Squish. Just Like Grape

Sometimes as I try to articulate my faith, I feel like the proverbial grape that Mr. Miyagi is talking about.

My first deep experience with Christianity was through the youth group in my home church in Iowa. My years there as a participant and a volunteer leader were the most formational ones of my Christian faith, especially the friendship and mentoring I received from my youth director, Randy Hausler. A solid foundation for my faith was built in my teens and early 20s. This foundation was also solidly evangelical and conservative.

After volunteering as a youth leader for almost a decade, I decided that I wanted to go pro and I went to seminary at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA. I received a very “Presbyterian” education and the pendulum of my faith life swung far to the progressive mainline Protestant side of the spectrum. This too was an incredibly formational time in my life for my faith and vocation.

I have been extremely fortunate to have so many positive Christian experiences, friends, and communities in my life. I feel doubly blessed to have had such a wide variety of faithful Christians in my life with all sorts of beliefs and theologies.  To this day, as I try to live out and articulate my faith I am influenced by all these people.
Sometimes I envision my faith like the Grand Canyon, which consists of a number of layers built up over a long period of time. My youth group, my college Bible study, my seminary experience, each church I’ve served – these are the layers of my faith. And each one remains as a part of the person I am today.

Which leads me to the heart of this post (and back to the grape). Sometimes I feel caught in the middle between a more traditional expression of faith, and a more postmodern or progressive one. I want to embrace a more inclusive, intelligent, less dogmatic expression of Christianity, but I’m not ready to go towards the Spiritual But Not Religious crowd, or join the Unitarians.

And I wonder how many others out there are like me.

Here are some of the layers of my faith:

  • I believe that Jesus was more than just a nice guy who taught some really cool things…but I also believe that the church has traditionally embraced a misleading picture of Jesus that sacrifices the humanity of Jesus for divinity.
  • I believe that the Bible is more than just a book of good ideas, that it has authority because of the window it provides to God and God’s will, and it can and should be used to guide and correct how I live my life…but I also believe that God did not dictate the Bible word for word. The words were created by people of faith who were inspired by God to share their real experiences of God, but like me, they were sinful, imperfect people, and they inserted their own thoughts, biases, mistakes, and opinions into their stories about God.
  • I believe that through prayer, the community of faith, and the Bible, God shows me what is just and loving, and I cannot rely on my own conscience or judgment alone to determine right from wrong. I believe that there will be a time when I am called to account for my beliefs and actions before God…but I also believe that the traditional idea of Hell for those who do not follow Christ in belief or action is extremely problematic. It seems to fly in the face of God’s unconditional grace and never-ending love as witnessed to in Scripture.
  • I believe that Christianity has unique and particular things to offer that other religions do not, and it is the only path to God that has been revealed to me…but I also believe that Christianity cannot know or say all there is to know about God.  Other religions may provide other windows to God and it is possible to be Christ-like without ever knowing who Jesus is.

What about you? Do you ever feel caught in the middle? What layers would a faith archaeologist find within your life?