I read a comment recently by one of my online friends, Ken Nichols, whose insight I have shared before on my blog (just one example is here). This passage expresses my own walk so closely, although of course there are differences. But it’s interested to see how the Spirit has brought us both to a similar place, completely independently, because She is the One Who orchestrates all that kind of thing so perfectly.
Ken is a writer who can clearly express his thoughts and communicate them effectively. I wish I could express myself like this! In this piece, Ken explains how the foundation of his faith moved successfully from dependence on the Bible to dependence on Jesus. In a way, this piece follows on from my own essay that I published last time, giving a real-life example of how the emphasis changes as we mature in the faith.
Over to Ken:
The following is a comment I wrote in a conversation I am having in a religious FB group. The person I am addressing has actually been very kind and open (though not necessarily receptive) to hearing my “heretical” ideas. We’ve been discussing now for going on a week. Here I present the basic “reason” why I now believe as I do. I think it’s a good summary and so I decided to post it here. If you have or are experiencing a similar path, I hope this helps you to know you are not alone.
“The fundamental problem that keeps us at odds is how we determine what truth is. You prefer a very concrete OBJECTIVE view of truth that you can point to as an authority, which gives you a feeling a stability (certainty?), at least on the basic tenets of your faith.
I used to seek for truth in that fashion myself. I’ve combed through scripture verse by verse for MANY years. That’s how I was taught to do it. It would take my pastor MONTHS just to get through ONE book of the Bible. Detailed exposition and hermeneutics were what I cut my teeth on as a young man. I considered myself an amateur apologist, and would defend the Bible at every turn. At one point when “bulletin boards” were the primary online communications tool, I took up the challenge of an atheist who put out a list of 100 biblical contradictions and inaccuracies. I answered EVERY SINGLE ONE. I know all the things we do to “prove” the Bible is a unified whole, written by one author, scientifically sound, etc., etc, etc. I was God’s warrior on the front lines. After I got a family I didn’t do quite so much of that, but the Bible was still certainly MY source of truth, and I considered that very few people, including some other pastors I sat under, knew as much as I did about it.
But, and I won’t go into detail here, eventually that whole system stopped working for me. I came to a point in my life about ten years ago when I honestly asked God “Is this all there is?” (in regards to being a Christian). That’s when things began to shift.
Now I no longer hold to the idea of objective, provable truth as the most important, or even necessary thing, when it comes to my faith. Our “objective” truth seeking is really a search for CERTAINTY, which I have learned is actually the ANTITHESIS of true faith. Faith doesn’t KNOW, it HOPES.. Faith doesn’t PROVE, it TRUSTS. I now follow what everyone else REALLY follows, but most don’t admit it: subjective truth.
So, I can never PROVE to you that what I believe is “authoritatively” correct. It isn’t. And I can’t even tell you, honestly, that you SHOULD believe as I do. I think what I have found has freed me in ways I haven’t even learned to express and brought me to a place of love and peace in my life that I had not previously known, but that’s all MY experience. I can’t tell you what YOUR journey is going to be, or even SHOULD be. I can only share what I have found. That’s why I expressed shock that some of the “conclusions” I have come to are the same as some learned theologians whom I had never read (well, maybe a quote here and there). Does that prove I’m right? No. But it does show me I’m not the only one who has walked this path.
So, I don’t believe that God is love MERELY because it’s written in a book, but because I have EXPERIENCED God’s love for me. The Bible is a nice CONFIRMATION of what I have experienced, but it does not provide the PROOF of it. There IS no proof.
I know, I know, deceptive spirits and the fluidity of emotions and blah, blah, blah, ad infinitum. In the west we have been taught to put aside our feelings and gut instincts and only seek OBJECTIVE (i.e. BOOK) truth. But, guess what? Jesus was a mystic prophet, and He didn’t live by the scriptures, but by the Spirit’s leading. He invites us to live AS He lived, not just read about it and believe it. But to LIVE it out. You can see how in His life, Jesus had moments of doubt about whether He could really go through with what He knew was coming. He was following the Spirit in TRUST (putting His life — even that He knew would end —in His Father’s hands), knowing that whatever would happen would ultimately be for the good, because the Father is good.
I’m doing the same.
You warned me that I should be careful as these things inform my “eternal destiny”. Ultimately, that is an argument based in fear. Fear of “getting it wrong” is a strong deterrent from ever straying from the pre-programmed path that our religion (Christianity) expects us to take. “Be careful. You don’t want to end up in the bad place.” is, in the end, the ultimate roadblock for anyone seeking for MORE SPIRIT in their spiritual lives. It keeps us “safely” within the bonds of certainty while denying us the ability to actually GROW spiritually (“At least I know I’m going to heaven, even if I feel like crap about my faith here on earth.”).
I’m no longer concerned with my “eternal destiny” because I believe that God isn’t leaving that ultimately up to us. That He’s not expecting US to “figure it out” when it comes to how to move safely into the next phase of existence. In other words, I believe that “God’s got this”. There’s PLENTY of evidence of such to be found in scripture. But, ultimately, it’s since taking this on board (a period of deconstruction that took several years), that I have such peace now. I’m no longer afraid of being wrong. And I couldn’t go back to worrying about that now even if i wanted to (and who would?). I’m NOT my own “savior” (decider of my destiny). I’ve found what I REALLY needed to know was that I didn’t NEED to “do something” to be right with God. That He’s just waiting for us to “come to our senses” like the prodigal and come to Him and take a chance on His mercy, only to discover that “everything I have is yours”. Always has been. And that continues on into whatever comes next.
So, bottom line, my faith (no, trust, I prefer that word) in a good God that I have EXPERIENCED, is my “standard” for truth. I find SO much confirmation of this truth in scripture (in many verses I thought I knew EXACTLY what they meant — having been taught and teaching them myself for many years). It’s like reading a brand new book now. I have become, as Jesus was, a mystic who’s faith was INTERNAL, not external to Him.
We here in the West are honestly afraid of that way of living. But I can only tell you that it is the most freeing and wonderful way of “being” that I have experienced in my time here on earth. I pray that someday the Spirit takes you on a similar journey, and not so your “eternal destiny” is secure, but because I want you to live the best life ever (as I believe I am). But your journey is your own. Nobody could have “convinced” me to take what I believe now on board. It had to come “ORGANICALLY”. At the beginning I even FOUGHT against it with all my apologetic Bible knowledge at hand. But eventually I had to give in to the Spirit because deep in my heart I “woke up” to how right this felt. “Deep calls out to deep” is not just a pretty verse. It’s true. When you know it, you know it, and nobody can change that. But as I said, it was more like it happened TO me then that I did anything.
The only thing I did was to ask God if there was more and in that asking, admit maybe I didn’t know all that I thought I did. I became open to being taught again, and not just about the minutiae of the faith, but the “big picture”. I became “uncertain” and I am so glad I did, because it has completely transformed my life.”
– Ken Nichols, shared here with his kind permission