Saturday, September 26, 2009

Think Out Of Your Box

One of the reasons I blog is to get people to think out of their own personal little box. All of us are shaped by what we read, think, listen to and watch. People shape us, events shape us, and our thoughts shape us. For many of us there comes a point, either sooner or later, when we get locked into a way of thinking and our learning stops. Oh, we keep reading, listening, watching and living, but, for Christians in particular, we stagnate. I know personally people who have stopped growing theologically and spiritually and are locked in their traditions.

We accuse Catholics of being bound to traditions which blind them to "what the Scriptures really teach." Or we accuse them of never growing spiritually because they can't do anything without checking with "Mother Church." And so many Protestants consider Catholics spiritual babies...always having to be told what to do.

Well, folks, it "ain't" just Catholics. We who call ourselves Protestants are just as married to our personal traditions as any Catholic is to theirs. We just don't call them traditions. We give them names. I'm Presbyterian, or I'm Baptist, or I'm Lutheran, or I'm Pentecostal, or, how about this one, I'm Non-denominational. God help us if a Calvinist Presbyterian is confronts an Armenian Assembly of God member. Whew...feathers fly. Both will say, "well, the Bible doesn't support your premise..etc...etc...etc.

And it gets worse. Many of us, without any former Biblical training, get locked into a tradition of someone who has impressed us most. Listen to them and you'll hear something Chuck Swindoll said, or John Ortberg, or T.D. Jakes or the latest cult hero, Joel Osteen. Their whole theology is based on what they've heard or read from these men (and women, Joyce Meyer). People get locked into these teachings and, folks, they quit thinking.

I discovered this in myself many years ago when my life fell apart. I saw I was locked into one way of thinking. My little theological world was so tight, I couldn't imagine that there was anyone else out there who had a better theology than mine. But when my world crashed, so did my belief system. Fortunately, one thing held me together and that was the Scriptures and a few friends, some special people who surrounded me during my pain. Singing with them wasn't easy. Often I clouded my feelings with other activities with them and alone just to ease the pain.

But then, I met some friends outside my circle. Later I was introduced to the woman who literally shook my world. Through her love, I discovered a whole new world. I began to challenge my beliefs. And I haven't stopped. Over the years since those days of turmoil, I have held loosely my belief system. Oh, there's one thing I have held on tightly to my chest and that is a rock solid belief in Jesus Christ and a profound appreciation for the Scriptures. But, I keep challenging my theology. For I know that no theology born in the heart of man is perfect.

Then I discovered the great Catholic mystics and I became hooked. I had been taught nearly all my life that the Catholic Church was the great whore of Babylon. But what I began reading sure didn't look like the writings of a whore. I was aware of all the mistakes in the history of the Catholic Church, but I soon became aware of a lot of our own sins in the Protestant world too. My soul became fed from Catholic writers. Nothing I'd ever read in all my formal and non-formal Protestant training ever came a light year close to some of the rich red meat I got from Catholic writers. And so my prejudices began to erode.

Today, I don't agree with the Catholics any a number of issues. I haven't become Catholic for many other reasons, which I'll not venture into here. But, my spiritual life has been enriched by their writings, obscure as many of them are. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Catholics can't teach their way out of a paper bag but if you work at it, you'll find great truths hidden in their odd way of saying things.

So, having said all that, I encourage you to think out of your little box or tradition. Read some good Catholic stuff. Last week I wrote about magazines I've enjoyed. This week I want to highlight one and challenge you to learn something that may cause you to think a bit. I've picked some great articles in This Rock magazine that you may find different, yet helpful to you. Read them and think. The first is "Did St. Paul Invent Christianity?". This is a major argument between many liberal and conservative scholars today. This article delves into the issue and presents some powerful statements that a good evangelical can buy into. Enjoy.

The second article from This Rock is written by my favorite currant Catholic philosopher, Alice Von Hildebrand, entitled "Did Hitler Win The War."

I'm going to stop there and will continue later. (Time marches on and I've got to get ready for a contractor)
See you at another time.

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