On March 1, 2013, I recorded a note my journal:
Love is not rational
Has my reader figured that one out yet?
Love and rationality are like oil and water. They don’t mix.
The two really are polar opposites. Love is an emotion. Rationality is intellect. The mind contemplates and reasons out the emotion, gives the emotion words.
Why do some mothers think their murderous sons are good?
Her motherly love.
Why does God help depraved humanity?
His Godly love.
Why do many people get married?
Love is the force that moves people to act beyond reason. Love risks death to save another. Love risks ridicule to be with the one they love.
Love is not rational.
Yet love makes the world go round. Without love the world would be a pretty cold place.
L O V E
To come to the decision that I am about to share required a lengthy period of intense Bible study, along with an examination of theological perspective. It was a decision months, if not years, in the making and required much prayer. So I want to share some background information.
Back in 2001, maybe 2002, my wife and I were in home Bible studies. We covered many Bible books, and even a few Bible study guides. During that process, what I discovered was that I had no ability to actually read and understand the Bible.
To support my belief structures, I used the information and hermeneutic principles that I had been given. Through intense debates about what the Bible actually meant, I found my own lack of knowledge and Bible skills. Dismayed at myself and the constant issues, and after some encouragement and prayers, my wife and I determined to attend a Bible School overseen by my religious heritage.
The school provided me with a great foundation. The primary tools they gave me were contextual studies, historical and geographic information, along with five semesters of Greek and a semester of Hebrew. There were plenty of other things they taught, but those where the classes that gave me the best for my efforts, and those classes helped guide me during my own private studies which occurred after graduation and during my years of pulpit ministry.
While in school, I experienced a tremendous debate that erupted between two congregations. The argument was completely driven by each congregation’s interpretation of the Bible. One congregation labeled the other as not following Bible doctrine. The situation was quite a mess. But what that mess inspired was a need to pursue why my religious heritage had so many doctrinal disputes.
My own personal experience involved debates about the Bible that revolved around Bible knowledge, or lack thereof, mine and others. My Bible School experienced involved congregational debates about the Bible that revolved around Bible knowledge, or lack thereof, on both sides. I say both sides, because what I found later is that some people and some congregations in my religious heritage have a lack of appreciation for the complexity and depth of the Scriptures.
The absolute worst way to interpret the Bible and derive doctrine is picking and choosing verses that contain similar words. Throughout history, that type of hermeneutic is practiced over and again, amongst many various denominations, non-denominations, and Community Bible churches. From my experience, that method conjoined with a lack of historical and literary contexts, along with other items that directly affect context, drive most debates and divisions amongst Christians.
So as I was learning to incorporate contextual studies into my Bible Study regimen it affected my presentation of the text, formally (sermon) and informally (class). That information affected my answers to questions, and the guidance I gave during my tenure in pulpit ministry. To put it succinctly, many of the doctrinal dogmas I had been given, I could no longer support and refused to support in the manner in which my religious heritage typically would.
The doctrinal confrontation between me and my religious heritage did not end with me stepping down from the pulpit. In some ways, the confrontation grew more intense, where several of my religious heritage did as the previous 50 to 75 years of history within my heritage did. It was not of any real surprise.
I had published much information about my thoughts. I had written many articles and even focused on specific issues. I had written about theology and why theological perspectives matter. I had written about Bible interpretation, especially how the OT is utilized.
However, on March 12, 2013 I had reached my end, and published the following on Facebook:
ok. serious time. i have been educated. i am officially a heretic and hell bound if i do not repent. so, i make my declaration official: i am no longer part of the church of christ, and nothing that anyone says can persuade me to return. liberty in christ means just that, freedom to draw conclusions about doctrine that vary from the dogma of the pulpit. with that in mind, consider me lost, i might resurface sometime before i die, but i doubt it. if you are a church of christ person, feel free to unfriend; but if you don’t[,] be fully aware that hanging out with me is damnation. I hear a song… ‘my friends are going to be there too.’
That pretty much captures how I was feeling at the time. My religious heritage generally agrees with other Christians, but also has specific doctrines to itself, which is what makes it a denomination like so many other denominations. To be faithful, you are either following the doctrine or you’re not.
When you don’t follow, you will be given time to reconsider your movements. But if you retain your convictions, you will eventually receive what is termed: disfellowship. This is an action that shows public disapproval, and the only way back is to repent and return to religious heritage’s doctrinal positions.
They can do as they please.
Does that bother me?
At the time, you can see that it bothered me. However, today, I am not so bothered by their belief structure. Here’s what I mean.
With the concept of free-will comes the concept of the right to choose. They chose. I chose.
What I chose doesn’t agree with them. So be it. Because here’s the issue, if I am really going to believe in “free-will” then they have to have the God-given right to disagree with me, just as I want the God-given right to disagree with them.
Don’t get me wrong. My disagreement with them and their disagreement with me are about the Bible and thus doctrinal. However, we have strongly differing views about how the Bible should be interpreted and thus practiced.
They think I am wrong and need to repent.
I think they are wrong, but they believe in the most crucial elements: God, Jesus as Messiah, and the Holy Spirit. I therefore don’t have any desire to confront how they decide to put the rest of their faith into practice.
Do I think they are wrong?
But do I think it is worth dividing and continuing to split Christendom?
However, they believe and feel differently about that question, and free-will demands that they be allowed to express themselves, whether they are right or wrong.
From time to time, I still interact and converse with people from my religious heritage. I do what I can to remain cordial and receptive to dialogue. But I don’t gather with any church that identifies with my religious heritage.
The biggest differences between my self and my religious heritage are the following.
One, they believe that the OT has no authority for NT Christians.
Two, anything not permitted in the NT is prohibited, except where “expediency” permits use, which leads to all kinds of interesting doctrinal dilemmas.
Three, they believe that the NT is that which is perfect.
Four, they believe apostles are no longer a part of the church.
Five, they believe that modern miracles, signs, and wonders have stopped.
Six, they believe that God’s dynamic leading no longer exists.
There are other things, but those are the biggest. Those things create lots of doctrinal dilemmas, debates, and congregational variations. Those things create the bulk of the hermeneutic that gives the Bible interpretations that I disagree with.
What is the future for me with my religious heritage?
When I consider some of the advice I have received, then I would say that I am welcomed to attend but I have been asked to remain uninvolved. When I consider past observational experiences within my heritage, I would be welcomed, but to resume and be fully accepted, I would have to endorse those doctrines. At this time, my Bible studies, my prayer life, my faith, do not lead me to think that I could be associated with my religious heritage and remain uninvolved or even accept the doctrines I once held dear.
I truly appreciate the personal dedication that I have found within my religious heritage. Yet, if there is one thing that I took away from that heritage is that the Bible is valuable and reveals God’s intention. I still believe that.
I have many family and friends within my religious heritage. So, choosing to pursue God and Christ outside of my religious heritage was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made.
As I revealed, one of the biggest differences between my self and my religious heritage is that I believe that God is dynamic, which means that God is active. God still has an active vested interest in humanity. God wants humanity to have an active vested interest in God.
To make something clear, human active academic interest in God is not the same as human active vested interest in God. Human active academic interest is from the mind. The intellect draws up thinking, which we call theology. Theology is what is used to manage groups of Christians, called churches. Humans do have vested interest in theology, but that is not the same thing as humans having an active vested interest in God.
The heart does not make a vested interest in the academic, the mind does. Pursuing God with the human intellect is limited, because humans are limited. But the human heart takes us places our intellect cannot. Yet God interacts with human intellect and wants humans to have an intellectual faith. But academic interest is intellect and because it’s intellect it is therefore limited.
Before leaving the pulpit, I really started reaching out to God in a different way, needing God’s presence, God’s leading more than I had ever experienced. Once I arrived back in Texas, my prayer life became more focused. But my prayer life really changed just prior to the 2013 Passover.
It was during that year that my prayer life became more interactive, more directive, more helpful. It was something I had to experience, to test, to verify. But after many years of helpful and insightful prayers, I have come to truly enjoy prayer.
I began this Installment talking about how love is not rational. With that in mind, I want to share part of a prayer from April 27, 2013. While the following may not be highly evocative, it does represent a portion of an early prayer. During that prayer time, I recorded:
Love is gorgeous. Love is overwhelming. Love is not preoccupied. Love is unending. Love is uplifting. Love is on-going. Love is always. Love is merciful. Love forgives. Love endures. Be patient. Be kind. Be forgiving. Love them.
Love takes us places the mind only dreams.
Love braves against rejection, longing in anticipation, looking for completion.
I long for my completed family. What I have is good. What will be, will be great.
Blessings and Shalom