Friday, May 19, 2006

Discerning My Path

Coming to a point - THE point - in your life where you begin to take a good, hard look at your faith and your beliefs is an overpowering and humbling experience. In recent months, I've realized that I am now at that point.

Truthfully, I've felt "nudges" for quite some time -- many of which seem to be directing me in what I think is a new direction in my life. But some of these "nudges" have caused me to take a closer-to-home look and reexamine the core of what I believe. I was talking to my wife last night about our experiences in Sunday school as a child, most of which sadly I don't remember. There are brief flashes of learning the creeds and the commandments, and of putting my nickle in the plate in the mini-service that our teachers had in the church undercroft on many Sundays. What I do remember from that point is that Christianity for me seemed to be very familiar and very comfortable -- Jesus healed the sick, Zacchaeus climbed the tree to get a better look at Jesus, Noah took the animals on the ark, etc.

I can even recall getting my first Bible from the church -- a small, black "Good News" edition that included some very simple sketches throughout of different scenes from the Old and New Testaments, and with my name embossed in gold on the front cover. The sketches were very basic and had no definition, something to which I never paid much attention.

In thinking about that one little point, though, in recent days, I don't half wonder if the fact that sketches had no faces and no set form could imply that they represent every man and every woman. It could have just as easily been one of us who was seeking to be healed, or one of us who was climbing a tree to get a better view of Jesus, or one of us who was watching as the ark was loaded. The lessons in the Bible can certainly apply to all of us.

One of the most challenging things about my personal examination, though, is that it's not limited to something as small as what a sketch means. The Spong lecture I discussed earlier, and a similar lecture by N.T. Wright which I attended last week at the National Cathedral, have made me realize that there are an infinite number of things to think about and pray about during this process: the literal versus the allegorical aspects of the scripture; the role of the church in the world; the influence of modernism and post-modernism on church development; the most effective way to pray -- the list is endless.

The sheer number of resources to use is nearly endless as well: Wright; Borg; Crossan; Pagels; Spong; Kung; Tillich; Ehrman -- and this is only touching on those I'm going through now. There are also numerous scholarly websites and journals to use. There are the works of the early church fathers and church historians. And there is the Bible itself.

As someone who loves to learn and loves the challenges of learning -- as well as the thought of having my childhood beliefs challenged -- this is a really exciting time. I look forward to going through this process and in sharing it with my family and friends.

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