Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sitting on the Fence (or a Fence)

Last night, my church finished its study of Margaret Feinberg's Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey

I've committed to doing a write-up on my church's Bible study, but, to be honest, I'm not in the mood right now.  One thing that is difficult is that I do not know what I really believe about God, Jesus, religion, etc.  Even when I supposedly did know what I believed about those things, deep down I really did not know, or my conservative Christian beliefs did not appeal to me that much and I only believed in them because I felt I had to.  Some who read me may think that I should stop sitting on the fence----that I should either accept conservative Christianity with its God, who comes across as sort of a jerk, or I should be an atheist.  Neither option appeals to me.  For that matter, neither do liberal forms of religion, which strike me as "made-up".  I find that my beliefs on a given day vacillate among Christianity, belief in a benevolent higher power, and a cheerful agnosticism. 

Last night at Bible study, I could identify with the talk about loving our neighbors and trying to help them out, and I especially appreciated people's stories about their struggles to do so.  But when some were lamenting that a large number of evangelicals do not believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven, and they were saying that those evangelicals were not true Christians because believing in Jesus as the only way to get forgiveness is so foundational to Christianity, I felt somewhat uncomfortable.  "Suppose that's true", I wondered.  Even if I were to accept that as true, I wouldn't know how to live with that kind of God----one who excluded so many people.  I suppose that, if I identify with anything, it's an article that Clark Pinnock wrote defending an inclusivist view of salvation (see my post here).  I appreciated that he sought to support with Scripture the notion that God's love is vast, wide, and inclusive. 

I won't publish any comments that I consider to be a put-down.  But please feel free to share how you have handled these sorts of issues in your spiritual journey.


  1. You astonish me with the extent of your posts and the discipline of your reading. Bravo! Also I think your writing is clear and I find it easy to pick and choose which posts I will read in detail. As for these questions about 'belief', I learned to ignore them, but I find myself being drawn back into the philosophical problems they represent - where does authority come from etc? There are many distractions.

    Here is the one question that is not a distraction for me: How does HaShem interact with us? elect or not, Jew or Gentile? Rachel Barenblatt has a lovely post on her Veleveteen Rabbi site here today. I could say how this escape works in Christian theology, how the life of Israel is a metaphor for the life of the individual or church 'in Christ'. But she has expressed the problem of narrowness and prayer with grace meet for the moment. Sometimes people say too much.

    Still, I consider myself fortunate as a Gentile to have found the slow read track on the philosophical highway. I think you have also and you are fortunate where you study. Besides the grace that is everywhere in TNK and NT, there is something special about Jesus that merits perseverance.

  2. Yeah, I'd say that one of my biggest questions: Where does authority come from? On one hand, you have the more conservative Christians, who locate authority in the Bible, yet they themselves pick and choose from it. Then you have a number of people disaffected with that who are trying to develop a theology, and I wonder what the authority or basis is for what they say.

    Thanks for the link, Bob! I'll read it.

  3. Was that coincidence? I just posted a snippet on authority.

    Enjoy Rachel's posts - she is worth following. One of the great poets of our age.

  4. That's a good post you wrote. So much there----about reason, foundationalism, etc.

  5. I think you've said before, James, that you follow Peter Enns, but anyway, what he says, and his links, seem to me good about these issues, his latest being:
    You and I Have a Different God, I Think

  6. Yeah, I scanned that piece. I think he does well to acknowledge how religion----even the religions in the Bible----is in flux. It's when he tries to develop a theology out of that insight that I'm not fully convinced----but that's probably due to my own presuppositions.

  7. Since nobody knows ANYTHING for sure, we have to form "beliefs" to accommodate and make sense of things for us. To do this, we have to have a suitable "basis" for those beliefs and "time" to formulate them. Don't allow anybody or anything to rob you of this experience and journey. Besides, if this becomes too difficult, there are always many "herds" out there who will openly welcome you, ready or not.

    Keep up the good work!!


Search This Blog