Thoughts on Maintaining Faith When You See the Light

I’ve been thinking lately about personal and spiritual growth, scholarship, and experience.

I am watching as the denomination I grew up in reveals itself as fruitless, or perhaps sodden with rotten fruit. I use to joke that Baptists split at the drop of a hat, but that joke isn’t so funny when I see it happening among those whom I consider close brothers and sisters in Christ. Further, I see people ignoring biblical mandates in favor of the all important fellowship. Or, to speak in a cliche, quantity over quality. My question keeps coming back to me – if the doctrines of the denomination is the correct, biblical, apostolic, etc… doctrines, why then is it producing such bad fruit?

Abuse is being ignored – child, mental, spousal, pastoral – in favor of fellowship. Bad doctrines – KJVO – are being espoused, and focuses are put on things which simply have no biblical basis whatsoever.

My eyes have been opened to some of these things and now I have to decide what to do?

Is there a denomination on earth that is perfect? No. But it is not about denominations. It is about Christ and in my former fellowship, I don’t see Christ. I see vile men and the vileness in men. So what now?

Further, there is the matter of scholarship. Scholarship is shedding light on the rich beauty of early and primitive Christianity, removed from later theological battles, creeds, and corporatism. I have to wonder if the real reason why so many people are against the New Perspective on Paul is that it eventually will undermine a few ‘absolute’ doctrines? And what of the Parting of the Ways dialogue that is in fashion? I tend to think that both of these working hand in hand will break a few religious, social, and political walls down, if they are allowed to grow and reach their final destination.

A New Reformation? Perhaps so, but then again, everything needs a reset every now and then, don’t you think?

Since my rather public separation with my former congregation, I have found myself free to explore the roots of the doctrines, scholarship, and indeed, my own faith. I have found myself weighed, and wanting. It is not a pretty thing.

There are a few things that I have to insist on – for myself, but I have to ask myself, how do I judge that which happened before.

Have you ever had a religious experience? I mean, something more than an intellectual assent to the Deity? I have. Some call it the pentecostal power, or you’ll here about the presence of the Lord, presence of the Spirit, etc… For me, I have felt the Divine and because of those experiences I will never disbelieve in God in Heaven. It is rather like being color blind, believing the sky to be orange, but finding it blue one day, you decide to disbelieve the blue. Simply because the knowledge of the color of the sky changed, doesn’t mean that the sky is wrong. If simply means you weren’t seeing it clearly.

Perhaps the Christian faith is not what I once thought it was, but indeed, it still Is. Perhaps God is the not the vindictive, angry parent in the sky who must be appeased which I have been led to believe that He is. Instead, I find God as a constant companion, one to Whom I can speak to, dialogue with, question, and in the end, rest with. He is not the superman in the clouds, but He simply Is.

To be honest, I don’t know where I am going, but I know that I will enjoy it when I get there.

Part of blogging is a dialogue with oneself – if you do it right. I mean sure, you may be correct on everything you believe, blogging or speaking or teaching only to right the world’s ship to your course, but for the rest of us who use doubt to build our own faith, communication is my avenue to understanding myself.

But it is the divine experience that keeps me searching to know more about God. Will I get everything right? Hardly. What then is my goal? My goal is to bring forth good fruit. Don’t be confused, having people mad at you and angry at you because you tell the truth doesn’t count as something bad. What counts is fulfilling the prayer of Christ in John 17.1-25. Can I share in unity with other Christians, regardless if they are speaking the exact same wordings? Can we share in communion one with another, in one accord, over the Lord’s Supper or breaking the bread of word of life? Must I bend what I believe in order to hide things and to ‘have a good time in the Lord?’ Must I say one thing in public, act a different way in private, and generally lie to everyone in order to keep up appearances?

In the end, I reckon, one the questions will plagues me is simply, what can I do to further the Kingdom of Christ? Prayer works and I am not knocking it, but so does action. Part of that action is a continued self-examination. Am I in the faith? Is what I am saying and believing actually found in the bible as it was written and not as it has finally been (re)interpreted? James said that we can either speak good things over a person or we can give that person good things. We can either say something or we can do something. I intend to do something.

But in my past and present experiences with the Divine, I feel a closeness to God. Call it what you will, but it is my experience nevertheless. It is not a wild and reckless thing, no rolling, no hopping or chanting in loud voices. It is simply, well, an experience. It is a very real presence.

For all the problems I see in my former congregations, I still see something good and find myself still attached. But, it is passing away. I have no room for people who proclaim God and Christ and do nothing about it. They speak truth but do no such thing.

So, I’ll keep looking. I’ll keep studying, keep praying, keep working. I’ll keep loving Christ and my faith and standing upon the Rock. I don’t think that I have been given the spirit of fear or bondage, but one of adoption. I intend to live that spirit.

Moving on, sorry to bother you.

Post By Joel Watts (10,115 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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11 thoughts on “Thoughts on Maintaining Faith When You See the Light

  1. I popped into a Catholic church yesterday to pray for a while and listen to some prayers on my ipod. I noticed one guy kiss the church door as he came in, amongst other things. Makes me again realise why I go there less and less.

    Poly, you will find your place.

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