On most Sundays, I publish a brief Sunday Lesson. It’s nothing more than an observation or an idea or useful application from something I’m studying. I feel deeply blessed and deeply responsible for writing this. I schedule the posts to publish at 1:35. Don’t worry about the time: you can sign up to receive a notification any time I publish something. I’m up for all comments and try to respond to them all. Be forewarned that I reserve Sundays for my family. It’s a work in progress, but a goal we’re all growing into. So, if I don’t respond, I’m probably playing chess with my daughter or watching lousy TV with my wife. On an outstanding day, I might catch a couple innings of Braves baseball. With my wife, of course. It’s Sunday.
Here’s a question you’ll never hear from most pulpits:
Are you the one who is to come or should we expect someone else?
How’s that for pulpit pounding? Not so good, eh? Maybe The Baptist should enroll for another term at Jerusalem Seminary to learn how to reel parishioners in from the first sentence? We’re surprised – I’m surprised – that even The Baptist, the greatest of all men born of women, the man who baptized Jesus, had to stop and ask, Are you the one?
A few years later, St. Paul, the Christian Bulldog, writing to the Corinthians admits that “…okay…I also baptized the house of Stephanus…but…I’m not sure if I baptized anyone else.” I’m not sure.
So, John wasn’t sure about Jesus, and Paul wasn’t sure what he did or didn’t do. What do we say about this?
There’s a meme in modern American Christianity that YOU MUST KNOW. Bang it on the pulpit, and ask for an AMEN from the crowd. If you’re the leader, YOU HAVE GOT TO KNOW, and by gosh, when you’re done, they’ll know, too.
But John didn’t know. Really? This man, who as a baby in the womb, kicked for joy in the presence – also in the womb – of his Saviour? This man who would lose his life for this other man? This man who you would think is a model of absolute belief, wasn’t sure. I like how Perth Girl1 responds to this: “John did not rely on what others understood of who Jesus is, he went straight to Jesus.” I’m not sure if John doubted, but he clearly wasn’t sure. There’s a difference.
The same thing applies to Paul. Modern Evangelicals make theological assuredness the eleventh commandments and seriously doubt the salvation of anyone who would raise a question. But here’s the man who wrote the words that we fight over, the words that are said to be G-breathed, but he can’t remember who he baptized. I’m sure there’s a reason for it – maybe be baptized so many that a few more are hard to remember, but it’s interesting. Right here, right in the beginning of one of the books we fight over, the writer isn’t sure about something he writes about? Is that our model? To be positive it’s G-breathed unless the writer admits that they’re not positive? “I think…maybe…I’m pretty sure…” It’s a wonder that Paul made it into the cannon with this kind of waffling.
What to do?
I’m going to reveal a secret here. It’s a basis for my theology and can get me in trouble. It informs all my study and thoughts about thinking and humanity and G: think of a fish swimming in the deepest depths of the deepest trench in the ocean, and think of bacteria living in the gut of that fish, its colon. We are – I am – that bacteria. And we meet weekly to talk about how stars are made and how all the other bacteria are wrong. Just writing it out now, I shake my head at the absurdity of it all.
So, I am fine in not knowing theology or the reason or why or who did what. I know Him and that’s my goal. It’s all the knowing I need.
By way of explanation, I label myself as an agnostic Christian. I attend a Southern Baptist church and am comfortable with Roman Catholic and Orthodox theology and all kinds of Protestant thought. For Bibles, I generally use the Jerusalem Bible, the English Standard Version, and the Amplified Bible. A favorite verse is Micah 6:8 where the prophet says:
G has already told you what is right and what to do: do what is right, love loyalty, and walk humbly with G.
Note 1: A hat-tip to Perth Girl who writes on the site The “F” Word. Presumably for Faith, Food, and Family. Check it out.
For all of the Sunday Lessons, go here. You won’t get a seminary degree for reading, but you’ll wonder about a few things…
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