This weekend was wild. On Saturday at 8:30am I sat for 4 hours being interviewed (interrogated? J) on my Christian doctrine. Before I could finally be called a Pastor at my church, I had to defend my theology. This was after turning in a written treatise on almost 60 theological questions. These weren’t simple questions either.
Sample #1) What is God like? What attributed do you ascribe him, and how do they relate to one another?
Sample #2) How are personal sanctification, the Christian community, and God’s purposes in creation related to one another?
And they go on from there! So after typing out 20 pages of “answers” on what I believe and why, I had to sit and be able to defend these same beliefs in front of a panel of 3 people. This was challenging, but also very worthwhile. Something good always comes out of having to think about what you believe. Being able to articulate your beliefs is something we should all be able to do. At its most simple function, if you can’t clearly define what you believe, what will you have to offer others hoping to understand more?
During the panel interview, one of the panelists asked “what is the significance of Jesus earthly ministry?” I stammered a somewhat un-intelligent response that incorporated “kingdom of God” and “new way of living” and “reorientate people on Gods love”. Basically I answered a bunch of candy corn fluff that was heavily weighted in the foreign language we throw around in the church of “Christianese.” Like other foreign languages, for people not well versed in the words and phrases of the church, sometimes theologians throw around “Christianese” instead of actually saying something powerful and true.
Then his follow-up question almost crushed me: “But what does the life of Christ matter to those who have walked away from the faith? Why does it still ring true?” He went on to describe one of his favorite artists, a man who had worshipped at our church before, and how he had wrestled with his faith and eventually walked away. And it hit me then, the importance of knowing what we believe. In the past, perhaps I was sold a lie that we could hold our beliefs strongly enough in order to hide away behind the invisible fence of fear and self-denial. Knowing what I believe was really more about memorizing the rule book and trying to follow it perfectly. But in actuality, we are called to know what we believe in order to share God’s love more fully with people who have been burned by people of faith in the past.
We know what we believe, and we can explain it, so that we can be better witnesses of Christ’s love here on earth.
David Bazan, who previously fronted the indie Christian band Pedro the Lion, released an album called “Curse Your Branches” that raises serious doubts and questions on the Christian faith. Some call it his ‘breakup album with God.’ Bazan himself actually says, “It’s a breakup letter to one particular narrative about God.” You can watch a clip on 20 minutes here on where Bazan stood with God during the fall of 2009 during this interview. In the interview with 20 minutes, the interviewer asks “Are you a Christian?” Without pause, Bazan says, “No.” Even if you’re not a fan, watch the clip. It is moving.
But this isn’t so strange is it? I mean, his honestly and candor is a bit unusual, but refreshingly so. His story seems to be a common one in so many people who I meet. So many people get tired of a particular narrative about God, one that discusses God’s great love without people actually being transformed by this great love, and people just walk away. But let’s be clear, more times than not people are walking away from the Christian church, and not for problems with God Himself. And it breaks my heart. It…just…breaks…my…heart.
This stuff matters. Our faith matters. It should transform us from the inside out, grabbing our hearts and our minds and spilling out onto all those we come across. So that we can offer something to all those who are searching for God. And something to offer to all those that have walked away.
What do we have to offer? Will perfect doctrine somehow convince those walking away? No, I don’t mean to say that. Its not perfectly-perfected theological answers in well rehearsed tones that will make a difference. But an education of God’s great love story as told by His son Jesus Christ who came to earth so that we could be transformed by this great love. Thats the only story we need to tell.