Recently, I posted this quote on a friend’s timeline:
If the you of five years ago doesn’t consider the you of today a heretic, you are not growing spiritually. (Thomas Merton)
Someone commented, “Really?” implying, “How can this be? This is heresy.”
The Bible is full of stories that illustrate the idea of journey. Abraham comes to mind. His physical journey from Ur to Canaan illustrated what should be spiritually true for us. After all, Jesus said, “Follow me.” not “Come and sit.” So despite the implication of the commenter, the idea that our theological constructs and beliefs change over time doesn’t seem like heresy.
Here are a few of my own theological constructs that have undergone a transition in the last five years:
1. The definition of church. Thanks to the publication of Pagan Christianity in 2008, I realized that church has nothing to do with a building, a weekly meeting or sitting in pews listening to one man teach the Bible. Church is our identity. Church is community. It is who we are and the church can and does gather together in many different forms throughout the week.
I am not saying that going to a meeting is wrong. In fact, I think that gathering for corporate Bible study may be a necessary stage in our journey but at some point, we should graduate from this form of instruction and learn from Jesus himself. After all, Jesus said to abide in Him and that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth.
Since leaving the institutional church ten years ago, the Holy Spirit has led me on an amazing journey. I would never return to sitting in a weekly meeting and be content calling it church.
2. Women in ministry. When I was attending an evangelical, “Bible based” church, all the pastors and elders were men. In addition, men picked up the offering and served communion. All this was done in the name of good biblical exegesis, yet when a few friends and I studied what the Bible said about gender, we learned how the context of certain passages had been ignored to support this patriarchal position and practice. We discovered that a correct contextual understanding of 1 Timothy 2:12-15, the passage that is most cited to keep women out of leadership, led to a completely different understanding. Paul didn’t forbid women from teaching for all time, rather, he was forbidding one woman from teaching false doctrine and encouraging her to keep learning in quietness (the posture of all disciples of Jesus). The issue was false doctrine, not gender.
God has always used women as leaders and especially now within the New Covenant where there is “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Priscilla taught Apollos. Mary Magdalene was the apostle to the apostles and Junia was an apostle. Just to name a few.
Those with the most power often twist Scripture so as to remain in power, often under the guise of good doctrine, service or the created order.
3. Oneness. During my evangelical years, oneness was a concept that applied to married couples. In fact, in a recent inaugural sermon at my former church, the new pastor committed to oneness in his marriage. However, Jesus called all believers to oneness. Just as He and the Father are one, so all believers are to experience oneness with each other, regardless of marital status and gender.
4. Covenanting. The idea that church members are to covenant with the leadership of a church is not found in Scripture. God made covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. But now in this age, we are partakers of the new covenant, which Jesus initiated in his own blood. Although the intent may be good, church leadership often use membership covenants as a means of control. Definitely not a good thing.
In the aforementioned inaugural sermon, the pastor asked the church members to covenant to “follow… the Elder Board and Pastoral Staff as they fulfill their God-given roles of leadership,” another requirement not seen in the Bible. We are to follow Jesus, rather than people.
5. Demonization. Besides attending an evangelical church for seventeen years, I served on the leadership team of a non-denominational international Bible study. In all that time, demonization of the believer was never talked about. Our authority in Christ over the powers of darkness was never discussed. In fact, any mention of demons brought about two responses: fear of the demonic realm or scorn of those who “saw a demon behind every bush.” It seemed that people would rather live in blind (and dangerous) ignorance than face the truth about the enemy’s tactics. I had to journey outside the institutional church to “parachurch” ministries to learn about inner healing, deliverance and our authority in Christ to engage in spiritual warfare. And in so doing, I finally found freedom.
6. Being fed. I shared in an earlier post about my shock when I heard someone say that their family would be “getting their nourishment from another pastor.” We are to receive our nourishment from Jesus, not second hand. The Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. Enough said.
7. My identity. Rather then seeing myself as a “sinner saved by grace,” I see myself as one who God delights in. True, I was a sinner saved by grace, but that is NOT who I am now. And even as a “sinner” I was dearly loved. My sin didn’t keep God away from me; rather it kept me away from Him. Shame has a way of doing that. Now I am a new creation, dearly loved by the Father, ransomed by the Son, indwelt by the Holy Spirit and set free. I am His Beloved and believing it more and more each day.
What do you think? Are your beliefs the same today as they were five years ago? Why or why not? Specifically, what beliefs have changed over time?
GENEVA CHINNOCK is a writer and author of Becoming His Beloved: Journey into the Father’s Affection. Geneva has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing and a Master in Business Administration. In her spare time, Geneva loves reading, eating bacon and attending live theater. She lives in Southern California with her husband and blogs about matters of faith at TreasuredbyGod.com.
 Galatians 3:28 NIV