Thursday, May 5, 2011

Challenging my Own Ideas and Adopted Views

Currently, I am reading The Science of God by Alister E. McGrath (which I will, likely, post on when I am finished with the book). At the moment, I want to focus on a quote from the book that has prompted some theological self-reflection. “If people are convinced of the rightness of their own position, there is inevitably a temptation to control or destroy those who disagree with them.” Herein, I will challenge some of my own ideas and adopted views.

Before I get started, it is important to note that I take up the practices, positions, ideas, and work of many who have come before me to develop the ongoing discourse of my beliefs. “I stand upon the shoulders of giants” (Isaac Newton). I have taken on the label Post-Evangelical Lutheran. Deconstructing that label, its implications, its meaning, and its purpose, do I claim to be a Post-Evangelical because I have completely moved on to another way of thinking or because I take issue with the Evangelical movement and culture, for the impact it has had upon my life? Yes.

Furthermore, do I take up the Post-Evangelical label because I think I’m better than or, somehow, smarter than Evangelicals? Honestly, yes. I held those views, at one point, and was driven to atheism. In my arrogance, I have said some harsh things about Evangelicalism and its followers. Admitting the things above warrants the label, "conceited." Ironically, hearing such personal character descriptions incited arrogant behavior (not to justify the attitude).

In retrospect, I’ve been so adamant I was right to abandon Evangelical beliefs that I ignored grace. How far have I taken my frustration with Evangelical Christianity? Further than necessary. Last I checked, hatred, control, and destruction are not the goals of a Christ-like worldview. Therefore, I apologize, but maintain the integrity of my current theological perspectives. Arguably, I’ve gotten my comeuppance for my anti-Evangelical propaganda. I know it’s not very “Christ-like” for me to spew words of hate upon anyone for any reason.

In conjunction, I turn to the Lutheran piece. After twenty-four years of being an Evangelical (a title I never acknowledged) why did I turn to Lutheranism? Becoming a Lutheran was a slow process. In the words of a former pastor (a dear friend, who happens to be Evangelical) I was, “a Nonconformist-Christian.” I didn’t like labels. Nevertheless, the concept of divine grace was the biggest challenge and, simultaneously, the biggest draw to Lutheran theology. I was in a place of asking questions, I wasn’t ready to rest on any one idea. Until, I learned about the Theology of the Cross, which is radically different from my Evangelical roots.

After twelve years with the Salvation Army, where I vehemently refused to take on a label, I adopted the Theology of the Cross and Lutheran traditions. Salvationist and a Lutheran views are theological polar-opposites. Regardless, I respect, applaud, and model the community service practices – the Salvation Army has the best outreach-mission I have ever seen in the Christian Church. However, the Theology of Glory is what drove me to deny the existence of God (at one point). This realization, prompted me to denounce Evangelicalism. Truly, I found freedom in the Lutheran depictions of God’s grace. Once I accepted that things would never be the same for me, I decided to explore the Theology of the Cross and teachings of the Lutheran Church. My transition to Lutheranism was an about-face, a declaration of newly adopted theology, and I had an outsiders understanding of Lutheranism and the Theology of the Cross. Ergo, I felt I could not ignore my Evangelical roots, but have no plans to return to them. Thus, I coined the personal label of Post-Evangelical Lutheran.

In the aftermath, do I think that everyone ought to be a Lutheran? No, the Church has different denominations to maintain balance and challenge one another. The Theology of the Cross, within Lutheranism, is the only view that makes sense to me. Today, I sit here pretty humble. I’m not better than anyone or their beliefs. I recognize that Lutherans, Evangelicals, Baptists, Charismatic Protestants, Catholics, and many others are a part of one Church – the body of Christ. We may not agree, we may not understand one another, and we may fall prey to the notion of rightness, but we are one Church and one body.

Finally, criticizing my own opinions and adopted views doesn’t negate that I have hurt many people with my words or been hurt by the words of others. Only by the grace of Christ will there be absolution and forgiveness. I am at peace with calling myself a Post-Evangelical Lutheran and hope that I can peacefully disagree with those who hold to different views. Totalitarianism isn’t the answer, destroying the opposition isn’t the answer, Unitarianism isn’t the answer. The answer I long for is a conversation of grace in Jesus Christ.

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