Rocking the Boat: Random Thoughts on Faith, Church, and the Bible…

It has been months since I last blogged and since I am still near the beginning of the semester, I figured I could spare a few words here before my life becomes almost utter chaos (between my thesis research, internship, and three part-time jobs [TA, writing consultant, student life leader], I will be hard-pressed to find any free time).

It is my last year of seminary. I’ve said that several times and it still hasn’t quite sunk in yet. I guess I’m not sure it’s really supposed to until I graduate, right? It’s like in the movie Amazing Grace where William Wilberforce asks William Pitt after they’ve raced through Wilberforce’s garden, “Why is it when you stop running you always feel the splinters?” and Pitt replies, “It’s a lesson: we must keep going.” The reality of seminary ending will not likely hit until I have stopped writing the papers and reading the books.

But more on that later.

What has come to mind lately has been where I was when I started this journey. And no, it is not when I began seminary, actually. It goes much farther back than that.

When I met with my internship supervisor (Brian Doak at the Newberg campus of George Fox) right before the first Hebrew class, we talked a bit about where things had begun for me. He had asked me who my professor had been at U of O and I said it was Daniel Falk (now at Penn State). And then I told him how I even got started into Falk’s classes: by way of frustration with my Math 112 class.

Only the Lord knows how I even passed Math 111 when I failed the final (I think I received roughly a 56%), but somehow I found myself two weeks into Math 112 drawing countless circles that weren’t doodles, but instead serious attempts at calculations. Unlike any other math class that I had taken up to that point, I had even met with the professor in her office hours twice in the first week. And by the Thursday of the second week, I was ready to call it quits.

But I needed something to replace it; financial aid would not allow me to take 8 credits at the undergraduate level since “full time” was considered 12. So, at around 3 am (so technically Friday), I started browsing the course catalogues and stumbled upon the Religious Studies section. I knew at least one of my friends was in an Intro to the Bible class, so I thought I’d check it out.

It was completely full.

Yet I knew that the end of Friday was the latest anyone could drop classes and receive a 90% refund. And since I had just eaten an entire box of those Little Debbie Oatmeal Crème Pies, which are loaded with sugar, I figured I’d be up awhile. My math homework was certainly not getting done. So I sat there hitting “Refresh” for maybe ten minutes when, lo and behold, the Red Sea parted and the Intro to the Bible class had an opening!

To this day, it was the fastest I had ever signed up for any class.

Ever.

And that was when this whole journey began. I took that class, then the subsequent Jesus and the Gospels in the following fall. And during my fifth year (or as I call it, the Victory Lap year), I took two more classes from Professor Falk because why not? It was during those final classes that I realized that while my major had been English literature, my true passion was studying the Bible. And I believed that my time studying the Bible beyond the normal weekly Bible study was not done.

Why do I bring all of this up? Well, the two afternoon coffees certainly help, but mostly because within the past two days, I have been reminded twice of a church experience that is difficult to relive. Sunday night I received an email asking about this post, which is my honest thoughts about the closure of Calvary Fellowship, my home church in Eugene for 5 of the 7 years I had lived there. And just yesterday afternoon, a fellow classmate and I chatted about Calvary Chapel and why Calvary Fellowship had split off from it (he had heard about it down in California). And like any break within a church denomination, it boiled down to a difference of opinion regarding key beliefs. This time, the two key beliefs were the doctrines of pre-tribulation (rapture) and inerrancy, the latter of which was the major one that I had experienced while at Calvary Fellowship.

Without going too far into the details of what happened that led to Calvary Fellowship’s final closure (honestly, some terminology that is used around “major doctrines” like these is triggering for me), it is enough to say that Danny believed the Bible to be God’s inspired word – the divine revelation that pointed to Jesus. Furthermore, any critique of the doctrine of inerrancy that Danny had had was not for the purpose of “bringing down inerrancy,” as he once stated in a sermon (by the way, that sermon was the one and only time Danny had addressed personal attacks on him and his family that were based off of his beliefs – I mean honestly, who should have to justify why they follow Jesus to fellow Christians?). Even in the final days of the church, we had plenty of members who disagreed with him on this belief, but loved the community that we had all helped to create.

Little did I know that, when I was listening to Danny defend himself to his own church based off of countless rumors spread about him, I would have a difficult time attending any church.

A year after we had said goodbye to Danny, who moved back down to California to take up a job that would provide for his family, I started gathering with other former members of Calvary Fellowship. I think it was only because of their presence that I was even able to sit comfortably in a church (without feeling like I didn’t belong). I haven’t been able to do so since.

In my one normal class, which is all about hermeneutics (“the art of interpretation”), we’re reading this book by Michal J. Gorman who describes the interpretation process as a spiral – we begin in one spot, circle by critique and deconstruction, and ascend upwards as we construct a new way of understanding the Biblical text. As I read those words I pictured a spiral staircase that essentially gets designed as it is being built (something akin to the staircases at Hogwarts). But I didn’t that it was an apt description of how it feels to strive toward a better understanding of the text as you both deconstruct and reconstruct along the way.

As I found out with Calvary Fellowship, deconstructing to reconstruct can feel like chaos. In fact, it can feel like a shipwreck – like a church closing its doors because a pastor dared to challenge a dominant view of the Bible, but do so in a way that was conducive to a healthy faith and spirituality. Interpreting the Bible often feels like sailing on a boat; sometimes it will be smooth and easy, but others it will be terrifyingly rough and it will feel like the boat is about to capsize.

This imagery of a ship at sea is deliberate: almost two years prior to Calvary’s closure I had written a post about why I had chosen to stay with Calvary Fellowship; because my little individualistic faith had become grafted in with the other members. Or as I had put it then, my little rowboat and been broken apart and pieced back together with the much larger ship of Calvary. So when Calvary was no longer a church, I had to reinterpret what my faith even looked like, let alone where I saw myself in the church.

Where my seminary comes into play is how it has provided a place where I can ask questions and not be afraid of not finding an answer. I can mull over things without feeling the pressure to produce a nicely-packaged response (but of course, there is always the pressure one feels right before a paper is due, but that’s a little different). The interpretive methodologies that I have learned thus far have helped redeem a text so wrapped up in religiosity (a word I often heard at Calvary; not even sure if it’s a real word). I feel more comfortable in exploring a text, especially after having learned its original languages.

As you might guess, I’m pretty excited about this hermeneutics class – not only because I might learn some new methodologies for interpretation, but also because it continues the journey that I began in a night of frustration with a college math class my freshman year. Learning more about the Biblical text is all that I really wanted to do in the first place. But now I can do so without feeling inadequate simply because I have a different method of approach or don’t have the “right” method (which is all that inerrancy really is: a method).

Because it’s okay to rock the boat.

Faith, then, seems to be a byproduct of how well we trust God when we don’t feel like we can trust anything else, like the Bible or the church. God is above and beyond all of that. In fact, no amount of prepositions accurately depicts where, when, how, or why God even is (I know, such an English major thing to say, right? Ugh.). God just is. And sometimes when we come to the Bible, that’s all we have to go on.

And that’s okay.

God bless.

A (Sort of) Review of Peter Enns’ The Bible Tells Me So…

In 2008, I had difficulty with the Bible. Okay, it wasn’t really difficulty with the Bible, per se; more so with outside pressure about the Bible. That is, I attended a church whose pastor didn’t affirm inerrancy – the belief that the Bible is perfect – and received confrontation after confrontation regarding why I chose to keep going there. “There are too many red flags,” a friend told me. “If I were you, I’d leave,” another pastor of another church advised.

Yet what no one stopped to consider – not even myself – was whether or not the doctrine of inerrancy was a healthy way of viewing Scripture. At the time, only my pastors from that church were the ones to suggest that it wasn’t. It didn’t stop the confrontational conversations, which carried the aura of my salvation being on the line, but it did help quite a bit as I waded through for myself. Ultimately I kept going because my pastors proved to be more critically engaged with the Biblical text than those who advised me to leave. Questions were explored, not shunned.

With all of that said, I now turn to Peter Enns’ latest book, The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable To Read It. As the title suggests, it targets the whole concept of defending the text as perfect, especially when it comes to spiritual matters. This is the kind of book I wish I had back in ’08 because it would have assured me that 1. My salvation is not at stake when it comes to reading Scripture as an imperfect text and 2. We begin to understand the authors of the text when we remove that presupposition (or an “essential belief” as that other pastor described it) of a perfect text.

Of course, removing such a prominent belief in a good majority of Christianity (at least from the Protestant side of things) might mean chaos for someone. It might mean they begin to question the existence of God altogether. Such chaos is evidenced by that pesky “slippery slope” one must walk down before unbelief or doubt. And yet, as Enns highlights, such a slope is not a problem. In fact, faith oftentimes seems like nothing but slippery slope after slippery slope, which makes one wonder whether or not the peaceful, level plateau where everything is certain and coffee is cheap is nothing but legend.

Here is a passage from Enns’ book that speaks of such chaos:

An unsettled faith is a maturing faith. Christians often get the signal from others that if they doubt or struggle in some way with the Bible, their faith is weak. They are told that their goal should be to ease the stress somehow by praying more, going to church twice on Sunday (and Wednesday if need be), or generally just stop being so rebelliously stubborn and asking so many questions.

But one thing we see in the Bible is how often people’s trust in God was shaken – and not because they were weak, but because life happens. Whether we read books like Job and Ecclesiastes (as we’ve seen) or the dozens of psalms that cry out to God for some reason or another, life does not move along smoothly.

You get the feeling from the Bible that being unsettled is almost a normal part of the process.

Not that we should go looking for it – it will find us soon enough – but struggling in some way seems like something we should expect on our own spiritual journeys. True struggling in faith is a stretching experience, and without it, you don’t mature in your faith. You either remain an infant or get cocky.

Feeling dis-ease and challenged in faith may be God pushing us out of our own safety zone, where we rest on our own ideas about God and confuse those ideas with the real thing. God may be pushing us to experience him[1] more fully, with us kicking and screaming all the way if need be.

Feeling unsettled may be God telling us lovingly, but still in his typical attention-getting manner, it’s time to grow.[2]

My walk with God has been this unsettled path – sometimes of whether or not God exists, other times of whether or not homosexuality is a sin (or other topics). But such an unsettled-ness has compelled me to listen more, trust more, and step out in an act of faith more. Sure, there were a lot more questions once I chose to go the route of my own pastors at that church, but such questions compelled me, more than ever before, to seek God. These questions forced me to uproot my own foundations to see what was there and upon doing so I realized that those foundations were full of sand and not bedrock. And, strangely enough, the more questions I asked, the fewer answers I received, but the stronger my faith became.

It is almost like asking more questions is kind of the point.

All in all, this is a great book that I wish I had had back when this issue was much more prominent in my life. I highly recommend this book to anyone considering seminary as a potential path because it is a great introduction to the way that seminary beckons one to rethink the Biblical text. And of course I recommend this book to anyone who believes in God, but isn’t sure about the Bible. One other thing I noticed about following my pastors was that my interest in the Bible increased exponentially. There was so much I was missing (and still am, in some ways).

If you’d like to read more stuff from Enns, here’s his blog: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/. Only one word of caution: he is a Yankee fan…

God bless.

[1] Enns has a footnote wherein he discusses the gendered pronouns: “I do not believe that the God of the universe is male or female, but, following the biblical convention, I will use male pronouns when speaking of God. We will be looking at a lot of passages from the Bible, and adjusting the language at each point could get distracting and become the unintended focus. I realize – and respect – that not all would agree with me in this decision, but I just want to be clear about what I am doing and why.”

[2] Enns, The Bible Tells Me So, 238-239, boldface is mine.

Faith: A Slippery Slope with God…

After reading the introduction to Peter EnnsThe 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.

God bless.

Seeing the Bigger Picture…

A certain tweet caught my attention earlier today. It was quoting the famous theologian, John Calvin, “A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.” This bugs me.

It bugs me because it implies that part of the Christian’s duty is to defend God – to pick apart “liberal” arguments about who Jesus was/is, the truth of Scripture, or Christianity’s exclusivity. I will say that part of our duty is to be critical of not only the arguments of those who disagree with us, but our own as well. But this does not mean we must constantly go on the defensive mode every time our beloved doctrine (whichever one that may be) is questioned.

It’s not a new thing to say that as followers of Christ our lives ought to reflect His; it’s what it means to be Christian (“little Christ”). And yet I find it quite strange that many of my fellow Christians (and oftentimes myself) aggressively defend our “close-handed” beliefs (beliefs that we must not let go of). Jesus didn’t play the religious game and that’s why He was able to win arguments in His encounters with the religious elite. If life is a game, He changed the way it was played back to the way it was supposed to be played all along.

What did He have in His life that we’re lacking? Well, besides a direct line to God’s office, He had what Scripture calls wisdom. He saw through the arguments of His religious peers not because He was like some Harvey Spector on steroids, but because He constantly saw the bigger picture. In the grand scheme of life, our little religious bickering about how perfect the Scriptures are or aren’t, about how the Trinity works or doesn’t work, or about how God will only admit into heaven those who have faithfully believed in Jesus or if He’ll make some exceptions – none of it matters.

What matters is the bigger picture: Knowing and sharing the love of God. In Luke’s gospel, a rich ruler tells Jesus that he had upheld the commandments of God since he was a kid. But what does Jesus tell him? “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me,” (Luke 18:22). Jesus told this rich man – and all those within earshot – that striving simply to live out the commandments of God, to live out the law, was not enough; it is to live as justly, graciously, and generously as God. Simply, it’s to live like Him.

I am not saying we are all like the rich ruler who had everything and yet lacked what was most important. But I am saying we run the risk of missing the point – missing the bigger picture of life – when we “bark” to defend our Master. I believe God created man and not the other way around – so to describe God in a “What we would do” manner is to degrade Him. And last time I checked, our Master was flogged, stripped, and crucified and His “faithful” dogs ran with their tails between their legs.

God is a big guy who can clearly defend Himself if He wants to. What often troubles our inner religious selves is that God doesn’t want to defend Himself; He wants to defend us. Why else would He sacrifice His own Son – His own spittin’ image – on the cross?

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends,” – John 15:13

Ehrman’s Error…

My first experience with Bart Ehrman actually proved more positive than negative. Reading through Misquoting Jesus gave me a much different and brutally-honest perspective of the Biblical manuscripts we have – such a perspective that compelled me to dive much deeper into the study of Scripture. After reading Misquoting, I turned to his text book, A Brief Introduction to the New Testament, and received an even deeper education into the formulation of each book of the New Testament. In comparison to Misquoting, Ehrman’s text book was also much more balanced.

As a recent post of mine makes clear, inerrancy is not an essential doctrine for my faith in God and His Son, Jesus Christ. In fact, if anything, it dilutes Scripture for me – dulling it down to a mere book on doctrine and systematic theology rather than a unique, inspirational text that interacts with the divine God, Yahweh. From this standpoint, I gravitated (at least initially) towards Ehrman’s approach much easier than many of my friends might. But after reading the first chapter of his most recent book, Forged, I must say that Bart Ehrman has gone off his rocker.

If you’re unfamiliar with Ehrman, he’s gained much publicity for his controversial books: Misquoting Jesus; Jesus, Interrupted; God’s Problem; and finally Forged. While I haven’t read either Jesus, Interrupted or God’s Problem, I could easily detect throughout Misquoting an undertone of cynicism and bitterness towards Christianity. I detect an even more intense undertone in Forged. But that’s beside the point. What really ticked me off was certain moments in his new book where he’d mention something in passing that was completely subjective, but yet he wouldn’t back up his claim with the evidence. The premise of this new book is to see how the New Testament books were all (or at least mostly) deliberately forged by other names and not the names the books claim to. He claims “objectivity,” but fails to recognize his conclusions are completely subjective.

Ehrman does admit that this new book is not a thorough study of ancient forgeries. Be that as it may, as a “layperson,” I want evidence. If you’re going to make a claim such as “[W]e know of over a hundred writings from the first four centuries that were claimed by one Christian author or another to have been forged by fellow Christians,” you better have the objective evidence – that is, evidence not stilted by one’s own personal agendas when reading the text – to back it up. I personally believe that pure, untainted objectivity is extremely unlikely, bordering impossible. There always seems to be some deep root of subjectivity that has a major influence on how we read texts and formulate opinions. In a paper for one of my English classes, I called this natural-subjectivity our “literary goggles.” We all have them. Some are more obvious than others; while some are less. Ehrman’s literary goggles are laid out flat on the table in his introduction.

I really became frustrated with this book when I came across page 22. Ehrman says in passing, “The book of Hebrews was particularly debated; the book does not explicitly claim to be written by Paul, but there are hints at the end that the author wants readers to think that he’s Paul (13:22-25),” but does not back up this passing claim with any evidence nor does he refer to a later chapter where he might. And if you actually look up the passage in Hebrews, one is not clearly driven to Ehrman’s conclusions:

“I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon. Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. Grace be with all of you.”

Pauline language? Yes. Author’s attempt at deceiving you? No – at least not “objectively” as Ehrman claims. It could well be a common way of communities writing back and forth. And, as Ehrman implies (he likes the word “intimate,” which basically means “imply”) in Misquoting, for all we know it could have been a later scribe thinking it was a Pauline letter and therefore added in something that would suggest it as so. It does not decisively mean the author of Hebrews was intending to mislead his audience. Not even close.

What really gets under my skin from this book is his self-contradiction at the end of chapter one. Presenting his case as seemingly-objective as possible, he then ends the chapter with this: “We simply can’t peer into their hearts and minds to see what they were thinking, deep down, when they decided to hide their own identity and to claim, deceitfully, that they were someone else,” (42). But wait a minute, if “[w]e simply can’t peer into their hearts and minds,” then how do we know they were deliberately being deceptive? How do we know that they intended to deceive their readers?

What Ehrman fails to acknowledge to the “layperson” is that the arguments and debates are much bigger than how he presents it. In discussing Ehrman two days ago, Dr. Falk (my favorite professor) said, “He’s still a fundamentalist – just from the other side. And he doesn’t seem to acknowledge it.”

Erhman’s error simply is making a strongly-subjective claim in the name of objectivity. As he says, we can never know what the New Testament authors intended with their writing. For all we know, they could be the names written on the cover. And even if they happen not to be, there isn’t conclusive, objective evidence to show they deliberately intended to deceive their readers for their own agendas. Ehrman cheats the “layperson” by not presenting the full argument; there are many more elements that go into textual criticism than what he has presented thus far. I may pull back my words a little as I read, but right now, I doubt it. Bart Ehrman has gone against what is true to authentic scholarship – even his own scholarship. His literary goggles have begun to blind him.

Inerrancy and Its Irrelevance to Me…

Throughout the last couple of years, many have questioned my beliefs about the Bible. Since I, at the very least, am at odds with the doctrine of inerrancy, many believe that I’m on the border of becoming a heretic. Disliking the feeling of being rejected by fellow Christians for my version of the Christian faith, I’ve had it on my heart for some time to write out what I believe and why. I apologize in advance to all those who dislike church politics, but sometimes certain things arise that need to be set in order. This is one of them.

The doctrine of inerrancy, as the ESV Study Bible states it, is the belief that “The Bible is entirely truthful and reliable in all that it affirms in its original manuscripts,” (2507). What this article in the ESV Study Bible does not discuss is where those original manuscripts are: We don’t have them. Scholars (as usual) have often debated as to whether or not it’s possible to get back to the originals through the manuscripts we have, but no matter what is produced from such a study, it will be subject to the scholars’ varying opinions (even amongst the “conservative” and “liberal” sides).

When it comes to faith in Jesus Christ, though, I find no need of the doctrine of inerrancy itself. Even if it is true, my faith is in the blood of Jesus Christ shed for me and the resurrected life that He has given and is working through me. This is the point in my beliefs where many of my fellow Christians get unsettled. “What, then, do you really believe about the Bible?” some have asked. Answering this question has taken some time, prayer, and difficult conversations with pastors and a favorite professor.

But then, just yesterday, I read a quote from N.T. Wright that encapsulates my view of Scripture. Discussing “Inspiration and ‘the Word of YHWH,’” Wright says, “‘Inspiration’ is a shorthand way of talking about the belief that by his Spirit God guided the very different writers and editors, so that the books they produced were the books God intended his people to have. … And in and through it all we find the elusive but powerful idea of God’s ‘word,’ not as a synonym for the written scriptures, but as a strange personal presence, creating, judging, healing, recreating,” (Scripture and the Authority of God, 36).

As Dr. Falk, my favorite professor from U of O, once told me, the Spirit of God has been treated (even in the very Scriptures we hold dear to) as the first testament – the supreme authority – to our hearts. It’s the internal revelation we had when we first came to Christ and it’s the internal convictions we’ve had since that have corrected our thinking, speaking, and acting in order to follow God’s commandments and teachings more closely. If this is the same Spirit that inspired the Scriptures, then that means, as Dr. Falk told me, the Scriptures are the second testament to the first: The Holy Spirit, living and breathing within us.

N.T. Wright puts it this way: “When John declares that ‘in the beginning was the word,’ he does not reach a climax with ‘and the word was written down’ but ‘and the word became flesh.’… Since [this is itself a] ‘scriptural’ [statement], that means that scripture itself points – authoritatively, if it does indeed possess authority! – away from itself and to the fact that final and true authority belongs to God himself, now delegated to Jesus Christ,” (22).

Jesus is the reason I was baptized. Jesus is the reason I bought a Bible and started reading it. Jesus is the reason I have devoted my life towards something greater than myself. And Jesus is the reason why I have chosen to gather with Calvary-Fellowship instead of any other “sound-doctrine” church.

Some have told me to be careful. Some have told me there are too many “red flags” at Calvary. And some have told me that I’m “walking on a slippery slope.” But an interesting thing about those who’ve warned me against Calvary: They’ve never met my pastor, let alone have a conversation with him about inerrancy and biblical authority. And even if they had, I would much rather follow God onto a slippery slope than follow man’s commandments and doctrines that usually lead to religious bigotry instead of sincere faith.

Of course, sadly, the debates will continue to rage and false rumors will continue to spread. We’re human; we like controversy and gossip. What I would encourage everyone adamant about church politics is to read over Philippians 1:27, specifically where Paul encourages the Philippians to “[stand] firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”

At the end of the day, I worship, pray to, and seek Jesus. For any of His teachings and commandments, I refer to and study Scripture. “Wouldn’t that mean you believe it’s inerrant or perfect?” Does it need to be? I have yet to find any indication from Scripture that the doctrine of inerrancy is a prerequisite to being a follower of Christ. If that’s the case, Christians for the first 300 years or so (who had no Bible) cannot be regarded as “real” Christians. (Here is where I’ve been referred to 2 Timothy 3:16 as verification for inerrancy, but, quite frankly, it’s not that simple – and nowhere does Paul say “mandatory” regarding Scripture; it’s either “profitable” or “useful.”)

Think about it for yourself and your own personal faith; have you come to Christ believing the Scriptures were perfect? Do you think they need to be in order to have a genuine faith in Jesus? Or is it sufficient for them to be “reliable” rather than “perfect” (two very different words)? As I always have been, I’m open to discussion – insofar as it’s a discussion. Inerrancy is often a topic that leads to people “correcting” me, which only seems to push me further from the doctrine.

One final thing: If you want to know what my church believes or, more specifically, what my pastor believes, go to him. I can say what I think his beliefs are, but I’d rather let him speak for himself. In many regards, he and I agree, but in some others, we don’t. That’s the beauty of the Christian faith; it allows for different people with different backgrounds, different beliefs, different opinions to come together as one body (the church) for one faith.

May we all seek to love God with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, and all our strengths.

God bless.

Be The Jesus…

It might be due to Easter weekend or the Easter season in general, or it might be something else, but for whatever reason, I’ve come across a lot of complaints about the church. “Church” as I mean it here is the global body of Christ; not the Catholic Church or the Protestant Church, but rather all those who consider themselves followers of Jesus Christ. Their complaints are mostly about the lack of authenticity, the lack of genuine love – the love of Jesus. And while I was pouring my coffee and milling over what I might possibly say in reply, I felt a strong conviction.

What I wanted to say to all those who complain about how the church isn’t operating as it was meant to is that if they notice such a problem, they should be the ones making an effort to change it. And in the very act of thinking those words, I realized I needed to hear that message just as much as anyone else. I complain about church politics and church hypocrisy more than anyone else, when I really think about it. I’m tired of the debates about inerrancy, salvation, or using drums during worship. I’m also tired of the common lust for material possessions and monetary gain I see rising up within Christianity. And I’m sick and tired of the increasing carelessness towards sexual purity. And while I constantly argue that others should do the work, I fail to realize that I, since I notice it, should also be one of the ones making a change.

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees,” Jesus says, “which is hypocrisy,” (Luke 12:1). “Take care,” He says later in Luke 12, “and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions,” (v. 15). Here I am noticing and being frustrated by the general pursuit of things and wealth within Christianity, and yet here I am partaking in it all, too. Here I am acquiring countless books – mostly because I want to read them all, but partially for the sake of just having them. I am the biggest hypocrite I know.

Gandhi has been famously quoted with, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” but I believe he got it terribly wrong; a better saying is, “Be the Jesus you wish to see in the world.” I could wish for a number of things to change, but would they really benefit anyone else besides me? Probably not. But when we strain to be the Jesus we wish to see in the world, we align ourselves with a God-man who teaches us to renounce all that we have so we could be His disciples (Luke 14:33). It’s the only kind of change that would truly benefit all parties involved because Jesus would be the one making the change, not ourselves.

Even so, it takes commitment. It takes sacrifice. It takes a constant and genuine repetition of saying, “Not my will be done, Father, but yours,” (Luke 22:42). It takes a constant devotion to following Jesus. And what I’ve been hit with today is the realization that no one else ought to be the Jesus that I wish to see in the world; I should. I should be the one removing my Sunday smile and instead being authentic and real. I should be the one living generously with what I’ve been given. I should be the one doing everything possible to retain sexual purity. I should be the one straining to follow Christ as fervently and simply as possible in order to see the Christian culture begin to change.

It won’t happen over night; it’ll take my entire life.

And that’s the point.

God bless.