2017 was a wild ride.
It seems every year gets more and more intense. I’m not sure if that’s just a part of life and getting old…or perhaps…the more crazy things I get to do, the easier it becomes for me to choose to do crazier things in the future—like pack my life into my car on a whim, for the second time, and move across the country. I will say however, out of all the intense things I’ve had the opportunity to do in 2017—backpack Europe, start a business, road trip through the US, move across the country, adopt two new kitties (yes, the kitties for me were a highlight)—the most intense would be working through a major faith-shift, or crisis, or whatever you want to call it.
I began seminary as an Apologetics major. For any of you who know anything about the Enneagram, I’m an 8, so being an Apologetics major makes total sense, ha (we aren’t called “The Challengers” for no reason). I began seminary wanting to “defend Christianity” (lolz). What that really meant was that I wanted to get better at arguing and defending my personal viewpoints concerning certain Christian opinions (which at the time, I held as absolute truth). More specifically, one of the things I wanted to argue, which I considered essential to salvation, was Calvinism (yes, I know, too many TGC and Desiring God articles). But weirdly so, I was passionate about it…
…until a couple months into my first semester of seminary, when I met my husband, Taylor.
One evening, while I was getting ready to state my case for my adherence to all of TULIP, Taylor asked me, “Why is it that your focus is Apologetics?”
“Because I want to be an expert at defending my faith, of course,” I said proudly.
“Well, you know…your greatest apologetic is knowing the Word…”
I’ll admit: a lot changed for me in that moment. Perhaps part of the reason for my being so moved by Taylor’s comment might’ve been because of the fact that I was majorly crushing on him… Heh. Either way, his comment turned a light bulb on in my head.
“My greatest apologetic is knowing the Word,” I liked the way that sounded.
It wasn’t too long before I had switched my focus to Biblical Studies, and Greek quickly became my love language. The more I got into the nuances of the text, the more I realized something they don’t mention before you start seminary: Biblical Studies and Systematic Theology aren’t particularly the closest of friends. The longer I spent in the Biblical Studies camp, the more I began to lose my grip on certain points I had once held so dearly. I’ll be honest, it was scary; I didn’t want to admit what was happening—how could I change my mind about something that I had once felt so certain about?
The second “aha” moment for me happened during my first Greek exegesis course on the Parables of Jesus with professor Bill Warren (one of my favorites!). We got to the parable of the Great Banquet in Luke 14. Like all of the other parables we’d come across, we chatted about traditions and customs particular to ancient Middle Eastern culture. At one point, however, Dr. Warren chuckled and said, “By the way, next time your theology friends argue over whether they’re Calvinist or Arminian, point them to this parable.” He chuckled some more and continued, “This parable right here is proof that it’s not an either/or issue…it’s both/and.”
BOTH/AND? This was the first time I had ever heard this. I was floored.
Strangely so, though, it made perfect sense.
As soon as class was over I darted down stairs where Taylor was studying, “Taylor! It doesn’t have to be Calvinism OR Arminianism—it can be both!” We continued chatting about this for the rest of the afternoon. The more we wrestled with both/and, the more liberated I began to feel. The little box that I had once created in my mind, where the Divine had fit neatly in a perfectly articulated 5 point acronym, had begun to shatter completely.
In that moment, I realized more than ever how mysterious YHWH really is, how little I truly understand…
…and how incredible that all is.
I recently heard a podcast where Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggeman, talks about the West, and our obsession with certainty. He goes on to explain how the Western church has immersed itself in Enlightenment rationalism, and consequently, has been a chaplain to the establishment economy. The Western church has underplayed the dramatic openness of faith and has wanted to press things toward certitude, assuming that God is settled in to our personal agendas.
Brueggeman explains that the enterprise of Israel’s faith wasn’t to reach finality, but it was to figure out what fidelity required. In the same way, our venture of faith shouldn’t be to simply reach finality, but continue to figure out faithfulness and devotion—what does it require or permit us in our current circumstance? Just like Israel, we are to know that in the next circumstance, faith needs to be reformulated all over again (think: exile; what faith looked like for Israel before, during and after).
Simply put, the reformed tradition: Semper Reformanda—ALWAYS REFORMING—is deeply biblical and should truly be how we live out and practice our faith.
So… 2017 is over, and for me, it was a year of breakups. I broke up with Calvinism, Complementarianism, and my constant need for certainty…among other things. No, breakups are never easy. But boy, are they sometimes necessary.
And I must say, in all of it, I realized how little I know; how small I am; and how grand, mysterious, and liberating it is to spend a lifetime getting to know the Divine.
So for 2018, my challenge for myself and for those of you reading this is to not be afraid to always reform. Learn something new; stretch yourself; challenge your way of thinking; change your mind. And perhaps have your very own faith-shift, or crisis, or “aha” moment or whatever you want to call it.
CHEERS to 2018, friends!