connected because what we believe about Scripture has a major influence on what we believe about certain doctrines and theology sets. Faith can either be placed more heavily upon doctrine and what fellow Christians say about God and Scripture or it can be placed on God Himself from the complexities arising from Scripture. No matter what, Scripture is a pivotal player in the Christian walk, whether liberal or conservative.
When I sat down with a fairly conservative pastor several years ago, I was told that to question Scripture would be walking on a “slippery slope.” It’s a very common counter-argument to those professing faith, but denying important doctrines like inerrancy or infallibility. However, what I think gets overlooked is how big God really is. Is He the kind of God who can only exist within a rigid box of doctrines and beliefs or is the kind of God who’ll go after the “lost sheep,” even if that sheep is on the slippery slope?
In my casual search for a new church home, I have found it very important to define what I believe and value about God and His intended story for my life. And I think it’s quite simple: I would rather be on a slippery slope with God than anywhere else. If God leads me into an intellectual journey, which, as a byproduct, challenges “essential” Christian doctrines, then I would have to conclude that I would be neglecting God to retain personal comfort. In other words, I would love God with most of my heart, soul, mind, and strength, but not all.
To love God with all that we are, we must be willing to trust Him when our doctrines fail to adequately describe Him. We must trust Him when our fellow humans fail because, after all, we are temporal; He is eternal.