Evangelical Update

A resource for lefties who want to understand conservative Christians.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Certainty - These nine letters are, in my opinion, what separate many evangelical and fundamentalist Christians from those of us who are looking for a different way. It is because these nine letters claim to provide something that the Word of God does not provide as often as we would like to think. In fact, the more I have studied scripture the more I am convinced that this different way must include A Theology of I Don't Know.

Let me begin by telling you a little of my story. I was raised in a thoroughly evangelical church, but I made no decision to follow Jesus until February of 1996. In April of 1996, God and I started talking (arguing) about me attending seminary. After losing this argument with God, I began seminary in the summer of 1998. I went to what would be considered a conservative seminary by anybody's standards, but I was introduced to two professors who would change my life. These two men introduced me to a conversation that I am still part of today. This is the conversation about the emerging church. These two men introduced me to authors like Brian McLaren and Leonard Sweet. One of the first things I noticed is that these two professors and these two authors did not claim to have all of the answers. They all agree we are fellow seekers. They all allow for God to continue to be a God of truth and mystery at the same time. The more I read and prayed, the more I realized how little we finite humans can actually know. This led me to begin developing a theology I tentatively call A Theology of I Don't Know.

Before you off and start calling me a heretic (I could consider this a compliment depending upon who is saying it), let me give you some scriptural support for my position. Corinthians 13:9-12 says:

9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

I believe God is clearly telling us that we do not have the ability to understand everything about him until Jesus returns. Now I am not one to throw things out there without showing how it affects us in real life. So let me begin by questioning one of the major tenants of faith help by the vast majority of Christians throughout the world.

I believe the evangelical and fundamentalist churches have put too much importance on the doctrine of the trinity. In fact, I don't believe this belief really matters much at all and I don't believe the Bible provides unequivocal support for this doctrine. Typically two arguments are made to support the doctrine of the trinity:

1. God is clearly presented as Father in parts of the Bible, Holy Spirit in other parts and the Son throughout much of the New Testament.
2. Matthew 3:16-17 clearly show God present in all three persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, therefore the trinity must be true.

Those that do not believe in the trinity would answer these by saying God has three separate expressions of himself - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These expressions do not equate to separate persons. They might also respond that Matthew 3:16-17 is simply God showing up as all three expressions at once. They would also point out that if you truly believe God to be all powerful than you cannot argue he could not express himself as all three at once.

It becomes easier to see that maybe, just maybe, we don't have all the answers when it comes to whether God is three in one or simply one.

At this point, you might be thinking that this is still a little too theological. You might be thinking it needs to be more practical. I would agree, so let's consider how this affects our politics.

In the United States being an evangelical or fundamentalist Christian has become synonymous with being a Republican. I have heard people go as far as to say that God must favor the Republican Party because of its stance on the issue of abortion. These kinds of statements would actually be very funny if the people saying them were not so serious, but they are very serious. Now let me be the last person to tell you that God is a Democrat. How do you think God stands on the following issues?

1. Tax cuts? Tax increases?
2. Social Security? Social Security reform?
3. Government anti-poverty programs?
4. Public education? Government support for private education?
5. Ethanol?
6. Oil?
7. Tobacco subsidies?

You might have your beliefs on some of these issues, but do you think you know God's stance. I sure don't. Yet, one political party has become God's Only Party or GOP. I would like to tell you that maybe God just doesn't care that much about some of these issues, but the truth is I Don't Know.

By now you might think I am a heretic (see earlier comment), but if you read this right you will notice that I never said if I believed in the trinity or not. I never said if I vote Democrat or Republican or how I believe on any of these issues. I didn't because it is not about what I believe, it is about what God believes and I have to say, I Don't Know.

I may not be certain about some things, but I am certain I would appreciate your comments and feedback.