Saturday, September 16, 2017

Freedom From Accidental Heresy

If Jesus makes us right with God, then we have the freedom to come to him even when we aren’t theologically correct. To put it in the language of the Bible, we are invited to come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Heb. 4: 16). We don’t come boldly because we are OK. We come boldly because he understands our weakness and we need His help! 

 

Christians love being right. To rephrase towards a less generous take, modern Christians seem inordinately preoccupied with behaving correctly. This is evident in obvious aspects of our faith such as doctrine, conduct, and speech. Just to be clear, I’m not for bad doctrine or behaving badly. The more time I spend in pastoral counseling, though, the more I see the damage that an obsession with “truth” can do to our integrity as a person.

We have difficulty holding “what is” without qualifying it with what “should be.” In other words, we are more comfortable assessing how we feel and what we experience in terms of what should be true rather than what is actually true. Years of living this way gives birth to the dreaded disconnect between our heads and our hearts. We confess the sovereignty of God with our lips but can’t sleep at night. We know what is true but, for many, the truth has not transformed us. And I’m thinking first here about me.

Praying Heresies

Until my late twenties, my greatest fear in life was finding out I was an accidental heretic. This is an understandable concern for anyone who wants to avoid drowning in a pond with a rock around their neck (Matt. 18:6). I triple checked every opinion I had and tried to send every word I spoke through multiple filters of orthodoxy.

My system of guarding my tongue, heart, mind, and life was shattered during one semester in seminary after a professor encouraged us to pray the Psalms. Everything was fine until I reached Psalm 89. Here’s a particularly juicy portion where the Psalmist, lamenting to God, didn’t seem to share my passion for orthodoxy.

But now you have rejected him and cast him off. You are angry with your anointed king. You have renounced your covenant with him; you have thrown his crown in the dust.

-Psalm 89:38-39

YIKES. He’s calling God a liar and a promise breaker. I had two take-aways after reading that day. First, the Psalmist was praying/singing things that were not true and, second, those untrue prayers made it into the Bible. Scripture is not endorsing these statements as much as giving permission to be in these places: spaces where God seems absent, like he’s lied to you, like he’s stopped loving you (keep reading Psalm 89 for more examples). In Psalms like this, we receive permission to be who we really are with God, even when who we really are sounds utterly heretical.

Psalm 89 ends in a word of praise, which reads to me like a confession of trust. Here’s how I feel, I know you can deal with it. It reads like desperate willingness. Here’s how I feel, what can you do with it?

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