Thoughts coming together
My views today are a tad different from those I held four decades ago. I didn't move from there to here in one step. I didn't even see the picture I now see. But I got here in progressive steps, including what some might see as backward steps. I also intend to keep on learning and changing. Early on the apostle Paul described himself as the least of the apostles - such humility. Near the end of his life, he described himself as the chief of sinners. If our views haven't changed in the last decade or so, we should be checking our pulse. Change is risky, but it's also a sign of life.
Early doubts came from various sources, but possibly the first big thing was when church issues overwhelmed me. I dropped out for six months in the mid-90s and never went back. A friend was concerned for me and gave me a booklet for me to read. I read it on a Friday night when I was tired after a hard week and thought "nice fad". I re-read it the next morning and found the author lived over the hill in our city. I rang him, and he invited us over the hill.
Much to my surprise, we found that just as we hesitantly (and initially for a short-term) rejected the option of school for our children, so too we hesitantly traded the formality of church for house church. We soon learned house church wasn't "the" answer, but it did allow freedom to explore that generally isn't encouraged in "church". We were privileged to meet people like Wolfgang Simson (Houses that changed the world) and Tony and Felicity Dale (An army of ordinary people).
Following my stroke and transplant (from 2007 - 2014) my brain once more had an adequate supply of oxygen and I could think relatively clearly once again (although some might dispute that). One of the first things that happened was I started talking with God. This is not "prayer" as we usually think of it. It is two way and even involves arguments.
Before conversations with God, I once argued (and pleaded and bargained) with God when a special friend with four children all still at school was given a terminal diagnosis. That was motivated by extreme circumstances, which is not unusual - trauma brings change. But now it happens regularly - still often in writing which is useful, but also in general life at times. Of course, that means I have to be quiet enough to hear - something I'm still working on.
When the book "The Shack" appeared I was underwhelmed, until I read "The shack revisited' by a theologian. Reading that book let me appreciate "The Shack". It is, of course, a novel - not "fact". But Jesus talked in parables, and while they were simply stories, they contained significant truth.
Another novel I read recently is 11 Days by Mark Holloway. Mark is the guy who introduced me to the fact God still wants to talk with us, and this novel is about a bike trip (on a 2.3l Triumph). As I read, it was clearly about Mark's real life, although he'd changed the character's name (and presumably the other characters as well). I had to smile when one of his mates dobbed in him as the author of The Freedom Diaries. He admitted he was under the pen name Mark Holloway. A great read, made even more amazing by the fact it's "true", even if written as a novel.
All of these lead in roundabout ways that I hadn't necessarily realised to the fact that God is our Father - not our judge. Before you jump up and quote me verses about God being our judge, realise that's exactly what I'd have said a decade ago. There is another book which ties together all of this. It's a 3-volume "Systematic Theology for the New Apostolic Reformation: An exposition in Father-Son Theology". I heard the author (Harold Eberle) at a conference a year before I could afford the book.
A friend said he sounded like Tom Wright. I looked him up and found this was metaphorical - not physical. Howard is a US charismatic. Tom is a C of E former Bishop who reminds me of CS Lewis. So here we have two very different people who've come to very much the same position. Their views are very similar, but towards the end of Howard's third volume he points out that Tom has a different view of one of his points.
Differences are fine. So much of today's society (particularly in social media) regards differences as to be avoided. In extreme cases they can be. Just think about the Irish "troubles", or ISIS. But there have been many fine and useful examples of differences. I think of people in my own life who argued with me, or of the Oxford debate (long before David Lange made his famous contribution there) between two US citizens - one black and one white - about racial segregation. Only by public discourse can ideas be debated and refined - or rejected.
Since I read the book, so many things in the Bible made consistent sense. Things can be consistent but still be wrong. However, in this case, there is so much inconsistency in classical theology I am now much happier with my "theology" (not that I ever had a formal theology before, which I guess is part of the problem). For those who prefer CS Lewis type of writing, much of the same material is in "Surprised by Hope" by Tom Wright.
I have launched a discussion for Kiwis who want to investigate and discuss their theology. We welcome posts from all members, but only after you've digested our starting material (and that could take days or weeks). The topics are not separate subjects - they are all part of the same whole. We break them into subjects simply in an effort to make a massive subject easier to discuss.