I was looking through the playbill of a production I wrote recently about the beginnings of the Lutheran church in America. This script was very challenging, but highly enjoyable, to write. Going back as far as the times of Martin Luther gave me the opportunity to visit, (and in some cases revisit), some of the church customs and practices of days gone by.
In writing the script I suggested the old hymns: “Nearer My God To Thee” as well as “Faith Of Our Fathers,” (hymns which I hope are sung at my funeral, by the way). I am actually not one of those old people who “love the old and hate the new” songs of the church, (although I admit that some of the new worship songs which seem to feature repeating one line ad nauseum seem to me a poor re-make of ancient chanting). My point is that I appreciate a worship song, (old or new), with good theology and good writing, (and some of the old hymns had neither, nor do some current day offerings).
But considering specifically the content, scope and relevance of “Faith Of Our Fathers” is, I believe, a good exercise for Christians today.
The danger is with those of us who are “over the hill” we are prone to glamorize the past and be overly critical of today. That is not my habit, nor intent. I had very pleasant and supportive growing-up years, and the faith of my own father was a very positive role model for my life. It nurtured a healthy atmosphere to grow my faith. But good as it was back then, the fact is that, in some cases, the faith of today has superior characteristics compared to the faith I remember from my childhood.
I can remember some people getting bent out of shape when someone questioned, and looked for, reasoning behind statements in the Bible. There was strong belief that “if it’s in the Bible that is reason enough” to accept without question. Now, before I get a barrage of comments about me doubting the content of the Bible, let me say I am completely a believer. In fact, the further I go in life the more I find that God and/or circumstance is clarifying points in the Bible which I found difficult or impossible to accept or understand as a younger person.
My point is I have always believed, and my own father’s faith confirmed, that God’s truth will much better survive and grow when we seek to question our faith in an open and healthy manner, as opposed to a dogmatic holding on to, and promoting someone else’s beliefs and theories, (a father’s faith), of which we don’t understand or even agree.
Unfortunately it is at that point most of society, to one degree or another, rejects the entire Bible as untrue, irrelevant and a waste of time. And they throw the entire “Biblical baby” out with their “intellectual bath water” and they leave behind the “faith of their fathers”.
What should we do when we hit that kind of theological roadblock in our spiritual walk?
Because the Bible covers such a huge amount of ancient history, future prophesy and contemporary fact, there are bound to be huge amounts of material in the Bible we are best to identify as “currently baffling and unsolved.” And we need the ability and commitment to accept that God’s thoughts and knowledge are light years beyond ours, therefore we can live with that measure of current mystery. Having settled our mind to that acceptance I believe we ought to park those “currently baffling and unsolved” mysteries in a readily accessible spot where we can revisit if, and when, God feels comfortable in trusting us with that additional intellectual capacity.
The joy is that God has opened my eyes enough that I can see the most important of theological facts:
I was made by and for God.
God has a plan for my life.
God has, before the beginning of time, given me what matters most, a plan for my salvation.
How God did those things, or why, is currently parked along with a huge collection of other conundrums in the “Currently Baffling And Unsolved” file.