So, I’ve been asking all these questions. I hit on a few pretty big ones – why did Jesus come? Why did Jesus die? – and so forth, which led me to question the model of atonement that I grew up with, and hadn’t even really noticed before. I was aware that it didn’t work for me, I couldn’t make it make sense, but had never imagined that might be because it wasn’t right, or right for me, I imagine the thought police would rather I said. I hadn’t imagined that there could be other possible models. So, I found myself asking, and questing, as I began to write about here. And then I thought I’d do some reading. I read a lot of blogs, and found some interesting thoughts on the subject, eg. here. I asked someone whose opinion I value and respect, even if I don’t always agree with it. I’d like to ask some other people, too, but haven’t found the right opportunity. Then I came upon an ebook that sounded interesting – not definitive, you understand: I’m not ready to look for answers yet, just for questions. And reading it has been interesting. I’m not yet half way through. This morning, on my commute, I was reading it. I was reading Tony Jones, the author, state categorically things like
what I’m saying is that Jesus (God) really, materially healed people…really, materially died…And Jesus (God) really, materially rose from death
and thinking “of course I agree with that. I’ve always agreed with that…oh, wait, do I?”…
…and I then I thought about other things I’d read previously, like the brilliantly-phrased
a problem with the penal substitutionary understanding of atonement, it seems to me, is that there’s really no reason for the resurrection. It’s little more than Jesus’ ‘Ta-Da! See, I told you I was divine!’
And suddenly, the questions I was asking got harder, got personal. Not “why did this happen?”, but “why do I believe this happened?”, which of course leads to “do I believe this?” – and on, and on, and my paradigms crumbled around me as I realised: the only reason I believe what I believe is because I choose to. Not because I actually believe it at all – I honestly can’t say whether I do or not – but because I wanted to believe those things.Fox? I love you so!)
My faith, my worldview, has developed thus: as a child I was severely and damagingly brainwashed. As a young adult, I stepped casually away from those things – put some distance between me and they, because I didn’t feel safe around them, but neither did I feel safe leaving them behind, so still I took them with me. As an older adult, a “mature” student at university, I suddenly felt I had to reject a lot of what I’d been taught, because it couldn’t be right – the things I was learning showed me that.
So then I wandered about in the wilderness, of course. Then, as a grown-up (supposedly), I found myself working in the church. And I listened, and watched, and felt love. So eventually I felt safe enough to begin looking, questing. I read the New Testament, and somewhere in Romans something clicked. Something made sense that hadn’t before (funnily enough, I’m no longer sure what it was, but it felt important at the time), enough that I could allow myself to step into the world of church, religion, faith. A personal faith journey - I can’t deny that I was on one, but I would have struggled to accept it as such during those early stages.
Since then, I’ve listened to things, sought out teaching and preaching and text and subtext; have questioned, listened, challenged, read; have brought myself to the front of the wave and crashed myself onto the beach over and over again. I have learned some things, but I have been taking baby steps, or not even that: tiptoeing around the edges of what might matter. Why?
Because I couldn’t, wouldn’t, let the idols fall. I could not let go of the false teachings I grew up with, even though I knew them to be destructive and painful for me. So I had sorted through them, picked up the bits that I could stomach, greyed out the rest, and mashed them up into some kind of personal religion. Eww. This is not a good thing. It’s an interesting thing, and I shall very much enjoy unpicking it. What I need to do now is to explore the real questions; to find out what I actually can and do believe, if anything. This is very scary. I have a lot to let go of. I may well duck out sometimes, pretend it’s all ok again, clutch on to those strands of before. But now I can no longer deny that I’m on a personal faith journey – I am journeying to find my faith, because at this stage I have no idea what, or if, I believe.
Although the road is scary-looking, I’m not scared. I’m excited. As a journeymate for this beginning, for just now, I am taking Karl Barth, whose writing I have fallen in love with, regardless of what he’s saying (what can I say? I’m a wordgeek – and I’m not even sorry!).
I like to think that I’m adult enough to be able to explore and enjoy things not just because I agree with them but sometimes because I don’t. I don’t yet even know which things I will or won’t agree with – that’s the whole adventure!