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I Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself

July 31, 2014

Ideophobia is the fear of new or different ideas. Many people have an aversion to the new, the unfamiliar, the unknown. They would rather hold on to what they have now than risk losing it for something better. Accordingly, they resist the new, preferring, defending, and even actively supporting the status quo, even when it is not in their best interests.

Ideophobia seems to rise to fever pitch amongst the constituency of Christians who fear theological diversity and difference. I have often been warned by prophets of doom that to expose myself to any theology not in lockstep with the particular brand they espoused would lead me away from truth and down the slippery slope of deception. According to them, reading books whose authors “may have espoused thoughts, ideas, or concepts that could be considered inconsistent with historical evangelical theology”1 would put me at grave risk of going to hell in a handbasket.

Not so methinks. I do not shy away from engagement with ideas differing from those I hold. Critically engaging the fresh ideas I invite to the table I believe adds depth and breadth to my faith. At times this engagement bolsters, reinforces, and corroborates what I already believe. At other times my thinking is challenged, obliging me to either more clearly articulate my beliefs to defend against the challenge or to bend under the strength of it and consider revising my convictions. Either way, the result is a more fully vested faith.

The discovery and entertainment of new ideas has always been a prominent feature of my spiritual journey, the hallmarks of which are studied personal research and earnest contemplative soul-searching. Recognizing the absolute necessity of the interpersonal dimension of faith, I very much appreciate participation in the Body of Christ and in a local church, but I do not want my life, my ideas or my possibilities defined by an institution.

While there is no question that the Bible should form the undergirding of a Christian belief system, it is not the sole voice of God. He has said all of his creation is good, and he speaks through everything, including the ideas of men. Of course not all ideas are profitable, which is why God gave us the gift of discernment—so we can separate the wheat from the chaff. I can give a man my ear without giving him my heart, and I trust the Spirit to lead me into the full truth, and to keep me safe from the harmful effects of error.

And should I go wrong, God is gracious. I think it no vice to err if I do so while pursuing truth. It is not right belief and right doctrine that my Lord calls me to, but to right living—giving ear to his admonition of Mark 8:34: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

 

A short time ago I happened upon Revangelical, the blog of Brandan Robertson, an apparently fairly prolific and widely published blogger. I found his post No More Fear so in sync with my own thinking that I did something I have never done before—ask to repost a portion of another writer’s work. He has graciously granted me permission. I strongly concur with every word of what I am reposting here. Like Brandan, I am no ideophobe. I too, some time ago, learned the freedom embodied in the oft-repeated Biblical injunction “Fear not.”

 

I recently have had many conversations with friends of mine about where I am and where I have come theologically over the past few years. Looking back and seeing the journey that I have been on (and still continue on) it has been amazing to see the things that I have delved into, the ideas I have contemplated, and the people that I have interacted with from all across the theological spectrum. In reflecting on how these experiences have impacted me personally, one overwhelming reality dawned on me. If there is anything that I have learned in my theological journey so far it is this: “Fear not.”

… we are covered by the grace of God, we are free from the fear of judgment and condemnation, and the vast treasure chest of the mysteries of God are open to us to explore—there are no limits or boundaries, nothing is “dangerous”, all of it has benefits for our faith and walk in Christ. So long as we have our hearts and minds fixed on Jesus Christ, our Lord, we can then embark on the theological journey of a lifetime, asking questions, embracing views, thinking through topics, worshipping with others, and practicing our faith differently as we grow and move towards God.

In other words, for the Christian, there is nothing to fear in theological exploration and diversity. That is what I have learned and it is this message that has set me free in a whole new way. I never hesitate to question a long held belief, not for the sake of cynicism but for the sake of understanding and learning. I never fear reading a book from a perspective that I may not currently agree with and even trying to view the world from the mindset of that author, because what is there to fear? I have a Sovereign God who loves me and is infinitely beyond my finite mind—so long as I am delving deep into him, whether I think, say, or pray something “wrong” is irrelevant, because he is not judging me based on my theological “correctness”, but on my obedience and faith in Jesus Christ. Many will read this and be fearful—thinking I am fast tracking down a slippery slope. But may I suggest to you that even that response is proof that many of us have such a skewed image of who God is? Is that really the God you see in scripture? One who is waiting to damn you if you say something wrong? One who has called you to theological correctness or else hell is for you? Or is the God of the Bible one who gives us grace upon grace, one whom defies human reason and capacity to think, one who calls us to faith and not to theological works? One who continues to love us—even when we’re wrong?

It’s because of this God that I have been released from fear. I enjoy asking questions. I enjoy being skeptical. I enjoy thinking differently. And I enjoy laying my head on my pillow every night and thanking God for another day of discovery and adventure as I have sought to draw nearer to him. I don’t fear being wrong anymore—because more likely than not, I will be wrong. (That’s just the nature of having a finite being describing something infinite.) I don’t fear wrath or condemnation. I don’t fear “going astray” or leading others “astray”. Because as long as I am moving closer to Christ and closer to his command to love God and love others, then I am convinced that I am going in the right direction. Regardless of theological differences. Regardless of social disagreements. If I am moving towards the love of God in Christ Jesus, everything will be okay. If I am in Jesus, whom shall I fear?

 

Amen, amen and again I say amen!

 


 

1 From a warning label placed by LifeWay Christian Stores on books whose authors’ theology did not conform to that of the store’s owners.

 

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 6, 2014 6:38 pm

    is a holistic view ok…..lived with a haitian family in calbass dec 1-2010 to mar 1 2011……some days i wanted to leave in a minute.. other days.. never wanted to leave……
    as this was my first time …….it was a .lot to take in…….but i’m not the princess and the pea….when the jeep worked and we had gas…..i was exposed to what i consider the best and the worst living conditions of human existance……fleurville hotel on kenscoff and a
    home for orphans same area……the latter being a trigger for a gag reflex…..because the
    $3000 us dollars i had forwarded to ALL GODS CHILDREN had disappeared into thin air
    i washed and cleaned children

    who were dying of malnuitriction and hideous infections.. with any personal care product
    i owned…..also took my clothing for towels and wash cloths…
    bought any food i could buy at the baptist mission and used visa to pay…….

    now i’m not one to back off……i went head to head with pastors who were the friends of the man weiner jerome..agc….whom i had wired the money to before traveling……

    ………i respect your religious beliefs so please don’t be offended……….

    i stated if they did not provide food, beds , bedding etc for the children…they would
    awake to see the anti-christ at the foot of there beds……..it worked at one orphange…

    don’t believe any lone woman from canada had ever called them out before…

    all of human nature good, bad , and ugly lives with humans……..all that i saw in haiti exits
    here in canada including corruption…..more of it behind closed doors….and buried in history under colonization…such a pretty word…….

    one of the mysteries of haiti…….is why the ngos do not communicate among themselves
    better and organize as to who is doing what where……it would really help…and forget
    poverty tourism……

    power for one day. all over the world

    every man and woman over the age of 20 yrs should have information on tubal ligations
    visectomies……if they decide 2 or 3 children is enought that option should be there..

    ngo would pay farmers to replant fruit trees and engage in reforestation programs

    ngo would also pay for senior high school fees

    garbage,animal abuse, starvation,homelessness,sick and dying, multilization of the most
    vunerable……..we could be in canada or haiti…most view it as entertainment….

    i am not one of them…….don’t know if i will ever get back to thank and love so
    many who shared their spirts and ginger beer………

    thank you for providing this venue…..

    sylvia winters

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