Thinking Out Loud

October 22, 2017

Who I Am

Filed under: Christianity, doctrine — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:16 am

Last night a friend asked me to clarify where my wife and I stand on a particular doctrinal issue, and as I decided to write a much broader sweeping response, I realize I did not have a blog post for today. All that to say, please bear in mind this started as a rather hastily written email…

First of all, Ruth and I do not always speak with the same voice on all things theological. So “you and Ruth” questions aren’t always helpful, considering I will stand alone before God and so will she. There won’t be a questionnaire where I say to her, “What did you get for #6?”  Or she says to me, “I can never remember, are we cessationist or continuationist?” Or things more important.

I believe that my theology is informed by my “God picture” and my “God picture” is shaped by years of teachings, books, small groups, interactions and of course how everything lines up with scripture. Some things have resonated and some have not. Some seemed to be in conflict with each other, while others seemed to harmonize into a unified view of God where the ways of God become more clear. The whole First Testament does this for us. I don’t have to build an ark, slay Goliath, spend three days inside a whale, or do an overnight in a fiery furnace; but I need those narratives to teach me — teach us — the ways of God. That’s what we’re to learn from those accounts.

The “God picture” which emerges from all this input for me is not the same as for other brothers and sisters. We see in part, we know in part, we understand in part. We see as through grease-covered glasses. So there are going to be disagreements, but hopefully always these are on secondary or tertiary elements of doctrine. It has always been so. There were Johannine theology followers and Pauline theology followers. And at least six more early denominations of Christianity. Plus the more widespread expressions of the new sect (which is what the early church was) which scripture confronts directly, such as the Judiazers (hyper legalistic) or the Corinthian Christians (hyper licentious), etc.

So the answer to the questions is that the “doctrinal pattern” — as writers once referred to it — which most resonates with me would be Wesleyan and Revivalist and Free Will. There I said it. I would say my faith was birthed in mid-20th Century Evangelicalism, and has been greatly influenced by Missional theology. I believe in the limitless power and work of the Holy Spirit, but consider myself in the “open but cautious” category on all things Charismatic. The only major shifts in my beliefs in the last two decades have been that I am now slightly less dogmatic on young earth creationism and am starting to lean strongly away from the idea of a rapture, be it pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib or otherwise. I still believe there are God-ordained differences in the two sexes, but am now egalitarian when it comes to church ministry. I am now much more charitable toward people who see parts of the First Testament as allegory or poetry but still think the hermeneutic rule that served us well for centuries is that, within limits, everything that can be take literally should be taken literally.

My view on soteriology is that salvation is both a process and a crisis — this was part of the doctrinal exam when I worked for a local church — but I believe that the “wrath of God” or transactional way of explaining it totally robs the atonement of all the love, beauty, wonder and grace; and especially of the mystery it deserves; though I’ll grant the parallels between Calvary and Passover (and all the feasts) are undeniable; cf. Book of Hebrews. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. God designed the product, so He gets to write the owner’s manual.

I believe that just as the mercies of God are new every morning, so also a living, breathing, active salvation involves renewal of both confessions and commitments on a regular — ideally daily — basis.

That is my doctrine in a nutshell. But if pressed, my reason is that everything I believe flows out of my view of the nature of God.

(To which I was almost tempted to add, “I believe in love, I believe in babies, I believe in mom and dad and I believe in you.” But I do not believe that for every drop of rain, a flower grows.)



1 Comment »

  1. “I was almost tempted to add, “I believe in love, I believe in babies, I believe in mom and dad and I believe in you.”

    Not entirely in jest: I am glad to see Don Williams get the recognition he deserves as a theologian.

    Comment by Steve — October 23, 2017 @ 1:09 pm

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