That 70’s Show: A Celebration of Seasoned Saints
My wife and I are some twenty years younger than the regulars at our weekly small group. As we do theology together, we often muse in remembrance of the course of our changing theologies.
When one studies the Bible, he is studying the unchanging Word of truth. He is being taught by the Spirit of truth, who guides God’s people into all truth. What is strange, when we share the stories of our paths of learning with one another, is that we have all had long and winding paths of revelation, learning, and understanding. These seasoned saints have been doing theology much longer than Stephanie and me.
Christians are being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2). The deluded mind of the flesh is being replaced with the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16). The mind of Christ is the Holy Scriptures. The indwelling Spirit applies the Word of God to our minds through exposure to the Scriptures being read, taught, or preached.
For some of the people in our theology study, they have moved from humanism, which is man-centered theology, through variations of Arminianism, Dispensationalism, Premillennial rapture eschatology, and Baptist doctrines to arrive at the place of the Reformers.
Many claim the Reformers because they do not want to be Roman Catholics. To be truly in alignment with the Reformation leaders, one must be a Luther, Lutheran, or a Calvin, Reformed. Sadly, Luther and Calvin could not fully agree, and their spiritual progeny have made further distinctions. This, too, adds to the confusion and frustration on our pilgrimage to the celestial city.
Was it an easy path for these seventy-year-old saints to move from, “Its all about me,” theology to the solemn, “God is absolutely sovereign in all things,” theology? No, it is paradoxical. For instance, it is painful to admit you were wrong to have believed in the secret rapture of the church, but there is a joy in discarding errant ideas. Still, each of us had to work and rework our exegesis and interpretations. We are all still working.
Most important to this process is listening to those who not only know what they believe the Bible says, but who can show the error of other positions of interpretation. This proves to be long and very challenging because most evangelicals have been so diligently indoctrinated in diverse doctrinal errors. For this extra difficult labor, we are grateful for pastors who labored on our behalf and for our benefit.
Everyone has the Bible, or access to the Bible, in America. Translated version after translated version has only added confusion to our quest for the truth. Beyond this obstacle is the vortex of interpretations, all vying for validity. Therefore, it is not so easy for a man to say, “I am going home to read my correct version of the Bible, by myself, and the Holy Spirit will teach me the true and right interpretation.”
The natural man, with his fleshly mind, is a master at self-deception, especially under the influence of lying spirits. A man with his Bible, being alone in his study and interpretation, is at risk of gross error. Think of Mohammed in his cave alone at Medina, or Joseph Smith, alone, in the woods of upper New York state, with his golden plates. Neither of those worked out too well.
Bible study and interpretation must be done in community. In addition, theology must be done in community. It is never, “The Spirit spoke to me,” but rather, “This is what the Spirit says to the churches…let us continue reading about that, together.” Truth is at war with error in the church, as much as it is in the world. The church does not need groupthink, but we need to have groups that think, critique, and debate.
Grace has led me and my wife to this small group of theologians, men and women, wearied pilgrims from years of learning, unlearning, debate, testing, affirming then dis-affirming, exasperation, etc. Like a massive community jigsaw puzzle, we gather each week to fit a few pieces into their proper place. When a piece fits, and we all see the picture more clearly and accurately, there is joy. We need each other, and I am so grateful for the scars, confessions, and accompanying wisdom these seasoned saints bring to the table. Together, we feast.
The truth of Christ is liberation from lies. The knowledge of Christ is our magnificent obsession and delight. The grace of Christ is ever our sufficiency, in today’s improved version of our personal systematic theologies. The love of Christ constrains us to be there each week. Where else would we go? There, we share the Words of eternal life.
Spokane Valley, Washington
September 3, 2021