For more than 50 years, I have been a subscriber to a magazine entitled THE CHRISTIAN CENTURY. I have admired the courageous stands of editors such as Harrold Fey, James Wall, and (currently) John Buchanan. I have not always read this journal “cover to cover”; but I have enjoyed and grown from the magazine’s coverage and perspective on issues related to living the Christian Faith.
I have a special affinity to the theme of the magazine which lies just below the masthead: Thinking Critically, Living Faithfully. I like that mission statement. I believe that Christian disciples, as well as local churches, are called to be ambassadors of thinking critically and living faithfully. Or, more succinctly, we are to be a beacon of faithful thoughtfulness – especially in a challenging and secular time.
I am quite sure I have been more attentive to the notion of thinking critically than I have to the one of living faithfully. Therefore, I have reversed the order in which they might be presented. I believe we must find a way to be faithfully thoughtful on this journey.
The “faithful” component is a matter of discerning and discovering what it means to be a disciple in the modern age—not an easy task. What does the ancient call of the Master mean when he says to us, “Follow me?” What does a well-lived life look like when a person or a church tries to be faithful?
But we must also ask what it means to “think critically” about the faith we hold and the One we choose to follow. In my ministry, I have tried to give people permission to wrestle with difficult questions, tried to allow them to be “hopeful doubters”, to talk about Incarnation, salvation, new birth, and the Scriptures in light of new, fresh, and (to my mind) exciting recent understandings.
Not everyone wants to do the work of thinking critically about his or her faith stance. I can’t help myself in this regard. I suppose it is in my DNA. It may be due to my mostly scientific and mathematical background in the first 1/3 of my life. I must ask the hard questions and seek meaningful answers. The late Harrell Beck of Boston School of Theology once said, “The beginning of wisdom is asking the questions for which there are no answers.” Another writer offers a related comment: “The push for certainty (in Christianity) has led to dangerous, terrible places.” And then adds, “There is more grace in the search for meaning than in absolute certainty.”
A fair number of good people have dropped out of church today. Perhaps not altogether, but with some degree of dissatisfaction. For them, the church is simply not addressing the questions they are asking. Perhaps not offering a “relational” faith stance. They may show up in worship a few times each month, but are not engaged in what it means to be thoughtfully present.
We who would be leaders would do well to engage in the daily disciplines of living faithfully and thinking critically if we would impact the modern age.
I’m not totally sure what all of this means. (More questions?) But I have just recently renewed my subscription to The Christian Century for yet another year. At the end of my journey, I want to be seen as one who tried to live a faithfully thoughtful life as a would-be follower of Jesus.
March 5, 2014