Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Working Statement of Christian Faith


***My theology is always evolving. But, I have come to discover some truths that have impacted me so profoundly that I cannot, at this point, let them go. In fact, I have found that with some of these truths, the more I devote myself to them, the more I feel liberated and more connected to the cosmos, especially humankind. Nevertheless, I provide this statement to convey the evolutionary nature of my world view. I am open-minded.

Presupposition #1: My world view presupposes a Creator God. This presupposition stems from three reasons:

1. The beauty, grandeur and complexity of the created world (Isa. 40:26). My experience of the created world causes me to believe that the world is too good physically, biologically, aesthetically, and 'corporately' to deny something greater behind/within creation.

2. Humankind's general orientation toward something "greater" exemplified in: a) our ability to transcend ourselves (Ecc. 3:11); and b) our desire to worship (Jer. 2:5; Ex. 20:3-5) [e.g. Dostoyevskey's Grand Inquisitor...]

3. Much of humankind's orientation toward a Creator God. For me, the witness of many (not all) who presuppose a creator God is powerful "evidence." I should note that I struggle equally with the witness of those who endorse other views.

Presupposition #2: My world view presupposes the concept of a Meta-Narrative. Myths, stories, and communal narratives are as old as human existence. We live in the realm of narrative and I believe that, whether we like it or not, we live out our lives according to at least one (often more) narratives.

Presupposition #3: Creation is profoundly Future-Oriented. The concept of time is extremely complicated, but I do believe that we live toward or out of the future. This causes human beings to be oriented toward the future. And, for me, orientation toward future implies un-fulfillment of the present. It suggests that creation is not yet finished...


"In the beginning God created..." but did not finish creating! Creation is an ongoing process and we find ourselves in the middle of a cosmos being birthed; a process of self-discovery, purpose, and everlasting meaning.

1. A Process View of God - God is not omnipotent in the sense of being coercive, but rather God's power is the empowerment of other life. God therefore exists in intimate and dynamic relationship with the created world, participating in its very ebb and flow, intending to guide the cosmos toward the ultimate goal (telos) for which it has been created: that God will be "all in all "(1 Cor. 15:28 ) and "dwell with humankind" (Rev. 21:3). I interpret this as meaning that all of the cosmos and God will exist in loving relationship/community.

So HOW does God guide or empower creation in this process? I believe through revelation and action.

2. The Revelation of God - Anything that we can know about God is revealed to us by God (i.e. originates in God's Self-disclosure). For me, this concept alone suggests that God desires to be known and is more than a mere principle or metaphysical force; perhaps the subject of life who can and does relate to us. I believe that God's Self-disclosure occurs in two ways: A) General Revelation; and B) Specific Revelation.

A) General Revelation is the "imprint" that God leaves on the very nature of life: the created order, the beauty/aesthetic value, etc. This revelation is latent within creation, waiting to be dis-covered by us for our own good pleasure and strengthening of relationship with God.

B) Specific Revelation is a fuller kind of Self-disclosure in which God directly reveals God's Self to person(s). This may have occurred through a burning bush, a voice, an angel, a dream, a sign, or a feeling.

BOTH General and Specific Revelation, I believe, occur through God's Spirit (the "Holy Spirit" in much Christian terminology). The Spirit of God is moving/speaking all the time in my opinion; She reveals to us our purpose and our goal. However, there is one additional and unique revelation in my tradition.

C) The Scandal of Particularity: The Most Specific Revelation of God in Jesus of Nazareth. In addition to the revelation of God both historic and current, I believe that the fullest revelation of the Creator God has come at a specific place and time in history in the person of Jesus.

Why do I believe that Jesus was God Incarnate (God-in-the-flesh)?

1) I believe that Jesus' words and actions (as recorded in the Canonical Gospels) provide cryptic revelations of his identity as God-in-the-flesh (e.g. his relationship with the Jerusalem Temple, his self-identification with certain Scripture/parables, his self-understanding in relation to God-YHWH, his prophetic teachings/actions that seem to fulfill "end-time" promises, etc.)

2) I trust the witness of the earliest followers. John's Gospel reads, "No one has ever seen God, the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, has made God known," (John 1:18). The entire New Testament refers to Jesus in ways characteristic of God. I wrestle with this witness and ultimately trust it.

3) Personal Relationship with this Jesus the Christ - as I have followed Jesus' way, I have encountered profound and ineffable (Divine?) truth. I have encountered this in Jesus' way of loving God-YHWH first, loving thy neighbor through non-violence, peace-making, compassion, and trying to live under the "Reign of God" (here the term denotes the way of being exampled by Jesus).

4) I find a non-Incarnational view lacking in beauty and truth. For me, the notion that the Creator of the Cosmos is so loving that S/He would become like humankind, model true humanness, and then suffer the extent of violence at the hands of humankind provides the best story I have ever encountered (i.e. I find this narrative most compelling).

Not only do I believe that Jesus is the fullest revelation of God, but Jesus is also the fulfillment of God's purpose for humanity - Jesus is the "True Adam." While "Adam" may represent the archetype of broken humanity, Jesus is the archetype of reconciled humanity, living as humanity was meant to live: under the loving reign of God in community with God and each other.

In much of Christian theology, including my own, this is called an "eschatological" truth: Jesus is considered the "End" (the telos) of creation. And Jesus' presence in the middle of history is as if the end/goal of creation has broken into the present to reveal the ending in medias res. One might imagine the end of a long scroll being folded back onto itself to place the ending into the middle. This, I believe, is truly how the earliest followers of Jesus made sense of their experience, and it is how I too see things.

(This has big implications for me: it affirms the goodness of creation and the body; it suggests that God is redeeming creation "from the inside out" and is [still] desiring to co-operate with humanity to guide creation toward its goal and transform a broken world).

Yet, I have also come to discover the limitations of my own attempts to follow Jesus and realize more and more that I am incapable of "saving" myself - I NEED A SAVIOR. And I believe that God's actions in Jesus were God's decisive saving actions of me and the entire cosmos.

My need for salvation is due to my tendency to resist God's guidance. I believe that we humans resist the purpose for which we have been created. This, in my tradition, has often been labeled "sin."

3. False Narratives -

I believe that this resistance from God's purpose is manifested in the following of false narratives (what could also be termed "worshipping false gods/idols"). As we know, stories take place all the time within and overtop one another. So it is quite complicated. But I believe that we can most easily discover what narrative(s) we are following by examining a) what frightens us or makes us uncomfortable, and b) what we worship with our time, energy, resources, etc. For me, "sin" is the turning from God's True Story toward false narratives that dehumanize us and disconnect creation. What is essential for me, therefore, is to stay "on track" with God's Story; to live into it and be an actor within it.

This demands that I remain connected to the Author, hence the importance of spiritual disciplines and connectivity. For me, my connection to the Story is founded upon the theological claim that the God revealed to creation through the biblical narrative, most fully in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, is the "Word," the Author of Life and Author of the Great Story.

[images taken from The History of Redemption]

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