21 November 2012

Open Orthodoxy

I had an interesting experience the other day.  We have a Bible study group that meets weekly over lunch at a local restaurant, and a question was raised about whether or not the early church wound up erecting a structure to fit the happenings after Jesus ascended to heaven.  In other words, is the historic faith we have shared, including the Biblical canon and the many, many practical decisions made along the way, our best attempt to make sense of the world post-Jesus, or is it only and always the working of the Holy Spirit?  And, to even ask such a question:  is this faith or heresy?

I find that the longer I go about this work the less I'm bothered by some departures from what has always been known as "orthodoxy."  Some, mind you:  there are central points toward which I find myself continually oriented, but those points appear to be drawing closer and closer to each other and casting off things that I would have thought essential not so long ago.

The easiest one to see is how my mind and heart have been changed over the past ten years regarding GLBT issues within the church.  When I graduated from seminary I thought of myself as a "reluctant traditionalist."  I could cite chapter and verse against same-gender relationships and confess that, though I was aware it caused pain and separation within the church, the Word of God is the Word of God and that settles it.  But over time, my mind was changed.  First, I got to know some GLBT ministers who were every bit as captured by the Holy Spirit as I was - dedicated servants of the gospel who wanted nothing more than to take their shouts of faith back from the stones (Luke 19:40).  Second, I was convinced that what we are seeing in the church is another Acts 10 moment - those we once though incapable of being welcomed into the family of God are showing signs of the Spirit's presence, and who am I to deny such a thing could be God's will?  This is just one example of an interesting change I see in myself and in the church around me in this twelfth year of the second millennium.  So much is changing, and I think we're called to change with it.

For me, personally, there remains a boundary beyond which I'm just not comfortable.  I still believe in a bodily Resurrection, the virgin birth, that Jesus did perform miracles and that the Spirit swept like a firestorm through the early church.  But I'm okay with the way the gospels get fuzzy on the details at times, and I'm not so concerned (actually, not at all would be a better descriptor) with defending every last jot and tittle of the Gospels as historic, factual truth upon which the entirety of faith stands or falls.  I'm okay with some of the questions that would have paralyzed me just a few short years ago - and it feels right, as though the faith through which I have been called is creating some sort of coherence or harmony within me.

For now I'm going to call this "open orthodoxy."  I know what I believe - I know what I think is essential.  I'm not afraid to share it with anyone, not afraid to state what I believe to be true even if my conversation partner will never agree.  I'm pondering what it means to follow Jesus again - and this feels very, very good.

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