I’ve always been a reader. In my younger days, I read fiction. Light fiction. Mindless, easy to read, predictable fiction. I think it was an escape from school-related work. But now that I’ve been out of school for awhile, my reading tastes have changed. These days, I’m devouring theology books. My Amazon wish list – and my nightstand – is starting to look like the beginnings of a seminary library.
I was recently asked about my reading preferences by someone who barely knows me. I enthusiastically started sharing the titles I have been reading. She then sort of cautiously asked, “Do you ever read…fiction?” (Yes! Look! I’m reading Caddie Woodlawn before I have my daughter read it. Ask me when’s the last time I opened it, though…)
So what brought on this sudden hunger for theology knowledge, you ask? Excellent question. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a short answer. 🙂
I grew up in the Assemblies of God church. Being the kind of kid who didn’t question much, I believed what I was told to believe and went on to an Assemblies of God college. Later, I was a full-time staff member at an A/G church, at which time I got credentialed with the A/G. After that, I worked at their headquarters. I used to joke that I would “bleed A/G.” Obviously, since I stuck around so long, these were all wonderful experiences, and truly I would not change them.
During all these years I was taught to believe that people who went to mainline, liturgical churches were not really Christians. Nominal, at best. We had the corner on the market, so to speak, where God was concerned. Our church had life and the presence of God; the mainline church around the corner was dead. There was no life in reading prayers composed by other people. No joy to be had in liturgy.
Some of these prejudices were actually spoken, I’m sure others were only implied. But those were the opinions, the impressions, that I had until very, very recently.
When we made our first military move, we ended up in a non-denominational church that is focused on reaching unchurched people. Consequently, they deliberately use extremely contemporary music with a concert atmosphere, preach simple, topical sermons and steer clear of doctrine. As the lack of depth began to wear on me, I started googling other churches in the area. Long story short, I discovered an Anglican church that combined the old and the new in a lovely and meaningful way. They used the liturgy. There was a priest. Robes were worn.
But there was life. Life and joy all wrapped up in this beautiful and ancient liturgy that gave shape and meaning to our corporate worship. I was moved to tears at each service as the prejudices of all my previous years were exposed and destroyed.
And that started my theological exploration. I began reading about the liturgy. About Anglican history, traditions, practices. I met with the pastor (priest!) and his wife and they graciously answered my questions and helped to direct some of my reading.
Only a couple of months into this eye-opening experience, it was time for us to move. I was disappointed to find that there was no Anglican church like that in this area. In a hurry to settle in and form relationships, we chose another church quickly and – as it turned out – badly. And well…we all know how that ended. It wasn’t the right place for us.
Fast forward through some details and…we found First Pres. And it has been wonderful! I especially love the emphasis on the Bible; no topical sermons here. Doctrine is taught regularly, through the preaching (straight through the Bible, verse by verse) and by the use of catechisms (adults, too!). We sing hymns, hallelujah! The Presbyterian liturgy is different from the Anglican one but it, too, gives shape to our worship together. I find great meaning in it.
Only…now I have new questions. I had a general idea of what Calvinism entailed, but I’d never explored it. I knew nothing of this Covenant theology that was mentioned so often. After seeing a few infants baptized, I understood that it was not meant to be an assurance of salvation, but something closer to what we call “infant dedication” in the A/G, but I wanted to learn more about it.
Basically, I’m having a teenage rebellion. Twenty years late. Over theology.
It’s time to question the theology that I was taught. I’m not questioning the Gospel; it’s the finer points of doctrine that I need to explore. How can I tell my children that something is true if I haven’t searched it out, can’t explain it? “That’s what I was always taught” isn’t gonna cut it anymore.
And so I read. When the kids are asleep and my husband is at war with the people in his PS3, I read of predestination and election, of dispensationalism and covenants.
Believe it or not, it’s fascinating.
(More to come on this topic…)