I want to vomit. I just left my pastors’ offices and was yelled at for over an hour about how horrible my thoughts were. Two men who I had listened to and respected for 19 years were now picking me apart as if I was the biggest threat to modern evangelicalism. I was told that I was undermining the integrity of the church government, causing the church’s senior citizens to grow angry, and challenging the teaching of my pastors. I sat in shock of the charges brought against me and I wondered how my passion for theology could have caused this response. Let me back up a bit…..
I love doctrine. I mean, I am that guy you will see reading a 1200 page book on systematic theology and just be lost as I savor the sweet ineffable characteristics of the divine. I remember in Bible College when I sat through two semesters of theology and didn’t learn a thing, because I had been embracing these topics for years prior to this scholastic endeavor. I wrote entire papers on theological topics using only sources from my own library and easily got good grades on these papers. I knew exactly what I believed about almost every doctrine and could explain to you not only the logic but the biblical texts behind my conclusions.
I say again, I was that guy.
I didn’t study the attributes of God for some mere intellectual purpose; I did it because nothing was as satisfying to me as learning about who God is, and why He does what He does. I would lose hours reading Paul’s epistles as he would tell other churches about the gospel and how it rid them of the need for actions to prove your worth to God (justification), how it had nothing to do with my abilities (unconditional election), how I could not even recognize God without His initial call (total depravity) and how God always held every situation in His hands (sovereignty). These were the doctrines that demanded my attention, and emotion. And with this ongoing pursuit now exceeding 2 years, I was now being told my passion was misplaced.
My pastor had told me that the doctrines I held so dear and found so much joy in were extremely offensive and were in fact completely wrong. I made my stance known with biblical support but instead of being heard I was threatened. I was told I would never teach any age level at the church again, nor could I be trusted anymore. My heart sank. As I sat in the church bathroom after this intense meeting I questioned so much. I wondered how these people could tell me my pursuit of the knowledge of God was un-welcomed and that the uttering of the word “Calvinism” may as well have been me shouting the word f*^#. I had called this church my spiritual home for just under two decades and now I was being shunned as if I had leprosy. I didn’t know what to feel.
We in the church often kill our own wounded. Such was the case at this church. We find the person who has questions, who is searching and we shoot them at point-blank range for the audacity to question what tradition has taught us to revere. We will repress the passion and drive of the person who is asking dangerous questions because we already have the answers from a theologian five centuries prior.
As I sought answers on theological questions and began developing my stance on key issues I was never encouraged to search, I was only told what was right and what was wrong. Christ bid me to reach for Him, the institution would have me digress. I found comfort in the nature of God Himself, and I was told my conclusions were invalid. I left this church. The scars would last for a while, but God grew me through the pain. The thing I learned through it all is that sometimes the church is more in favor of tradition that longing for the person of Christ. How many casualties are we racking up from friendly fire?