Absolutes. They are easy for kids to understand. Left or Right. Up or down. Yes or no. But what happens when life is a little more complex than that?
What happens when you’re given a sphere and within that sphere you fit into orthodox Christianity, and outside of it is heresy?
Growing up I was taught a particular way to learn, live, and practice my faith. Occasionally I was informed that there were multiple ways of doing something but “we”, did it “this” way. With little exposure to other ways of practice it was easy to develop the impression that everyone does it “this” way or else they must be “wrong”.
Time went on and I developed heavy biases, strong determinations, and resentment for “incorrect” ways of thinking. Arguing over petty things. Looking back I weep at the damage I have done. I question how many people have I caused with my debates to hate Christianity? Honestly I shudder when I think of answering to YHWH with a written number of people who, by my stupidity, and careless actions rejected Him permanently.
After moving out of my parent’s house and no longer being under their direct presuppositions, declarations, and statutes of faith I had to develop my faith as I would follow it. Slowly but surely YHWH started working in my heart. Day by day I learned new things. The process was slow until I entered a higher Christian education. My classes started speaking about things that I had never heard of. I began to be in shock as my previous ideas were derailed and I realized that either I had never been educated properly, or I never paid attention. There were church fathers and councils after the apostles died? The dark ages, though dark spiritually had great members of faith striving for the mission Christ gave them? There are Creeds that describe the faith in great detail and I NEVER heard of them? These were some of the thoughts that blew my mind.
Without realizing it I began to realize that I had imagined “my faith” as being one that needed to be “reinvented”. Like a man constructing an idea for making “a wheel” without looking up and seeing all the history gone into the “wheel”. Stuck by all this history I began to ponder more and more. My thoughts raced to different areas as I started to grasp where the faith came from, and how it has gotten to where it is. Then the first bombshell dropped: the circle of orthodox Christianity and how nearly all branches (denominations) still fit into orthodox Christianity.
This went against my upbringing. Sure there was the “Well Baptist believe…. and [place holder] believes …”, and some of that is true. But I was brought up to think that certain denominations were cults, evil, wrong, and oppressive. I’m not going to to touch on those since EVERY denomination has their down sides. Though I want to point that out, no one is perfect outside of Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Triune God that He is a member of.
When I heard this I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know how to deal with it, so I learned. I listened. I thought deeply on it. Then the other classes came in. The pressures of my denomination, of the Protestant Evangelical Baptists, started to be lifted. All of the sudden I started learning aspects about YHWH that though small, and trivial, started opening up my heart and made me weep for joy as my view of God changed from oppressive, judgemental, and needing me to fit His “mold” of “perfection” to the loving, forgiving, redemptive, and relational Father, Son, and Spirit that He is. Slowly I saw the way I was raised and asked, “How did I miss it this much?”.
Then my friends started pointing out the question, “Why are you baptist? I don’t think you are.” What insight was this? What did they see? So I started asking. I started searching. The more I learned the more I started seeing where I came from, acknowledging my wounds, scars, and misconceptions and looked to Christ for healing. After a while I asked, what am I because I do not believe I am Baptist. Therefore the search began.
Summer 2016, #MBIEURO16 happened. I learned so much. My basic knowledge was built upon. I learned even more about church fathers and mothers throughout the ages. The professors taught us about creeds and doctrines. However, the most interesting thing was walking into a Catholic cathedral and seeing the splendid beauty inside. Time and again it was explained why they were beautiful, and time after time I saw the sacredness of the Catholic Church. The “church” that I was taught was a cult, did not believe “a, b, and c” and had been taught to be biased against. All of the sudden I was explained things from their side, history’s side, professors who were educated in Theology explained so much, and I experienced the curtains and blinders falling off my eyes. I will not defend everything that denomination has done, and I do not agree with many things, but I cannot deny them the respect they deserve as our founding unified church body.
Then what happened? I started learning about how the reformation split things up and why. I saw, learned, touched, and experienced the reasoning. I was taught to see and understand. But that summer the biggest thing was learning all the critical aspects of the faith and being told to think of it from perspectives I had never thought of. My mind was blown time after time. I left with the only clear concept that, “I do not know what I believed before… but thank God, He loved me anyways.”
Now I am educated in the initial steps of understanding the faith as a whole and have started searching for where YHWH has created me to fit into His family. How am I to worship, teach, and learn about Him? Where will I be most welcomed and experience the healing from the past, and guidance towards the future? That has been my search, and will continue to be.
I started out with the first that that struck me as something I felt was a dominating factor: Church governance. After learning some of the Catholic structure I found I really enjoyed the hierarchical structure. However, with all the disagreements I have with the current state of the Catholic church I knew I could not faithfully submit to practices I did not agree with. So I went to a few churches and watched, asked questions, and determined that there is something about the sacredness within the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, and the Anglican Church that I have found nowhere else. Of course I am only a young person, who has not seen the whole world, nor experienced the local churches everywhere. But from my experience these denominations had something sacred about them. So I decided it was the first steps to see what I felt was something I needed to learn more about.
After hierarchical came the next few things I experienced, the sacredness of the service, longer prayer times, and the increased amounts of scripture reading compared to Baptist churches I had been a part of. I have seen many Baptist churches in my time. As a former MK (a child who has parents that serve as missionaries) I had traveled many places in the U.S.A. and saw the ins-and-outs of the “Baptist” denomination. The churches that preached from the pulpit about being “in the word”, about “being a praying church”, and yet being highly casual with their “God”.
-Side note: due to many other issues I despised the American “church” for many years because of their hypocrisy.-
Now at twenty-two, I start seeking answers more broadly, and I see these denominations I was told things about and seeing with mine own eyes, that these churches 1) Pray more, 2) Stay in scripture more, 3) have a better structure for getting rid of heresy within the church. The ministers are far more accountable to what they believe in than ANY Baptist church I have seen, known, or heard of. But heaven forbid, these churches are “cults” or wrong because they aren’t Baptists.
Because the Catholics and Eastern Orthodox have some rituals such as praying to saints, and Mary… I have decided I am not at the point of fitting into their denominations. Yet I do have high respect for them, and enjoy many of their practices. Currently I am searching out the Anglican church, particularly the more conservative branch since the liberal branch has pushed things to odd places that I do not agree with. There are many reasons to this change but it has been a wondrous experience so far. I do not think all churches of any denomination are great churches, because we are all fallible human beings under the curse of sin. Though I do know that I appreciate my upbringing, and politely am sailing on this voyage of faith where only God can satisfy.