Ask anyone who has known me for any length of time, and most will state that Sam likes to debate and even argue, be it theology, politics, or historical subject matter. Some will even say that it is Sam’s Irish DNA, always looking for a good wee scrap. Some will even go as far as to say that Sam just wants to provoke and be argumentative to make a point. I would say that the “old Sam” was very much all of these and so much more. But something has changed.
The burden of apologetics and arguments
I studied apologetics in both Bible College and Seminary. I loved presuppositional apologetics, and I was good at it. In both Bible College and in Seminary we had mock debates where theological and philosophical debates took place, and I was always a willing and engaging and enthusiastic participant in such encounters. I had a mentality which focused on destroying the foundational arguments of opponents, and the mindset was always “take no prisoners”. In other words, show my opponent no mercy by providing no opportunity for a counter argument, or any philosophical or theological leg to stand on. My approach was always to cut these arguments at the knees and then decapitate the central premise of my opponent. I did this in debates that focused on creation vs evolution, the inerrancy of the Scriptures, the veracity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus, an early date for the completion of the New Testament canon, the validity of the Baptism of the Spirit and the New Testament spiritual gifts in the life of the believer, as well as many more. Now today, I find apologetics a total bore. I am convinced that it is love that changes the human heart, and not human arguments. So instead I believe in engagement and encounter with Christ. So I look now to meaningful relationship and encounter and opportunity to bless and pray for people. The Lord will convince them through love.
Turning away from old arguments to grace and love and letting go of beliefs that are no longer relevant
There are times in your life, where you realize you have turned a corner, and when you look behind yourself, you cannot see beyond the corner you just turned. Over the last decade, I have had a lot of theology, philosophy, dogma, opinions of men, diverse writings all claiming a measure of truth, cast upon the waters and pass under the bridge. Much of it has never come back. Like the bread cast upon the waters (Ecclesiastes 11), the good will return… I have seen the return of grace, the finished work of the cross, union with Christ, non-violent atonement, the inclusive love of God, all return, and blossom and grow. Just when I thought that there wasn’t much that had changed, I find my old worldview and its philosophical and theological content turned upside down on its head, and I find myself laughing hysterically at it all. I realize that none of us can become so easily attached to our beliefs. What we need is to become more attached to the One we believe and proclaim.
Living out the gospel of grace and peace
All I have determined to be and do is impact my immediate circle with Jesus and the Gospel as I understand it, build relationships, engage with those who want to engage, and ignore those who prefer to have their own opinions reinforced, rather than actually engage meaningfully in the exploration of the faith once delivered to the saints. It is neither worth the frustration, nor is it worth the effects it has on one’s heart, mind, and body, to be constantly challenged, berated, slandered, ignored, ridiculed. One can only present the truth as one understands it, as graciously as possible, in love and forbearance, and lay it at their feet, and leave it there and walk away. It is not worth the effects it has on our health and well being. It is the Spirit of God and His word that does the convincing, not us. All I can do is present Christ and the Gospel of peace as I understand it and leave it in the hands of God. He is big enough to handle it. I don’t need to bear that burden. Jesus’ yoke is easy, and I prefer it to mine.
Walking out an open life before God and man
I want to walk a life that is open before God and His people, with open hands and an open heart, and I want to release all that God has put in me and keeps putting in me, so that others may live fully and completely and experience the best that God has for them. I am only a steward of what God has given me, including my time, my talents, my resources, and especially the revelation and gifts God has given me. When you walk with and open heart and open hands, you really have nothing to lose. It is a win win!
God’s mercies and grace are new every morning
I have noticed during the last six months that God’s presence is so evident throughout the day and is a constant reminder of what it means to be in union with Him, and being One in Him. His mercies are constant, and His love overwhelms me. I am often left without words and only tears running down my cheeks. The revelation of knowing that you are loved by God changes everything. To really know, that inner knowing, that you are truly loved, it puts and exclamation point on everything. I mean, do you really comprehend just how much you are loved by God? I thought I knew this more clearly through the Toronto Renewal, but what I am finding out now, is by far, more staggering to my heart and to my mind, than what I thought I knew about the Father’s love. I am loved. You are loved. And there is nothing we can do about that, other than receive it and embrace it, and give it away. There is nothing, no thing, that you can do to stop the love of God, deflect it, redirect it, or ignore it. It doesn’t change a thing. You and I are loved by God. Period.
It is always good to ask hard questions and to doubt and question
On a regular basis, theological and philosophical questions are good. There is room for doubt. It is not a doubt in God, but a doubt in the beliefs that have shaped us through the influences of the opinions of supposed learned men and women. Theology is flawed and prone to error. The Truth of God is perfect and is found in the person of Christ. My opinions continue to undergo change and reformation. And that is a good thing. I am not saved or sustained by theology. I am saved and sustained through Jesus Christ. When I die I will find out just how wrong my theology was, and that Jesus loved me, loves me, will always love me in spite of my theological ideas, opinions and thoughts. Jesus loves all of us in spite of our theologies.