The Three Is’s

In many ways, certainty is at the foundation of most Christian faiths. The Bible must be inerrant or how can you know what is true (just ignore the places where it contradicts itself)? The earth must have been created six thousand years ago or how can you trust the Bible (never mind the overwhelming evidence that it is in fact 13.7 billion years old)? Marriage must be between one man and one woman or you enter the slippery slope of relativism (lets just ignore the relativism of throwing out all of your previously tightly held moral values to support a hate-spewing, racist demagogue for President).

The problem, as I reference above in my parentheticals, is that the things that people claim that the BIBLE IS CLEAR about are absolutely unclear when you choose to actually take the Bible seriously. Sure, like anyone, you can pick and choose your favorite verses to come up with some sort of systematic theology that leads to a certain reading of the Bible. And every “theologically conservative” denomination has its own “infallible” reading of the Bible that relies on those choices. And in many cases, their choices conflict. Go figure!

So the gatekeepers warn us that if we read off the “safe and approved list” we will fall down the slippery slope that leads to apostasy. And they actually do have a point. For me, the entry place to deconstruction was the inerrancy of scripture, which never made sense to me from the early days of my becoming a Christian convert (see my reference to contradictions above). And for a while I tried to come up with alternative certainties around social justice or grace or inclusion or whatever. But in the end, I wasn’t left with much. The fact is that if we look at the Bible as a vehicle for certainty (or truth), we won’t find it. If it were there, we wouldn’t have so many denominations, each of which believes it has discovered the Truth.

And, of course, it didn’t help that so many of the people who asserted that the BIBLE IS CLEAR hated immigrants, downplayed racism, viewed women as less than equal, and ultimately advocated for “redemptive violence” to “Make America Christian Again.”

And so, by the beginning of 2019, I wasn’t left with much in the way of faith. If the Bible was uncertain, and Christians seemed to be so toxic, I didn’t have a whole lot of time for God.

But then, something altogether unexpected and wonderful happened. I encountered Divine Love directly. And while I don’t have the level of “certainty” I was taught to believe in or sought to find after I could no longer believe what I was taught, I have experienced what I call “The Three Is’s” which are now foundational to the faith I have today. They are:

  1. God is
  2. God is Love
  3. God is living in all things through Christ

I want to elaborate on each of these in a series of posts, but what is truly different about the faith I have today is that it is experience-based rather than certainty-based. This is what the mystics have taught us all along: that experience is the Great Teacher, the thing that reveals God to us and makes the scriptures come alive. Not intellectualism. Not dogma.

Brian Zahnd, in his book When Everything’s On Fire, references Karl Rahner’s prediction that “the Christian of the future will be a mystic or nothing at all.” I have found this to be emphatically true.

The truly wild thing about the Bible is that it is innately iconoclastic. It subverts itself as a means of preventing itself from becoming the Idol at the expense of Godself. Martin Luther called the scriptures “the cradle wherein Christ is laid.” The point of the Bible is not to be the Word of God, but to be the words of people who knew God that point to God. It’s not prose, it’s poetry. It’s not dissertation, it’s metaphor.

God can’t be found in the Bible alone. But if you let the Bible lead you into the presence of Divine Love, you may find God.

One Love

When I was a little, baby Christian in college (I was agnostic before then), I was taught in the proper evangelical way that there were really four different kinds of love in the Greek New Testament.

There was philia, the love that friends have for each other.

There was eros, the erotic love of lovers.

There was storge, love for family.

And then there was the good love, agape, which was self-sacrificial, Christian love.

And while the other three were okay in their context, we really needed to pursue agape-style love.

But a couple years back, God shuffled the deck for me. In a time of contemplation that I can only describe as one of mystical union with Christ, I saw that all of these loves were really the same love. And that love is, in fact, the undercurrent of everything in the universe.

Every star that is born is born out of love.

Every living thing that births a new generation is birthing them out of love.

Every time we show kindness it’s the same love.

Passionate sex is from the same love.

The unfolding of history is love in action.

Each atom that clings to other atoms is partaking in love.

And at the center of all of this love is God, who has a red hot, passionate, even erotic love for each and every part of the universe, and most certainly those created in the image of God.

I was brought back to this experience when reading one of Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations from a few years back. In it he says “The biblical Song of Songs, Rumi, Hafiz, Kabir, and John of the Cross could use only highly erotic images to communicate their mysticism.”

I have absolutely found this to be true. How else could it be? Could God actually love us less passionately than our partner? Could erotic love be more powerful than God’s love? Of course not!

(And as an aside, the Song of Songs, which I never understood prior to that mystical experience from a few years back, is now my favorite book of the Bible).

And so, beloved, know that all is love. That everything in the universe is being pushed forward by love, and is moving toward its fullness in love. You are loved. Even the smallest creature is loved. And even the most seemingly irredeemable sinner is loved. Because we come from love, and we have our being in love, and we will one day be fully united with Love itself.