50 Shades of Theological Gray

How comfortable are you with theological unknowns?

My church upbringing formed a belief system that did not allow for any theological variance. There was black and white and not much in between, and a “lukewarm” verse taken out of context was always used to substantiate the point. If you ever hinted at a middle ground (the dreaded gray), you were called “liberal” and were considered to be sliding down the proverbial slippery slope. I’m not sure what is at the bottom of the slippery slope, but to hear my childhood church describe it, I assumed it was hell. Basically a slip ‘n slide with Satan.

It makes sense in some respect. There is absolute truth, and it certainly seems possible that opening up truth to interpretation could lead to a complete loss of truth. Many seminaries thrive on this fear. There is a legitimate argument to be made IF every issue has ONE absolute truth. To me, the definition of “issue” becomes the real “issue.”

Take Jesus, as an example. There is certainly absolute truth when it comes to his Messiahship. His death and resurrection are true and critical to faith.

But what about baptism (and the Christians get nervous)? Is it required for salvation? Does submersion count more than sprinkling? I won’t get us started on infant and age-of-accountability!

That is just the tip of the theological iceberg. I’m not in a position to take a side or make a point on every issue that has points. There are plenty of very, very well versed and astute theologians who do this for a living. Yet, with all their education, study, and dedication to this craft, they can’t even agree. So here is my point (at least for this moment in time): If they don’t agree, could there be room for some gray?

If there are many sides of well-evaluated arguments on just about every theological issue, how pompous and arrogant must we look to outsiders when we profess to know without a doubt what is really unknowable without a doubt? As Christians, for some unknown reason, we have decided that we must have a clear position on every issue and situation. We feel it’s our job to reveal God’s truth to those living with questions. But attempting to answer every question either pushes people away from faith or removes the mystery found in the discovery of faith.

What if there is a better way?

What if God is capable of handling revelation?

What if God wants us to be less engaged in giving clarity and more involved with engaging humanity?

Here is what I absolutely know for sure about the unchurched, dechurched, and unbelieving world: They are not interested in our clarity, but they are open to conversations. The kind where we are genuinely interested in them. The kind where they aren’t treated as projects, but as people. The kind of conversations that actually display the heart of Jesus.

By the way, that’s exactly what Paul encouraged the early Christians to do:

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.Colossians 4:6 (NIV)

One more question:

What if all we actually did is lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus while trusting that He will reveal clearly everyone that needs clarity?

  1 Comment

  1. Michael Anthony   •  

    Anger and the Color Gray*

    There are times when my soul is grieved by the Spirit that lives in me. Backsliding and falling into sin will cause this grief and it leads me to become angry with myself. It is only relieved through confession and repentance. That is, confession to God, a change in behavior, and belief in His forgiveness. (Psalm 103:10-12; 1John 1:9)

    There is another type of anguish which stirs the Spirit in me also. This anguish can manifest itself in the form of anger and disappointment. These are human emotions for certain, but not necessarily sinful. “Be angry, but do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26) Yes, call out hypocrisy and heresy within the church with vigor, but stop the burning at the stake!

    The christian church of the twenty-first century in the United States bears little resemblance to the group of first century believers in Jerusalem. If fact, many of the “gray issues” which are separating believers today might be settled if we would just take the time to research our christian history.

    Yeshua’s behavior in the temple as described in Matthew (21:12-13) clearly shows a person who needed to be proactive in restoring the true purpose of Yehovah’s temple. Individually and corporately we are the temple of God. Sadly, most of us do not act like it. There is a time to be angry and a time to be peaceful. Emotions have a place in our lives, but we should not allow them to rule us.

    The Spirit in me is grieved when I see people flipping around on the church floor as if they were in a christian mosh-pit. It is grieved when I hear Catholics claim they are “saved” because they were baptized shortly after their birth. It is grieved when I read the testimony shared by Corrie ten Boom concerning the damage done to the church in China because of their belief in a “Pre-trib rapture”.

    It is grieved when all I hear are motivational speeches designed to tickle the ears and make people feel good. It is grieved when music is used to entertain and mesmerize, and not to worship. His Spirit in me is truly grieved when Christians are so ignorant that they do not even know the name that is above all names!**

    “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (1-John 4:1)

    The Bereans “received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:10-11)

    “But test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

    * Reference to blog posts: 07-08-14 and 07-10-17
    ** Nehemia Gordon 1000 Manuscripts Yehovah

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