Yesterday’s post, about the backwards rigidity of the Christian idea marketplace, took on a life of its own. I had hoped to have time to address some specific “pretty little boxes” that folks try to wedge me and my book into. Thus today’s Part II.
If you know me, you know I never went to a seminary or Bible college. I’m not ordained (whatever the heck that means), or a “licensed” minister. I’m just an everyday guy who was called by God into full-time ministry about 10 years ago. I’ve been blessed to walk the walk with Him, to have access to His written Word, and to sit under some great teachers. I guess you could say I’ve been to the same seminary as Peter, James and John — and to me, that’s the one that matters most.
That said, I often tell folks, when it comes to established “theology,” that I just fell off the turnip truck. I don’t know about all the -isms and other man-made boxes, pidgeonholes and subdivisions. I just know God.
This reminds me of a metaphor I’ve used many times: There are two ways to study a butterfly. You can pull off its wings and antenna, cut open its body, spread its insides on a slide, and look at it bit-by-bit under a microscope. Or, you can sit in the garden and watch it live. I’m sure there’s value in the slice and dice approach, but the fact is, if the butterfly on his lab table started to flap its wings, the scientist would have a heart attack.
To me, this metaphor applies perfectly to the whole idea of “theology.” By definition, this word means the scientific study of God — like biology is the scientific study of life, and geology is the scientific study of earth. The problem is, what God desires from us is not that we slice and dice Him, but that we have a real relationship with Him. If you wanted to grow your relationship with your wife, would you take out a clipboard, put on your lab jacket, and then sit back and study her every move? Sorta creepy if you ask me! Or, would you buy a bottle of wine, light some candles, put on some mood music, and have a romantic evening together? I sure hope you’d pick the latter!
My walk with God has focused more on getting to know Him personally — spending time with Him, sharing my heart, hearing His voice, trusting Him to lead the dance, step by step. During this time, I’ve learned incredible things about His Word and the truth of His promises. What I know about Him is more through first-hand experience than from book smarts. I’ve beheld the beauty of the butterfly.
As a result, the positions I take, including in my book UPRISING: Time for Christians to Stop Waiting and Start Winning, are fully deductive. Meaning, I’ve come to them through analysis of the evidence alone, instead of trying to piece together bits of evidence to support a pre-conceived notion.
Sadly, I’m afraid that the modern Christian idea market — by virtue of its being a structured, established, highly engineered old wineskin — is driven by inductive reasoning. The pretty little boxes are the pre-conceived notions — the pre-set theological categories – and writers who do not induce their experiences, insights and revelations into one of these boxes are not allowed in the big show.
Ok, this is starting to go a different direction once again. I set out to write about the pretty little boxes that gatekeepers of the Christian idea market have tried to force me into. So here goes…
Am I Charismatic? No, not in the traditional sense of the word. I relate well to those who claim this label, because I have first-hand seen miracles, felt the presence of the Holy Spirit, been a party to real-deal spiritual warfare and demonic deliverance, been used by God to utter words that are not a part of any human language, and have been somewhat comfortable in the Charismatic gatherings I’ve experienced. (My personal prefernce is worship that is a bit more thoughtful and orderly, but that’s just me.) However, to the extent that “Charismatic” has become a religious denomination — where certain loosey-goosey behaviors are expected, even if they’re merely the fruit of behaviorial conditioning and not of the Spirit, as is often the case – then I have a big problem with it.
Am I into “Dominion Theology”? The first time I was asked that, I had to look it up! While the name sounds great, the answer is a resounding no. Dominion Theology starts out good — adherents believe and pursue the dominion of the Body of Christ over the world — but it quickly goes the wrong direction. This theology advocates top-down takeover, including the political goal of establishing theocracy, and even allows for the use of force to reach this goal — and this is 100% counter to my position. I do believe in our dominion mandate – and ultimately, in complete takeover! — but I stand on the fact that the only way to accomplish this is as Jesus modeled: One heart at a time, through relationships and love. While our goal and belief in ultimate victory is the same, Dominion Theology calls for supply-side activism, whereas I call for demand-side ministry. And that’s a BIG difference.
Am I into “Kingdom Now” theology? From what I understand about this, it’s a subset of Dominion Theology, and as such, no, I’m not an adherent. Also, this teaching holds that Satan has had control over the earth and it’s our job to take it from him, and I don’t accept that at all. God didn’t give the world to Satan, and he had no power to take it. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything that’s in it” — and we are called to manifest that reality in the here and now.
Am I Reformed or Armenian? Had to look this one up, too. I’m Reformed. (But that’s a pretty darn big box.)
So … what label would I give myself? I don’t know. Just a follower of Jesus Christ, I guess.