I like the line in the movie Slingblade, where the character played by Billy Bob Thornton says of the Bible that he has “read a good part of it,” and has “understood some of it.” A host of authors and non-authors have influenced my “understanding of it” over my lifetime. C.S. Lewis [b.1898], probably the most ill-quoted extra-Biblical author ever, is time-worthy as is GK Chesterton [b.1874] and certainly without saying, the Holy Writ itself is timeless and worthy of perpetual study.
19th century Scotsman, George Macdonald [b.1824], is worth a look as an anti-traditionalist who wept as a boy when confronted with Puritan and Calvinistic theology. Thus moved, he sought out another pathway to the Christ and preached and wrote meaningfully to applicable churches of his acquaintance, chastising them for unworthy beliefs about God. Had he lived in the time and reach of John Calvin, the main instrument of his scorn, Calvin may have burned him.
Macdonald was a rebel. He had been spiritually hurt and physically dispossessed by the religion he sought to serve. He could not refrain afterwards from lashing out against orthodoxy, writing above his latent anger with what was sometimes profound insight. A product of his day, with pressure mounting to embrace evolutionary theory of origin, he landed askew. Nevertheless, he should be respected as a pious soul who laid rich foundations for those who discovered and considered his writings.
Growing in grace may sometimes admit change into one’s faith-beliefs about One as infinitely great and mysterious as our Creator but a warning, small changes may lead to big ones and caution is in order. There are two thousand years of competent, honest, and devout scholarship by respected authorities of Scripture with greater historical and linguistic knowledge than we. We should remember that the Bible has a history. The church has a history. Mankind has a history. Our advantage in heaping knowledge upon knowledge is countered by our fathers being closer to the main event. Keep an ear turned their way and be aware that all original thinking considering Scriptural interpretation has been hashed over before.
On the other hand, through group contentment it is very easy to ignore history and crawl into the tunnel of our own time. But it is unworthy comfort. Questions outside our norm may frighten as a risk of the loss of comfort, or perhaps years of investiture in public avowals, thus challenging the prayer, “Lord show me the way, show me the truth,” which He often will, while reserving His prerogative of holding us at distance, unseeing and unknowing as to some one of His grand answers or even the right question.
Of course there are some things that believing, or ceasing to believe, ceases to be Christianity at all. There are some things vital to Christian understanding even as there are many beliefs and ism’s where Christians solemnly differ. Here I stand amazed at those who gleefully quote numbers of peculiarities seemingly as an argument for their own personal point of view. Although there were a thousand differing views, it is of no more concern than if there were two. Truthfully in my world, I count maybe ten congregational Christian factions and wonderfully, God welcomes the seeking and the seekers. He listens to all though of necessity does not always affirm. However, usually we can easily fool ourselves into thinking He does.
There are two crutches of belief, not worthy of faith. One is the aforementioned group think and the other is its opposite extreme, doubt of community, shunning orthodoxy just because it is. It is wise to be always fresh investigators, but wisdom accommodates the well-trod road of faith as well; of which “most all Christians have believed at most all times.” [Lewis – Mere Christianity] .This old time religion is well rendered and will serve us well as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; adding to our faith.
John 14:6, 2 Peter 3:18, 2 Peter 1:5…