Friday, June 16, 2006

The passage I quoted yesterday from Jimmy Carter's book contained the essence of what drove me out of the Baptist church. The diversity and the acceptance of diversity was what drew me to the Episcopal church. In TEC, there existed a broad continuum of theologies and beliefs, but all communicants were able to lay aside their differences, love one another as redeemed sinners, and come to the Lord's Supper with an attitude of "I could be wrong about what I believe, the way I interpret the Bible, but I will be obedient to our Lord's command to love one another, and I will kneel with you, no matter where you are in your journey, and celebrate the gift of salvation we received by grace."

The tragedy in our church is that some have stepped away from that willingness to say, "I could be wrong." When I listen to people like the Rev. Anderson, Father Manning, or the Rev. Mohler, all on Larry King last night, I have an immediate negative reaction to what they say. It's visceral even. Their tone is sanctimonious and condescending. Even the Apostle Paul admitted he was no expert, but he was committed to "running the race," not resting on his laurels (or credentials). I interpret that to mean a lifetime of learning. He was open to new revelations from the Holy Spirit.

Jesus' parable of the talents comes to mind. The faithful servants take the grace that has been given to them, and develop, expand or amplify their initial gifts. The fearful servant takes the grace given to him and hides it, never allowing it even to draw interest. His accounting to his Master is not well received, while the other servants were praised and rewarded.

That is the way I see the different methods of Bible interpretation. Some want to hold only to the few words given in the Scriptures, while others are willing to imagine what might have been in all those "other books" that John mentions, or who those "sheep not of this fold" were. Jesus said, "Oh, there is so much more I want to tell you, but you can't bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth." Paul contrasts living by the law to living by the spirit, or what was written and taught as immutable by the Pharisees to the freedom found in the Holy Spirit. Thank God for those courageous enough to let the Spirit lead them into territory beyond what King James included in the Bible as we have it today.

Where do we find "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?" Wherever we find it, that's where the Spirit of Truth resides. Do we really believe "that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose?" Are we willing to continue praying, "I may be wrong, Lord. If I am, convict me and lead me in a different direction."

In his letter to the Philipians, Paul says, "One group is motivated by pure love ... others, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves ...I've decided that I really don't care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on! He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion..."

Maybe we should be more like Paul and leave the completion of God's work to God.


Zoilus said...

See, I knew I got all those beliefs of mine from somewhere, even though you and I never really talked about them directly. Maybe it's just a common tolerance gene we share.

Where do you think Silas J. would've stood on such matters? Did he ever speak of it?

C. J. Garrett said...

His overriding theme in all his sermons was "love." He did not think the Bible should be interpreted literally, most of it anyway. He always said there was more he didn't know about God, the Bible, etc, than he did know. His most fractious conflict at Plantersville was with Edith Brooks (a former pastor's daughter), who took the Bible much too literally for his taste. So I would say he was moderate to progressive in his thinking.