I was talking with a friend a few days ago, and we talked about various issues surrounding theology and the church. We discussed the emerging church and the work of Brian McClaren.
We both agreed that in order to mature and continue to grow in our faith, to get closer to God and to find out more about Him and about the Bible its important to ask questions. Children learn often by asking questions, and we are children of God. Therefore providing we have the right core beliefs and values, and the right level of maturity in our faith, we shouldn't be afraid to ask questions of God and the Bible. Not questions to try and disprove faith, but merely to strengthen it.
Some Christians say we should never question God or question the Bible. I know what they mean, but in my opinion that type of 'questioning' is more about attempting to disprove Christianity and maybe even insult and attack it. To disrespect God.
The kind of questioning I'm talking about is simply asking questions. Looking at the details of what's in the Bible, the cultural context, the historical context, the Biblical context and looking at principles and values outlined in the Bible and seeing what else we can learn from them, whether there is anything new we can take and apply to our lives.
The more you ask questions the more questions it leads to. You answer one, and it leads to another. We should not be afraid of this, we should trust the basic truths we believe in about God, because they never change.
Which leads me to my next point.
My friend made the point in our meeting that its important in doing this to know what precisely we believe, what the core values of our faith are. I realised then that I needed to define for myself what those are.
We assume sometimes we know what we believe, and there's no problem with that. But how often do we re-visit it? How often to we actually vocalise it?
Not very often, in most cases.
We need to. Its important. To grow, we need to know what our core beliefs are. Our interpretation of the basic truths of our faith. As Rob Bell puts it, they can then act as springs to jump and push the boundaries and ask questions. Like gravity those basic truths and values always pull us back if we go too far off course. There's only so far we can jump, but there is freedom in jumping to go in all sorts of directions.
So what core doctrines do I believe in?
Jesus as the divine Son of God who died and rose again for my sins and who is the only way to eternal life.
God as supreme being who created the universe and the earth and everything in existence, even time itself.
The trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
That the power of the Holy Spirit is at work today and that all of us have gifts given to us by God to serve Him in the world and are called to be Jesus to all around us wherever we are.
Those are the key doctrines of faith I believe in. But I also believe in the following values.
That Christianity and following Jesus is a way of life, not a religion with defined regulations and rules.
That church is not a tradition, its not an establishment organisation, that its meant to be a community of believers serving, loving, giving, blessing and being Jesus to each other. A group of people discipling each other and having accountability with each other and towards God Himself. Then reaching out love and serve and be Jesus to those in its immediate community, both locally and internationally, and to try and re-define our culture to God's values. A group that sets the agenda for change and is active is seeking and promoting God values to the wider world. A community of activists.
That church is a place that is welcoming to all people no matter their circumstances and tradition, not a place of judgement and condemnation. People to be held responsible for their actions, though never to be judged and condemned, but be treated with grace and love.
That's just for starters probably. But those are the things I believe in most strongly and are most passionate about.
I know I have so much more to learn and so far to grow. But I'm excited and looking forward to it. Asking more questions, getting more knowledge and always coming back to those same core doctrines and values.
Its an adventure with Jesus. An adventure with the God, with the creator of everything.
The best adventure we can ever have.