my rules

Step into my theological corner, if you will, but no worries if you don't wish to...

A while ago I blogged about being nudged, in a sense, to go to church with Tim at one of the places I would least have expected to attend regularly. St. John's (SJ, if you like) has been and continues to be quite an experience. The other place we attend most weeks to hear Bible teaching and socialize is Reformation Fellowship (or RF).

We're doing East and West. Sort of. I come to see myself "facing east" more and more. Yet I'm still interacting with our dear Protestant friends. And while I can't speak for anyone else, I'm recognizing a benefit to this shift in practice and thought: it's giving me a perspective on RF that I otherwise couldn't achieve.

I tried to. From the first day we attended RF, 11+ years ago, I recognized the need to be alert to every word spoken. This group gathers (assembles; churches) around a wonderful methodology for biblical exegesis and interpretation. Yet it is pretty much based on one man's ideas. A brilliant, brilliant man, yes. And a humble one, whom I have no reservation considering a believer in Jesus and the gospel. This man repeatedly reminds his listeners not to simply take his word for things, but to read the Bible and do the hard work of wrestling with texts and history for themselves.

I recognize any problems I've developed over the years at RF are my own; no one gets the blame but me. Though I love to think about and process the messages in the scriptures, and I've spent long hours reading them, I've gained a clearer picture while at RF of the ways I build my mental structures. I've wished I didn't. You know, always be objective and open to truth -- that's such a great goal. But I remain a human being. I make rules. And boy, those rules have shown up big time in the months I've spent tasting the ways of the SJ congregation.

At RF, people are exceedingly active. You just don't see them being so, because the work, the search for truth, is in the mind. Not that the emotions don't respond, not that you don't go home some weeks and need a long jog on your treadmill to unwind. It's not a lazy person's church.

I suppose any church can be a lazy experience, same as anything. Depends on what I bring to it. The value rests on my inner topography.

To SJ, I brought 11+ years worth of inner rules. They had formed in my thoughts from following the thoughts of the RF man who is brilliant and who stands against what at SJ they call heresy. The RF teachers all work hard to sort truth from error, the real from the false, and they do a good job, but they do build a structure, of the mind, to do it.

I've framed the experience at RF as becoming an accidental intellectual. It's how they lean.

Now, at SJ, I'm leaning toward the ascetic style. Uh, no, no, did I just say that? That's breaking a RF rule. At least in my mind, it is.

This morning I decided "traumatic" might describe what I'm going through. It fits the activity amongst the rules in my head. Not because anyone's bludgeoning me with new ideas; because I am considering new (i.e., foreign) ideas. I'm considering them because they may match quite well the contexts of many writings from the Bible. My mind has remained exceedingly active. I don't think I've left the path of searching for truth.

In fact, it's possible that my mind-work at RF has been a resting time, a pause that refreshed and invigorated me in my belief, but it may have been meant as a stepping stone to the fullness, perhaps, of engaging with the ancient church.

There remain a lot of ifs. I think about them constantly. For instance, if the spark of gospel truth remained with people 20 centuries ago and got handed down -- by means and via statements that contained peripheral flaws -- yet, by the work of the Spirit, in an organic fashion, throughout the ages in the messiness of existence and the humility of lowly folk, well. Then that would mean there is a real life in a real Church. If that is so, I kind of have to be there.

A few months ago, I both feared and dismissed SJ. Since then, I have waded through trauma in my mind, as I've considered changing my rules. But along the way, at each point of trembling, I have discovered joy. This SJ stuff, while foreign, continues upon reflection to fit with the RF stuff, while continuing to be given in a broader context, in a more humble manner than I have ever seen.

That is a rather powerful exchange rate for some of my rules.


Laura K. said…
Am I really the first one to comment on this post? Really really? What wonderful writing! I had to go over a couple thoughts a few times from my own dullness of mind at the moment, but I can't imagine that God is anything but pleased by your desire to love Him - and use your mind to its fullest to do so. Thanks for sharing, Deanna.
Gary Presley said…
I was a lazy believer. I became a Roman Catholic. I like the continuum of Catholicism, albeit there was that ugly fracas the resulted in the Eastern Orthodox.

The older I get, though, the more I find some sort of Truth (God's presence, God's scheme) in astrophysics. Here we are riding this beautiful little ball, a speck in the galaxy, which in turn is one of uncounted galaxies, which in turn finds that group spinning through space.

Astrophysics says "Hey, that ain't all! There may be multiple universes!" And so I'm now left to wonder about not only what our universe is expanding into (God?) but also what these multi-verses are expanding into (if God is good enough for one, God should be good enough for all).

It all makes my head hurt, and my soul ache. And so I simply pray to live peacefully with the Holy Mystery that is.
Deanna said…
Laura, thank so much. You are the bestest of friends to bear with me so often while I'm processing. I admire you for being real, where you are on your journey.

Gary, it sounds like you're filled with wonder (your essays reflect that, too). Somewhere amid what might be, what is, and what will be, I hope also to live in peace and humility, being such a small critter, as it were.
Fresca said…
Isn't that a fruit of the Holy Spirit?

This is a fascinating post and touches on a fascinating topic (religions and the way they shape our thinking) I've been thinking about recently. I walked across Spain with a young friend who grew up in a nondenominational Christian church (ha! I misspelled that "non*demon*inational") that I quizzed her about for days but that I think you would recognize immediately. It was fun and frustrating to try to see how our theology-in-practice turned up in all the corners of our minds.

Much to think on. I'd love to hear more about the view from East AND West.
Deanna said…
Fresca, thanks much for stopping by. I would have loved to join you and your young friend for even one day of that long walk, to talk religion and spirit and sorrow and joy. If you ever plan to traverse Oregon, let me know. (The Pacific Crest Trail can take you 2665 miles, from Mexico to Canada - or the other direction - you and friends should so do it!)