Following Jesus vs. Figuring Jesus Out

It’s been a long while since a post. A really, really long while. Yet, not much has changed in the way of “taking thoughts captive.” Questions asked weeks and months ago are still being asked. I suppose it could be because no satisfactory answer has been given. Or, if I’m being honest, it could be because of my own pride and sin (I’ve got plenty of that to go around). Whatever the reason, I can’t seem to shake some of these questions. And, by far, the most significant question deals with following Jesus or figuring Jesus out.

When I frame the issues the way I do I’m trying to highlight a division that’s become more prominent in my own mind. The division deals with just how significant is “right belief” (i.e., figuring Jesus out) in our walk with Jesus. For so long, I’ve been implicitly taught that right belief is essential to faith. Admittedly, no one has made that a test question, but nonetheless, the seeming frustration with certain questions lead me to believe some things aren’t questionable… I don’t think what I just said made any sense. Let me try again.

I earned a 77 hour M.A. degree from a confessional, Reformed seminary. My education was excellent. Over my time in graduate studies I learned three languages (though the years have been helpful in “unlearning” them), read church history, philosophy, doctrine, theology, etc. I am incredibly grateful for the tools my education gave me. Yet, I’m not so grateful for the theological house in it constructed both explicitly and implicitly. Questions I never thought to ask years ago because of my belief that my theology was 99% perfect are arising. It seems upon further inspection that my house has a few cracks in the foundation. And, when I spoke with a great friend about these issues, I was admittedly afraid to rock the boat. I didn’t want to sound like a heretic. That is precisely my point.

Though I don’t want to sound overly simplistic, I wonder if we Christians (myself included) are missing the point of Christianity. It is about following Christ, right? It is about doing what he did, saying what he said, and living how he lived, right? Following Christ is about loving the “least of these.” Following Christ isn’t about perfect belief. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The first and last thing Peter heard Jesus say to him was, “Follow Me.” In other words, the entirety of the Christian life is not ultimately in what you believe, but who you follow wholeheartedly. I see that in Christendom there are Open Theists and Classical Theists, Arminians and Calvinists, Pentecostals and Presbyterians, Paedo-baptists and Credo-baptists, those who argue for classical belief on inspiration and authority and those who are redefining key terms, annihilationists and those who argue for endless, conscious torment, etc. The vast majority of these people are probably God-fearing people who love Jesus, who’ve seen their absolute need of a savior in light of their undeniable sin. Isn’t that the essence of Christianity? Isn’t it less about us, our beliefs, our ability to figure Jesus out, and more about our following Jesus? Yes, I think so.

Jesus is working in the world to bring about God’s kingdom. We do have enough of his word to know what is kingdom looks like. Following him and bringing the kingdom seems more important than figuring the kingdom out.

May we be given the grace necessary to follow Jesus more consistently and try less to figure Jesus out. It’s not possible anyway.

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