You remain a Christian. You’ve just changed. Perhaps your framework for understanding the Christian faith has changed. Perhaps your understanding and interpretations of various Bible topics and passages have changed. Perhaps some of your spiritual habits have changed.
I too have changed. My understanding of my faith in Jesus has changed. To be clear, I am very much a committed follower of Jesus Christ (i.e. I am a Christian). I love the person of Jesus and his teaching, I believe Jesus is Lord, and I find my greatest hope in him and the life he has given me. As I continue to learn and grow as a person and as a Christian, I have discovered healthier ways to approach my faith in Jesus and how I go about following him in this world.
Which leads me to this news.
A New Blog Series is Underway
In the following weeks, I will be writing a series of blog posts intended to encourage those who have experienced (or continue to experience) an evolving understanding of the Christian faith.
To launch the series, I want to introduce and define two terms that help to clarify what I mean when referring to an evolving understanding of the Christian faith because there will undoubtedly be some people present who are new to the language or concept of an evolving Christian faith, even though you may already be experiencing this kind of faith.
The first term we’ll look at today is FaithRethink. I’ll share why I chose this title for my website and business and what I mean when referring to a faithrethink in everyday life. The second term I’ve already mentioned, evolving Christian faith. What does it mean and what implications can we draw from it? If you have any questions after reading today’s post, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond promptly.
Let’s get to the first term: FaithRethink.
What is (a) FaithRethink?
As you may already know, I chose the term FaithRethink for the name of my website and writing work. I wanted to combine the idea of rethinking, or reconsidering, age ole Christian truths from a new and healthier perspective to our faith in Jesus. After working through many possible titles for my website, I finally landed on FaithRethink. So what does it mean?
FaithRethink is an invitation to stop, hit the pause button and reflect deeply on your spiritual life as a Christian. It’s about giving yourself the permission to be courageous, the kind of courage needed to seriously reconsider spiritual things from new angles and perspectives–not because it’s trendy or simply to do something new, but because those new perspectives are actually worthy of your consideration and attention.
Said differently, FaithRethink is about growing and learning as a Christian. And to grow and learn means letting go of harmful ideas, even harmful theology that is not rooted in Jesus or life in him (even though some people taught you those things were true.). It also involves discovering and embracing life giving theology that is rooted in Jesus and life in him and will enable you to flourish as you follow Jesus.
Engaging in a faithrethink can happen anytime. It can last for just a moment, go on for a few hours or encompass an entire season of life. Anytime you and I thoughtfully reconsider something about our faith in Jesus, we are engaging in a faithrethink.
For example, maybe you recently heard a sermon or read a book that got you thinking about a concept or spiritual insight you hadn’t seen or understood before. Or maybe you had a conversation with a friend, a mentor or a colleague that opened your eyes to an entirely new or perhaps more nuanced perspective about Jesus and life in him.
Or maybe you’ve had some questions for a long time about a Bible topic, church or being a Christian, but you never really felt comfortable asking those questions because past experience has shown you that certain questions about God and faith, salvation and church are unfortunately unwelcome and too often looked down on in your church community or church tradition. Maybe your questions are not unwelcome by everyone in your church, but you have this gnawing feeling that if you brought them up, the responses (or reactions) you’ll encounter might get slightly hostile and contentious.
Maybe you’ve heard from Christian leaders that certain questions (like the ones you have) “cross the line” of what is acceptable for “true Christians” to ask. Maybe you’ve even been told they “lead down the slippery slope”–a phrase often used by Christian leaders and pastors to keep Christians from considering a certain theological truth or view that is outside the view of your pastor or church tradition.
Faithrethinks can happen in just about any situation, no matter where you are or who you are with–yes, even while at church.
I can almost hear some people asking the following questions: Peter, I totally get that it is important to use our minds, but aren’t there some questions that go too far? Can’t we be too open minded? After all, isn’t truth truth? Isn’t truth absolute?
All of these questions are important. Let me attempt to respond to them by asking another question because asking this question gets at the heart of the matter.
What is an Evolving Christian Faith?
The word “evolving” will likely put some people off. Some Christian traditions, like the one I grew up with, demonized the word “evolution” because of the common distain my tradition had for the Evolutionary Theory espoused by Charles Darwin.
Laying aside that particular debate right now (whether Christianity can be compatible with the Theory of Evolution), consider for a moment that, over the span of our lives, all of us experience change. The changes in your life may look a little different than mine, but all of us experience change at varying degrees.
Change (in fact, numerous changes) is simply part of life. Whether you are averse to change or not, change will happen.
With this in mind, an evolving Christian faith refers, in the general sense, that even within our Christian faith, or at least in our understanding of the Christian faith, you will experience degrees of change. These changes impact at least three aspects of our spiritual life: our faith, our theology, and our theopraxy.
Our faith refers to who we believe and trust in–namely God. Our theology refers to what we believe about who we believe in. Our theopraxy refers to how we choose to live out and practice our faith and theology on a day to day basis.
These ongoing changes may include (and likely will) changes in our character, our friendships, our church involvements, our ambitions or goals, and even in our theological framework or thinking, including spiritual beliefs and values stemming from particular Bible related and Christian related topics.
But this should not surprise us in the least. An evolving Christian faith is simply another way of talking about Christian maturity, which is what the apostle Paul referred to as “sanctification.” (see Romans 6:20-23; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-12; Philippians 3:12-16).
What does an evolving faith look like?
It could mean lots of things: It might mean being willing to engage with your questions head on, perhaps questions you’ve had for a long time but kind of just stuffed inside you out of fear of what other Christians might think about you, a fear of deception, of being deceived or a fear that your questions may lead you to compromise your faith in some way.
Perhaps your evolving faith might also mean getting more familiar with the historical background of various Bible stories, confronting our sanitized versions of those stories promulgated in many Christian churches, doing a deep dive into Jesus’ life and teaching (something my tradition didn’t do justice to) or generally discovering healthier ways to engage and apply the Scriptures.
It might also mean picking up a book (you can tell reading is one of my go-to’s) by an author that thoughtfully and honestly explores Christian church history. Most Christians I know haven’t taken the time to read a book on Christian church history that surveys the 1st century through to the 21st century.
FYI, a good book on church history will not only engage with the good that has happened through individual Christians and Christian churches but with some of the more unpleasant atrocities done at the hands of individual Christians and Christian movements.
Or maybe your evolving Christian faith means having deeper conversations with Christian friends and mentors and reorienting the way you “do church” on Sundays or whenever you gather together in the name of Jesus to honor and follow him sincerely.
There is no question, an evolving Christian faith, theology and theopraxy will be uncomfortable, at least at times. In fact, it may be incredibly uncomfortable because you may discover that some of your prior assumptions and prior foundations are not as fixed as you were taught they were. At the same time, you may discover as I have that new foundations emerge–yes, better healthier foundations–like building your faith and life on the person of Jesus.
Good news for some, a threat to others
My hunch is that the idea of an evolving Christian faith and a faithrethink sounds like the most refreshing and freeing thing in the world for some people reading right now. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Of hope, new learning and new and healthier ways of framing your faith in Jesus. This news is just what you needed to hear. But for others, an evolving Christian faith poses a threat to the current way you understand Christianity even though you may agree that change is important and that learning involves making adjustments. Because a faith that is evolving means (at least in part) that what you have assumed is foundational may now be in question, and you are not so sure that opening up this exploration is worth the heartache. It, as the saying goes, may lead down a slippery slope.
In the following blog post in this new series, I’ll invite you to do a thought experiment to explore this topic of an evolving Christian faith further. Whether you are persuaded an evolving Christian faith is a good thing or you have your hesitations, this thought experiment may prove helpful.
See you then, Peter
Photo by Anna Dziubinska