"There is no beauty in the Presbyterian Church. There is so much emphasis on sin and self control."
-- Anne Morrow Lindbergh
My theology runs ardently Reformed. Presbyterian doctrine is, in most meaningful ways, identical. From all that I've known and seen of these traditions, I've come to the same conclusion. I discovered the above quote at the end of a biography of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's life and it shone like the light of another ship in my darkness. Someone else bobs lost upon these waters.
I love the theology of these traditions. It's accurate. Logical. Faithful to Scripture. But lately, with Western Christianity in general, and Reformed Christianity in particular I have been bored out of my mind at the best of times and ulcerously angry at the worst of times. I said previously that my theology runs ardently Reformed. Yet, I know -- it's no mystery to me -- that my writings are more akin to Joel Osteen than John Owen. I don't write much about the surpassingly glorious mysteries of the infinite, only good God, these days. I write mostly about human potential, about willpower, determination, discipline, planning and goals. Should that be any surprise? How else would you expect aufhebung to happen?
It's dawned upon me that the rejection of the old ways might perhaps be my destiny. I hear John Piper talk about human frailty. I read other writers and their discourses on human inability. To hell with all that! Humans landed on the moon having had less electronic computational ability than a Nintendo DS. We've glimpsed the edge of the universe and the depths of the sea, harnessed the atom, torn down mountains, created islands, flown faster than sound, and have carved the faces of our heroes onto mountains. Can you imagine what a Palestinian peasant of the first century might call someone who can do open heart surgery? Humans are pretty damn awesome when you pause and think that debates amongst the next most advanced creatures on the planet consist of flinging feces.
Yet, despite our great achievements, humans lay dead in their sin. In the past two weeks, (late as usual) I've become a voracious reader of the news from the Gulf. It breaks my heart. I love the beauty of this natural world and my fury flares everytime I see the initials BP in my news feed. I think about the decades that will pass before this mess can be cleaned up. I think about how hurricane season in a few months might fling all this corruption hundreds of miles. My office, my workplace deals with an immeasurable volume of human sin on a daily basis: doctors defrauding their patients, drug dealers, terrorists, corporate fraud, the trafficking of children, who should be playing safe at home with a loving family, for the purpose of sexual abuse and captivity.
Reformed theology, as I have been steeped in it, only ever praises humanity, or acknowledges the great accomplishments of mostly hairless bipeds in a world of animals much bigger, stronger, faster than them, as a foil for God. I have never heard praise simply because humanity deserves it. Reformed theology loves to drone on and on and on about sin. It loves to beat you into a corner and tell you to stay there. For all the talk of grace, I've for too long ignored the mean-spiritedness about it. It loves to remind you how selfish you are when you do something you enjoy for no other reason than you enjoy.
So this is my realization. I can't follow their path, the path of the John Pipers, John Owens, Jonathan Edwards, and a laundry list of other bland names. I have never really had a desire to see Europe. But they've given me something invaluable. They are to me great sages I've met along the way. I must walk my own path, find my own way in this trackless desert. Reformata semper reformandum. There's no other way I can be true to this principle other than what I'm doing.
Humanity is too gloriously capable, too admirably strong and wise and noble, for me to endure all the abuse that these patriarchs heap upon them. That is the source of my break. They'll acknowledge humanity's ability and accomplishment on paper but give it only lip service. Bullshit. Get this mess out of my sight. The reason I set goals, learn about how to accomplish them, meditate on the process of the human mind and the practical aspects of soul transformation is my stumbling, stuttering way of groping in the dark for a path. I don't see anyone who holds both these poles faithfully. How does one acknowledge human effort and ability in the face of a sovereign God in life, love, ministry and all areas? I affirm both of them rationally. How can I execute the practice of it?
Well, if I knew the answer, I wouldn't call my current life stage a struggle, would I?