My Soul Is At Peace

My soul is at peace. I haven’t written those words very many times in my life, because for most of my life, it simply was not true. But it is today, and I’ve experienced a growing awareness of that deep, inner peace for the past several weeks. (Oddly enough, the keenest awareness has developed and intensified since early March, just about the time we started the Gathering for Worship in the Liturgical Tradition.) Continue reading

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Please Don’t Treat Me Like A Child

I hope I can say this gently and without malice or self-righteousness.

First of all, I am not a child. I have followed Jesus for nearly sixty years. I have devoted my life to the service of Christ and his kingdom. I have been both an ardent student and a teacher of theology and the biblical text. I have not been right about everything I have believed and taught—indeed, I’m sure I’m not right about everything I believe and teach now—and I have needed to make some changes in my thinking over the years. Continue reading

The Devastating Effects of Correct Doctrine

The liturgy has been finalized and is being printed for this evening’s Gathering for Worship In the Liturgical Tradition​. The homily is prepared. All other elements necessary for the service have been cared for. It is a beautiful morning here in central Ohio, and I am looking forward to tonight’s gathering. Nonetheless, my heart is heavy.

I am thinking this morning of how devastating religious belief can be. I am recalling how many of my friendships have been weakened, how many relationships have suffered–some to the degree that they no longer exist–all because of religious beliefs and doctrinal “convictions.” Continue reading

The Beginning of a Promised Apologia

ap·o·lo·gi·a  [apəˈlōj(ē)ə/]  noun: A formal written defense of one’s opinions or conduct. Synonyms: defense, justification, explanation.

I was always a passionate Christian. I considered my motives pure, my interpretations objective, and my behavior consistent. I based my life decisions on the authority of scripture Pic 8as I had always been taught to understand it. Then one day I had to admit that my appeal to biblical authority was, too often, a way to justify my prejudices. Continue reading

Intentional Faith

For sixty years, Christian faith of the conservative and evangelical variety was a foundational element and a formative influence in my life. More than that, and—practically speaking—more important than that, for nearly forty years, it was an essential factor in the way I made my living. As a pastor, a parachurch executive, and a Bible college instructor, one of my tasks was to defend and propagate a fairly specific set of beliefs and the system of biblical interpretation which produced them.

That is not to say that the character and content of that list of doctrines never varied over the years. It is only to say that I understood, if mainly subconsciously, that any significant variation could have consequences. Not least was the possibility that I could lose my job. Continue reading

Why I Lie About What I Really Believe—Part Two (The Fear of Geese)

Soren Kierkegaard once said that being subjected to verbal criticism on a regular Geese (2)basis—what he called the martyrdom of ridicule—is much like being trampled to death by geese. Nobody enjoys being skewered for what he or she believes. To avoid that consequence, it is often easier to dig in one’s heels and defend the status quo than to admit that experience has resulted in a change of mind or opinion.

And yet, the older I get, the more certain I become about one matter. Nothing is as simple as it seems. Everything is more complex, more nuanced, and composed of more layers of meaning than I had previously imagined. Continue reading