Let’s recall something very important: In Christ we live the paradox of having on the one hand a command to commune with others because it’s the nature of our communion with God. To be one with the Father is to be one with His Creation, and that includes humans. But humans alone in Creation are fallen, so it stands to reason that our fellow humans will be the biggest problem we have with enjoying that communion. On top of that, while our minds might well detect trends and similarities in human behavior, we cannot allow ourselves to forget that no two of us will serve God in precisely the same way. So on that other hand, we must not assume we will commune sweetly with every human. Something fundamental to this whole question is that we are designed to commune in small circles, and that everyone we encounter will be varying degrees of far or near, and that it can vary over time. Further, that communion may be highly selective in our various pursuits of God’s glory, so that we fellowship in one activity, but not in others. This is all good and right; this is assumed in God’s revealed will for us.
When you start to embrace the moral reasoning of the heart, absolutism dissolves into silliness. You can begin to see that something you cannot do would be quite reasonable for another believer. The intellect does not like “iffy” stuff and rebels against the idea that holiness before the Lord is flexible. How can something so eternally important be so hard to nail down? But the heart knows that there is a lot the brain cannot handle by itself, and so constrains the mind to pretend now and then that maybe, just maybe, the other person is right with God despite the differences from those things that bring us peace with the Lord.
Some of the worst sins and abuses of humanity are enacted in the name of religion that is too deeply wed to human reason. The intellect is proud and insists on controlling things the way it prefers to handle them. The intellect by itself is incapable of deeper moral reasoning that sees beyond the particulars. The intellect has a reflex to project it’s preferences upon the face of God. The intellect arrogantly assumes that what is logical internally reflects objective reality, but never realizes that reality cannot be objective. I’m not just agnostic about some things. I teach that reality is far more flexible and responsive because it is alive, sentient and willful in itself. I’ve learned that the intellect is part of our fallen fleshly nature, so it is given to fleshly preferences and deceives itself in assuming that it’s being objective. I don’t trust my own reason.
In God’s mercy, we were granted a higher faculty than the intellect. Otherwise we would never know God as a Person, because He doesn’t speak to the intellect directly. We commune with God in our hearts, and in Scripture the heart is the seat of faith, the repository of convictions and the one part of our awareness where we can meet with God in Person. Once we become aware of that divine Presence, we find ourselves obliged to reorder our existence to meet the heavy sense of moral obligation. What a great and joyful thing it is to know the Lord! How can we not make Him truly Lord? It is then we discover what our minds are for, and we begin to discipline the intellect for it’s true mission: to organize and implement what faith demands. We call that process “religion” — the human expression of faith, but not the same thing as faith. And religion includes doctrine and theology. What we can put into words is religion; faith signals without words, peeking at us through the words and actions.
So I don’t have to justify my religion. I don’t have to defend it, though I do owe you an explanation. That’s because I am obliged to testify of the glory of God as I experience it. The idea is not to project my religion into your life, but to indicate my faith by the simple fact of having a religion. God says He will speak to my world through my religion, but I am never to imagine that my religion is normative for others. That includes my doctrine and theology. That’s just how I organize my obedience to God; you can take some clues, but God forbid you copy my religion any more than it takes to awaken your own heart-led response.
For this reason, I refuse to debate my theology and doctrine with anyone. I’m glad to explain, as much as possible, how I arrived at those statements of my personal commitment to Christ, but there is simply no need at all to debate whether my personal religion is valid. It’s not subject to your approval, thanks be to God. And it works both ways; you have no need to seek my approval. What we can do is borrow from each other as we seek God’s favor. The amount of borrowing between us will strongly shape our fellowship in the flesh. At any rate, on this blog there will be no debate. If you want to argue with me, do it somewhere else and don’t expect me to participate much. Debating religion itself is not biblical. None of us has a commission from God to correct another’s religion. We can, at most, discuss why we don’t fellowship with someone in terms of how impractical it is. Disputes are disruptive.
Now, if you choose to associate with me, and by the strength of my expression of conviction you decide to follow my lead in fellowship, then we can join in a covenant of faith and community of faith. We can share a certain amount of religion and do things together to express communion. Fellowship indicates communion, and communion is the glory of the Lord at work in this world. It’s voluntary from end to end; I’m not compelling anyone to march to my drum. Join in or fall out as you sense God requires it of you. But by no means should anyone walk along and disrupt this fellowship by beating a confusing rhythm. In more concrete terms, if you show up on this blog and start picking at what I say, trying to correct what you see as flaws, then you don’t understand what it’s all about. You might well insinuate that it’s arrogance, but I can’t help what you feel. What I can do is keep your comments from showing up on the blog, and I will do that if I sense it’s not going to serve the purpose in having a blog in the first place. I’ll try to use even the nastiest provocations to teach those who want to learn from my answers, but at some point it can get tiresome. I’m a human with limits to my endurance on some things.
I’d prefer to turn every enemy into a friend, and I trust in the power of God to make a brother/sister out of anyone. That doesn’t mean it works out that way all the time. In some cases, it’s just a matter of giving it time. As I get older, I get more patient about such things, because I keep looking in the mirror and wonder how God puts up with me. Still, I have a mission here and I can only give so much before some people have simply gotten in the way. The guidance in Titus 3:10-11 indicates there ought to be limits. Lots of people claim good intentions, but bad results still require a response.
I was close to locking the door on Steven, as noted in this post (since updated), but something told me to give it a little more time. It’s not a question of coming to agreement on particulars, but hoping that the interaction could get better. Let me put it like this: In recent comments between us, Steven now seems like a real person, not just an avatar of disruption. When we open ourselves up as humans to each other, a lot of things in the context change meaning. And I’m glad I didn’t make the mistake of closing the door on him. So for what it’s worth, I’d like you to join me in keeping that door open for fellowship on whatever terms we can agree. Surely there is something we can do to bring God glory in both receiving from, and investing in, each other’s religion.