Faith Communities, Revelation, & Interpretations
I attend two different communities. My home church is in a mainline, big tent denomination whose roots are more via media than classical Protestant, although I believe that we are considered such. The other community I attend is conservative fundamentalist Protestant. I attend here as part of my job working in recovery and ex-offender re-entry. Theologically the two communities are on different planets. Maybe this goes without saying, but theologically I am more at home in my home church/denomination than in the other community.
I used to have a great deal of trouble with the teaching at the fundamentalist church. I am not a dispensationalist or a Calvinist or Reformed. I cannot read the Bible literally (I don’t think anyone can or does.) I cannot affirm the Chicago Statements on Biblical Inerrancy. I think that science can and does inform us as to the mechanisms God used in creating. I agree with them that God IS Creator. I am gay affirming, they would teach that homosexual behavior is a mortal sin. They see God’s love as subordinate to His Sovereignty. They affirm the omni statements literally, God knows all including the future in all its detail, that He is everywhere at all times, that there is nothing God cannot do. I’m sorry but I cannot affirm these statements. I do not believe that the future is fixed, it doesn’t really exist so it is unknowable in its details, even to God. I do not believe that God is capable of acting in ways contrary to His nature, which is Love.
Now as much as I might disagree with some of the teachings within this community I admire the heart and praxis. From the pastor, who has one of the best hearts I’ve witnessed in a Christian throughout all of congregants I have met there is a true love of humanity. This love leads them into great action. They feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and as far as possible they house the homeless. The rehab program I work for is a ministry of this church, so that takes care of comforting those in prison. They visit those in the hospitals. This love is for the community at large, not just those within this flock. This congregation is being the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. While they are not and never will gay affirming, neither would they condemn or reject those of the LGBT community, although the teachings might have them feeling condemned and rejected. When it comes to one-on-one personal interaction the love would be felt. I feel it and for those of you who have read my post Lenses will recognize that I am not easy to love, accept in a community.
As I said I used to have trouble with some of the teachings in this community, but no more. You see I have long held that inspiration is God revealing Godself within communities of faith. These communities then struggle with how best to communicate that revelation for itself, their posterity, and for other communities of faith. I think that this fits with what I know of the early rabbinic tradition and with the name of the first real faith community, Israel (struggle with God). I used to think of this solely for the communities out of which come the texts compiled into the Bible. But, I have been led to start broadening that, to really embrace the Big Tent ideal of my denomination. I have come to see through this little fundamentalist congregation’s loving heart and action that maybe just maybe God isn’t through revealing Godself to and within faith communities. This community professes the essentials of the Christian faith. They may add to these minimal essentials as stated in the early ecumenical creeds, but they affirm the creeds. So, I have come to see that expanding the essentials is right for this community, even if it isn’t for me. My understanding of the early rabbinic tradition seems to say that it was okay for different rabbis and different communities to have different interpretations. I think that I am becoming increasingly sympathetic to this idea. We are all different, our communities are different maybe our interpretations, so long as they are firmly grounded in orthodoxy, orthopathy, and orthopraxis are what God wants and is within His will. After all He renamed Jacob Israel and Paul tells us that we are Israel by adoption, children of the promise. So maybe we, all of our communities are struggling with God and finding within Him what is the best interpretations for us.