I come from a rich heritage of followers of Jesus. My parents and Grandparents on both sides have a love for the Lord that runs deep. There has been knowledge of God instilled in me from a young age for which I am so grateful.
On my mother’s side, there is a beautiful Anabaptist history. My mother comes from a Mennonite background (no not horse and buggies) that has a beautiful pursuit of knowing God in community. Discernment of scripture and the nature of God is pursued as the people of God together. This promotes a sharing of experiences and understanding so that all may be led into a better knowledge of God. It promotes discussion and correction. The motivating premise is that we will not know perfectly the fullness of who God is and how he wants to lead us until we see him face to face.
This creates a fluid theology. Our understanding is not so rigid that we close ourselves to the revelations of others. As our view of God expands, we can rejoice. I love this approach. I learn so much from the people around me in everyday conversations. I can be intimidating at times in discussion. I have a lot of thoughts already formed, but so value others challenging them. Engaging with others is an opportunity for my thoughts to be shifted or solidified.
24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
Correction contains an opportunity to draw people together. Humility in relationship makes us grateful for the correction of others. I love this story of Apollos. He is teaching out of what he knows, and embraces the correction of those who know the way of Jesus more fully. The result is support, encouragement, and continued relationship. Apollos came in as the teacher but welcomed correction. Priscilla and Aquila didn’t silence him or strike him down. They enlightened him to more of who God is and blessed him as he continued to enlighten others. There is no fighting here (although I am sure there were a lot of questions and working through the theology together).
Although there is much that is fluid, there is also much that is firm. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. There is no life apart from him. God is absolutely who he says he is. He is the I Am, the creator of all things, the beginning and end. The bible is trustworthy. It is firm. It is the authority in our pursuit of understanding. There is a firmness in the Apostles’ Creed.
What helps us determine what is firm and what is fluid?. First off, there is the Holy Spirit that leads us into all truth. Any knowledge of God is revelation given by God. He wants us to know him. The Holy Spirit is not trying to lead us astray, just as he has not throughout history. There are many things that have remained constant in the theology of the church. Some expression of the theology have changed. Those things that have remained constant take a certain level of hubris to change. God does not change. What he labels as sin does not change. There are certain practices that can change in different seasons and different expressions of church, but others that cannot.
As you study church history, you notice periods of time where the church has gone astray, as did Israel in the Old Testament. God always faithfully welcomes us back to a solid understanding. As we try to understand what can be fluid, we must pay attention to our heritage as the church. What has the Holy Spirit held up as constant and what has had room to change? We should not look to culture or the world to tell us this. We look to God first, using the plumb line of scripture in our discernment, in community (including those who have gone to be with Jesus).
Sometimes years later, I recall with someone a theological discussion we had and think, wow, I knew so very little. I am thankful for those updated conversations. It gives opportunity to testify to who God is, keeps me in awe of God, and brings humility into my life. I never want to hold a false or limited understanding of God. I am aware, however, that the partial understanding I have can still be spurring others on into fresh encounters with God.
Humility is key in this. Humility looks like a death to self. It is no longer I who live but Christ. Humility makes us quick to repent, quick to shed false theology, and quick to embrace the things of God. It doesn’t make us quick to shed what we know, just responsive when what we know is misaligned with the One who lives in us. Humility does not belittle what we know, or make us appear less informed, just ready to encounter God and grow at all times.
We should talk with and about God more. We should be talking about God with followers of Jesus and those who don’t know him. There is so much more of God to encounter, and so much of the world that has not yet encountered him. Let us be continually in awe of God.