And so, I leap…

I live a life of faith in God. I believe in and follow the way of Jesus as well as I can, hopefully always improving. However:

  • I’m unclear as to whether Jesus is part of a Triune God, a unique creation of God, just a man with special power, or something else.
  • I’m unclear whether or not Jesus was born of a virgin as we think of the word. I don’t doubt the possibility of God empowering such an event, but I’m not compelled that it is vital to following his way.
  • I’m unclear whether anything cosmic really happened at the cross as far as God viewing it as an acceptable sacrifice and pardoning the sins of some or all. In any case, there are other instructive (and more historical) ways to view the crucifixion.
  • I’m unclear whether Jesus really rose from the dead, but I’m willing to go along with the report on the one hand because it’s certainly within the possibility of God’s power and the events that unfolded afterward seemed to be based on such a catalyst. In any case, his teachings are not predicated on resurrection from what I can see.
  • I’m unclear whether Jesus is physically returning to earth or virtually returning through his people for any length of time. I doubt the man-made dispensational theory that includes the pre-tribulation rapture, 7 year tribulation, and literal one-thousand year reign of Jesus from a throne in Jerusalem; this teaching is as recent as Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses teachings (not to mention Pentecostalism, Christian Science, and even Fundamentalism with its invitations and Sunday Schools).  Anything that recent smacks of some human making something up that sounds right to them (what Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness”).
  • I’m unclear on the nature of “heaven”, and pretty certain that the meaning of “hell” and the “lake of fire” mentioned in the Bible is not what is commonly taught in the church. I doubt a truly loving God would send the majority of humans across history to a punishment of conscious burning torment forever.

By being unclear on these items and unwilling to take a stand on Church, Inc.’s teachings (pick any denomination), does that mean that God is now opposed to me forever? Does my eternal state really come down to the mental assent and acquiescence demanded by men, or am I actually safe in God’s hands and on the right path as I follow the way of Jesus (even though I’m not sure about the mystic particulars)?

I’m persuaded that God is indeed my heavenly father and as such cares for me, provides for me, counsels me, encourages me, and rescues me when I need it. I don’t have to understand how it all works – and I’d be arrogant to say that I did understand it. And I’m persuaded that Jesus’ way is the only way to bring shalom to the planet; every day we continue down our own violent, self-centered path is one day further away from the peace we say we desire. This is precipice at which I stand, looking hopefully to the clouded future. And so, I leap…

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Scaffolding & Training Wheels

“Imagine no religion – I wonder if you can…”
– John Lennon

That lyric used to really offend me. I thought he was anti-religion, which for me implied anti-Jesus, anti-God, anti-spirituality. It was an affront to me when I used align myself with various camps in the Christian religion.

I see now that, while the lyric is indeed anti-religion, that happens to be a good thing. Religion isn’t, nor was it ever, the point. When it becomes the point, people divide into camps of “us” versus “them” and it leads to holy wars (both verbal and physical). These days I’ve found two metaphors for religion that I think put it in its proper light for me:

Religion is Scaffolding

Religion, like scaffolding, is temporary and helpful during a construction project, but not “the point”. It is just one of many tools used during construction, but at some point you rip the scaffolding down, put the tools away, and get to using the thing you’ve built. No one really needs golden scaffolding with banners and marble platforms and special lighting effects and a rock band singing about the power and glory of the scaffolding…

Religion is Training Wheels

Religion is comparable to training wheels on a bike – temporary and helpful in the initial stages of learning to ride a bike, but if used for an extended period of time become an indication that you are unable to find the balance necessary to go on without them. Unless there is a special circumstance, you should be able to take the training wheels off at some point and just use the bike as originally intended.

Imagine…

Yeah, I can imagine a world in which humankind has broken down the scaffolding, taken off the training wheels, and we are a “brotherhood of man” with nothing to kill or die for – not religion, not some self-interested nation-state – where we live each day in peace, harmony, compassion, consideration of others. It’s the kind of world that Jesus was on about when he declared his “good news” originally spoken of by the prophet Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners
Isaiah 61:1

Good news to the poor. Bind up the brokenhearted. Freedom for captives. Release for prisoners. These are good things, things Jesus actually did and we can actually do, too. It isn’t about us finding some special plan that God supposedly has for our lives; rather, it’s about us finding what God cares about and getting busy doing that. I believe that is when you are “partnering” with God and have the resources of the heavens at your disposal.

Working on anything other than that seems to me to be riding training wheels straight off your scaffolding.

Take a flying leap…

The Christian religion has historically promoted certainty for both this life and the afterlife. Adherents are taught to be confident about their current and eternal standing with God based on a perfect collection of writings inspired by God himself.

However, so many conflicting Christian “authorities” claim to have the only “right” perspective and interpretation of scripture. Splits have propagated thousands of subdivisions of Christianity, each with its own “correct” understanding of the holy text.

What do you do when the teachings of Jesus resonate within you, but you can no longer trust these human “authorities”? When you are compelled that the way Jesus taught to live is the best way to bring peace, harmony, “shalom” to the planet… but the religions built around his teachings leave you confused, cold, skeptical?

Maybe, like us, you once took a “leap of faith”, risking your life, property, and security into the very hands of God. And perhaps like us you even found that this was a risk worth taking – that God really did come through for you on these occasions in ways that proved to you definitively his care, control, and power, right down to the details and timing of your deliverance.

But maybe now you’re in a place to take a different kind of leap – not one away from God, but perhaps away from the structures and systems supposedly built around him. Maybe like us you’re ready to begin a pilgrimage through doubt that leads you follow Jesus while being at peace with ambiguity…as a “Jesus-following agnostic” taking the leap of doubt into the freedom of uncertainty.