Posted by: nieophyte | January 7, 2008

The Rookie

Happy new year everyone! I look forward to a full year of stumbling towards new truths with all of you in 2008. It is true that 2007 was not so much fun for me … but the advantage of being a nieophyte is that there is no where else to go but up!

Which makes me wonder, what if we were always in a state of newness, always assuming the position of a nieophyte? What advantages and disadvantages would that bring?

I grew up a pastor’s daughter and was raised in a semi-charismatic evangelical church. I graduated from a secular university and went on to study at a private evangelical college for my master’s in church history. All of this background should have provided me with a great foundational basis for understanding the Christian faith, and yet, at the ripe old age of 25, I am feeling less knowledgeable of what it really means to be a Christ-follower than ever before, not because I wasn’t paying attention during retreat sermons or in my historical theology classes, but because I fear that my entire Christian education has been based upon the paradigms of Western Christianity as established by post-Enlightenment modernity.

Now, all I have are questions. What does it mean that we might be doing church totally wrong? That we don’t necessarily need a presider and a sequence of praise, sermon and fellowship afterwards? What does this mean with regards to our thoughts on homosexuality? Or women in ministry? Should we rethink our paradigms? Can we?

Furthermore, I am constantly haunted by the grave mistakes that have been made throughout church history when Christians have justified the worst human injustices by citing the Bible. Slavery, apartheid, genocide—all these have been biblical supported by people unwilling to acknowledge the cultural blinders that remained as scales upon their eyes.

If only they had stopped once to recognize their newness upon this earth, that even after years and years of living, in the eyes of God they were just children playing at adulthood.

One of my favorite theologians, Helmut Thielicke, said that every great theologian is skirting the edge of heresy. I have found great freedom in that statement because it says there is possibility in everything, even in the doubts and questions that lurk in the furthest recesses of your mind. So, this year, my goal is to rethink everything. To leave no assumption unturned. To be a nieophyte in every sense of the word.

I have to admit, it’s a frightening place to be at the ripe old age of 25, when I feel as though I should know a thing or two about what it means to follow Christ. But it is also exhilarating … to know that after all these years, his blessings are still new every morning. I guess John wasn’t kidding when he said the world itself could not contain the books written about all that Christ has done.

-nieophyte

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Responses

  1. ‘… to rethink everything’? Is this even possible? I do look forward to the posts though. All the best, and keep reading Thielicke.

  2. “I fear that my entire Christian education has been based upon the paradigms of Western Christianity as established by post-Enlightenment modernity.”

    That statement has been my struggle. Not just my education, but like you said, my ecclesiological understanding. What is the function and the role of church?

    History repeats itself, and it’s doing so now. But each time it repeats itself it mutates as well. So I wonder if we’re more “advanced” in our understanding that our predecessors. I have to say, no, I don’t think so. I think we may have polluted ourselves a bit more.

    My current litmus test of worship gathering is, “am I stressed after worship?” I don’t think anyone (pastor, leader, congregant) should feel a massive sense of relief (or regret!) once worship is over.

  3. I agree with what you’re saying here. It IS exciting to see what God will do in this generation, and to be open to the newness of it.

    But with regard to jadanzzy’s comment above, following Christ doesn’t mean undermining everything in the “outdated” culture of our faith. It does also makes sense just to hold to the faith that we’ve got so far, too. If we trust the Spirit completely, and believe in great faith that it moves relevantly for each generation, then God led us to this point with the theological trappings that have developed thus far. That doesn’t mean they aren’t ready for massive change, but I’m just saying that God’s newness doesn’t come from a completely blank slate. There is a massive tradition of faith to which we can look and see how God has redeemed each generation.

    Of course, God uses the revolutionary voice, the one who He calls to stand out and be different in each generation, to AFFECT that change. And we ought always be exercising our minds, and undertake the important task of preaching the gospel to this generation in the words that it will understand.

    But God is not modern, nor post-modern. He is not Calvinist or Armenian. As Wallis would say, He’s certainly not a Republican or a Democrat.

    All we can do is be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading. If it means a new revolution in Christianity, then let’s begin nailing up our new 95 Theses, against the grain of everything there is today. Let’s shake it up! But if it’s something else, then let’s submit to that too.

    The church is God’s and He’s the boss. Of everything. He orchestrated the nation of Israel’s existence in ancient history, He strategized the explosive growth of the cult of Jews who followed Jesus of Nazareth, He empowered the monasticism of the 16th century to touch the poor and display His glory, and history will remember God as the one who is in charge of the paradigm shifts in 21st century Christianity.

    I do understand that we engage our brains with freshness as we submit to His stirrings in our hearts. We MUST be faithful to that calling, indeed. But I feel that certain theological discussions can go the direction of philosophy and science, the pitting of each person’s opinion against each other. Theology is different, because if you believe in the Holy Spirit, then we realize that while our minds engage in the cooperative work of redeeming humanity, God Himself is ultimately the author who writes theology, in every context, in every generation.

    Sorry if that was tangential. =)


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