aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Hard truths

Our Wednesday Bible study group began 1 John today. John's letter is a hard one to talk about. Some of his main ideas are very difficult, not to mention off-the-radar of the average Christian these days. For one thing, John is so either-or in his understanding of things -- unlike Paul, who is very both-and. To John, you are either in Christ or out of Christ, righteous or unrighteous. Paul understands inner conflict; he uses nuance. John simply declares holiness and claims it. The Wesleyan doctrine of Christian perfection owes a lot to John.

But not only is John's idea of holiness difficult and uncompromising; his idea of doctrine is also uncompromising. You either teach Jesus as Son and Christ of God -- or you're the antichrist. There is no room in John for anything gnostic or deistic. Which makes it hard to talk about what this means in the Church of today, since most of my parishioners find it difficult to believe that there are any Methodist ministers who don't believe and teach all the right things. "How could they recite the Creed if they didn't believe it?" I was asked today. I had to gently reply that not all Methodist clergy use the Apostles' or Nicene Creed -- ever; and not only that, but many who do use it don't believe various parts of it. She and the others were shocked, and I'm not sure they believe me yet.

Now, on the one hand, it speaks very well of these folks that they give full faith and credit to every United Methodist minister. They are willing to receive anybody, and to learn from anybody. They may not buy everything somebody is selling, but they believe in seeing the good in people -- including the clergy. They simply have no understanding of the professional and covenantal world I inhabit.

And I'm not trying to rile them up, but I worry about them. The UMC is teetering on the brink of a volcano right now as we begin to gear up for General Conference 2016. All kinds of things may happen, many of them not good for the future of these good people's church. And the wellspring of the upheaval is theological and covenantal at its core. I don't know what's going to happen, or what I should do in any given contingency. But I think it's important that I know who I am in Christ and who Christ is in God, and that I choose my path forward based upon the truth, not the inventions of human beings with axes to grind. And as a pastor, I have to prepare my flock to do the same.

In the meantime, and toward that end, we've got a lot of praying to do.

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