Pilgrimage in Theology

4th Saturday in Eastertide

Bryan did a recent post about hearing the words from St. Luke’s Gospel and at the very end, there was a thought provoking quote from Bishop N. T. Wright’s commentary on Luke.

I didn’t notice the link there to an unofficial webpage for the Bishop of Durham in the UK but I’m glad I did now (thanks Bryan =).

In there, there is something that has resonated with me a lot. Wright’s essay entitled “My Pilgrimage in Theology” has made me think about my own humble beginnings in this ridiculously large sea called theology. And that how it has been a pilgrimage. It has never remained static (partially due to my own inquisitiveness but I believe also through God’s promptings of my soul). Some examples follow from my own experience.

I’ve wrestled with God over the issue of predestination (Calvinist) and free will (Arminian/Wesleyan Arminian) and came the worse out of it; after the consequential headache, God’s basically led me to the position of “Leave it up to me, the Big Guy, little one. There are more important issues for you to focus on than this one.” I still lean towards the Wesleyan Arminian view than Calvinist but I end up having a chuckle between myself and the Big Fella Upstairs whenever this issue comes up at Youth Bible Study, at church or in conversation elsewhere.

About the “normative” states of singleness (at times over-emphasized in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy) or marriage (at times over-emphasized in Protestant, especially Evangelical circles), the same deal. I’ve come out worse for wear from the wrestling with God about it and the same response has come back from Him: “Leave it up to me, the Big Guy, little one. My will for you on this issue isn’t something that you can summon at will, pardon the pun. The actual question is ‘Are you disposed to follow my leading and guiding you?’ so that no matter whether you are single or married, you are still following me and content in that. Besides, ‘normative’ is singleness and marriage, it’s not one or the other.”

And now, it has come to the tension between me of prima scriptura (where Scripture is normatively the primary guide for a Christian’s life but it is properly interpreted using lenses of the holy traditions of the Church, reason and personal experience) against sola scriptura (an example of which is where Scripture is the only guide for a Christian’s life and tradition, etc is rejected in favour of personal interpretation of Scripture explaining Scripture). As an evangelical, looking at sola scriptura (which is the normative understanding amongst evangelicals) now pains me because whenever I hear sola scriptura mentioned now, this does not match up internally with the promptings of my conscience and the Spirit. Sola fides, I have no problems with (how can I have a problem with this?!?!?!). Sola scriptura, I do.

This tension is now resting on the place of the Blessed Virgin, the Theotokos, in evangelical theology. Is there such a thing as Mariology in evangelicalism? Have the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches been wrong in venerating Mary when Evangelicals these days seem to do the same thing to certain ministries, worship leaders and charismatic church leaders? (I use the term charismatic not to mean people involved in the Charismatic movement, but in its general, normal, ordinary dictionary meaning.)

Wright’s last couple of paragraphs in his essay sum up my own pilgimage with God on this topic of theology.

I find myself held within the love of the triune God able to receive fresh grace for fresh tasks. Privately I have found to my surprise that at least sometimes prayer is becoming more of a delight than a discipline – perhaps because I have drawn on traditions other than my own (charismatic on one side, orthodox on the other). Passages from Scripture still jump off the page and make me want to laugh and/or cry with the love and the pain, of God.

Unanswered questions remain. So does the frailty of my human self, as I struggle to be obedient to my multiple callings, both professionally and, more important (though not all Christians see this point), domestically. Who is sufficient for these things? Certainly not this muddled and sinful Christian. The great thing about that is what it does for your theology. The more I appreciate my own laughable inadequacy, the more I celebrate the fact of the Trinity. Without the possibility of invoking the Spirit of Jesus, of the living God, for every single task, what would keep me going? Pride and fear, I guess. I know enough about both to recognize the better way.

+ bf 1209hrs


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