This journey has been a bit of a roller coaster recently. Dave and I have had some very deep discussions over the last 17 months, hindered to some extent by the very long hours that Dave has to work.
It is said that there is at least one book in each of us. When I think of some of the authors I have read over the years one can see how their views have gradually changed, and they have been encouraged by their publishers to write new books. Instead of writing a book I started developing a web site in 2000 that later became a blog. I now have two blogs, the content of which has changed enormously over the years as a result of ongoing discussions that involved a few hundred participants. The end result is that I have a blog expressing my own thoughts as they stand now, that is probably the equivalent of a 250 page book that never has to have a publisher’s deadline. I don’t need to write more material but I can add comments and change my views at any time. At this point in time at least, there is this strong feeling of a time to step back and encourage others to share in what I would hope would be a safe haven.
When I read the review of ‘Christianity After Religion‘ and the subsequent interview, this was just another ‘light bulb’ moment that kept me absorbed for many hours over the Easter period. I just got the feeling that Diana, although she relates to ‘Progressive Christianity’, is as a historian, sufficiently far away to have a very good picture of what is happening and why she and so many others are wondering how this ‘great awakening’ is going to occur. For me her comment about seminaries just hit the nail on the head – they are just not going to change!
I listened to a ‘TED’ podcast last night by the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking that just said so much! I know why I believe and I know that it’s not mine or anybody else’s job to convince others. It’s obvious to me that there is a place for teachers to show the way, but only when they recognise that they do not have all the answers. I recognise that many older Christians are stuck in a ‘conformist stage’ and are likely to stay that way. I can also see that many more in times past, have lived their whole lives within a ‘conformist stage’ and that many evangelicals are doing their best to perpetuate that situation.
History is full of stories of the rise and fall of empires (and I’m not just thinking of nations). The Christian religion – or Christendom – is being undermined by the questioning that is taking place in the Western world – and especially through the internet. I have my own thoughts about where this journey is going. I may be quite wrong (as so many others have in the past) but that’s not important. It is obvious that tens of thousands of us are being drawn away from ‘traditional’ Christianity for a purpose. Many leaders are putting forward their own ideas in books and podcasts, and building up a following. My guess is that this is absolutely fine for a season. But we must never forget that it was Jesus who said, “Follow me” and that we are not meant to be following other men!
We have been called to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour. When I look back over a period of more than 60 years I can see how I have learned, ‘here a little, there a little‘. I have been given snippets of understanding. I have been involved in numerous projects within the communities in which we have lived, and in a working environment both as a chief clerk and as a manager of around 40 trainee computer programmers in the late 1960’s. After the breakup of the Worldwide Church of God I attended two counselling skills courses before a ‘Christian Counselling course’ that was meant to be a two year course that was crammed into 34 weeks (one day a week). After the first four months we were expected to have our own clients. I refused to use ‘guinea pigs’ and that didn’t go down very well. I was told that there was no point in continuing the course because there would be no way I could qualify at the end of it. But I did continue and learned so much about myself from the interaction with the other members of the course. I learned so much about how counselling should not be done! There were also times when others on the course were envious of the freedom I had to question what was being said.
I think back to some of my earlier reading in the late 1990’s when we only had dial-up internet connections. There were many booklets and articles that I read that opened up entirely new ways of thinking. There were a number of authors who had a big impact at the time. What has been interesting has been rereading some of those articles years later and recognising how important they were, despite the fact that I now disagree with some of the conclusions. There was one book in particular that had a big impact on my thinking – most of which I still agree with. But when I reread the first chapter a few years ago I was surprised to see that the whole book had been built on a foundation that I now see as incorrect – but that hasn’t taken away any of the value that I got from the book at the time – and that to me is important.
Writing my ‘open letter’ has been important. I’m an introvert who is not afraid to share his limited feelings. I had always been puzzled by my lack of emotions and had said on a few occasions that I never had highs or lows and almost always lived life on an even keel. It was the awareness of Aspergers Syndrome some four years ago that suddenly opened such a door to understanding why I’m the way I am!
When I look back over the last few years I sense that the biggest lessons I have learned have been ‘why people believe what they believe, often as a result of divisive denominational theology’. This I believe helps me to listen to and appreciate where others are coming from who have been drawn away from the churches that they may have attended for many years. I am not a teacher but I do find myself relating to teachers who have been drawn away and who are questioning their own understanding.
What I found so significant about the review and interview with Diana was that here was a picture of much of what I understand of the American Christian scene. The scene in Europe and the UK is very different – we are much further down the road towards secularisation – especially in the realms of government. As a former Anglican I can relate to so much of what N T Wright is saying when addressing American audiences. I see what leaders of the emerging / emergent / house church movements are trying to reconcile – and that is obviously one part of what might be a great awakening. It seems fairly obvious that that is not going to take place in my lifetime.
In the meantime others who are not involved with leadership are also being drawn away from the traditional churches and often finding themselves isolated. This is the journey that I have been involved with for many years. Although I often say that I have been outside the walls of ‘traditional’ Christianity for some 40 years it was only about three years ago that I was finally led to share with my wife that I was no longer able to attend with her. It’s hard to describe the impact that decision has made on my understanding of what it means to be drawn deeper, but it does come back to the consideration of, “What are the Foundations of the Christian Faith”! Dave and I have been sidetracked to some extent but I do feel that the topics listed on my blog are the majority of the ones that are being considered by those who are being drawn into what I tend to describe as a ‘wilderness experience‘. I’m no writer – I only ask questions! As I’ve said, I hope we have the makings of a Safe Haven where we can share thoughts as friends. I’d like to think that others will share their thoughts on these topics – knowing that we will not always agree amongst ourselves – because our unique journeys have enabled us to see differing parts of the whole story.
I am finding it very difficult to collect my thoughts because so much has happened over the last nine months. I drew together some of the thoughts that Dave and I have discussed in ‘Dave Price’ and then further in ‘The Development of a Friendship’.
I’ve no idea what happens next – and that’s exciting. I guess my wilderness journey stops here! A reminder of ‘The Room of Grace’ and my reactions to the talk by John Lynch. Am I meant to be staying here at least for some time, or are others going to carry granddad forward?