It’s been a few years since I was at bible college. I had a bit of a rough exit, where being called a heretic was probably the least of the insults. I don’t know that I purposefully wanted to burn any bridges, but people are passionate about defending the things they love.
A few years ago, I decided I could no longer be a Trinitarian while studying to become a pastor. In fact, I think I broke off a few beliefs that were considered the standard Christian beliefs. I really was just thinking through personal values, what is important to Christianity, and what is important to me. I wanted a set of beliefs that enabled me to be a good person, and to love anybody. A lot of dogma in Christianity impassions people to build walls and exclude people that shouldn’t be excluded. I look at Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, and their various sub-denominations – all walled groups. People can, of course, change their denomination and beliefs during the span of their lives, but it’s like sand in buckets: you can be in any bucket you want, but you still end up in a bucket. This is why I just identify as a Jesus follower – it’s not about a church, a denomination, a pastor, or a tradition.
Going back to leaving the Trinitarian tradition, I guess that makes me a heretic in modern Christianity. Unfortunately, this means I’ve offended a lot of people that were passionate about their faith, and spiritually oriented career goals. When I announced my bible colleges decision that I would not be permitted to graduate given my opposition to the Trinity, I felt attacked by a lot of the people. Maybe they felt attacked when I exposed my spiritual struggles and my path away from professional ministry. I suppose that maybe people are afraid that the path they are on isn’t as bullet-proof as they thought when they first started down it. I tried to do some non-traditional ministry on campus, one being a fairly popular weekly prayer session. I know some of the people that came out regularly were the first to attack. How could the guy that brought us all together to pray in a group be a heretic? How did I not see through his false teachings? Those were probably some thoughts in some peoples minds, and pain can sometimes fuel aggression, I guess.
When it comes to theology, I ask some very simple questions – why is the X important? Can I reason through the idea of X well? Can teaching X change the life of a person? I’ve really tried to think through my personal and spiritual values asking this sort of question. My primary example is always the Trinity. Why is it important? People tell me it’s what makes God unique among other religions and their various deities. I don’t see how uniqueness can somehow determine truthfulness, so we’re already down one strike. There are some things in the bible that maybe spell out that the Trinity is actually a thing, but even so, did it matter? Jewish people were able to follow YHWH without any concept of the Trinity, and that debatably worked out for them just fine – if Christians follow the same god, then I’m still not seeing the importance. Next, can I reason through the Trinity? I had many discussions with pastors and professors at my bible college, and each gave me a different explanation of the Trinity. I got a lot of the whole “One God, but different uniforms for different jobs” which boils down to Modalism, which is very non-Trinitarian. Others were able to tell me that it wasn’t Modalism, but instead of telling me what Trinitarianism was, they were only able to tell me what it was not. It’s not Modalism, it’s not Oneness, it’s not uniforms, it’s not polytheism, etc.. But that doesn’t help anyone. It’s like someone has an official rulebook for a game, tells you to play, but only tells you when you’re doing the wrong thing. I can’t even reason through the Trinity without involving Modalism – in fact, there are a lot of names attributed to YHWH in the old testament when YHWH did certain things. A google search reveals a lot of names, all categorized for your pleasure and consumption. I don’t know why anyone is willing to just settle with three names. And can the concept of the Trinity change someone’s life? Maybe, maybe not. If I told someone who has no particular spiritual inclination about the trinity, I wouldn’t expect any new revelation to come to them. I would expect them to be confused over how the trinity cannot be any of these heresies, but I cannot explain what it can be.
Okay, so I didn’t quite expect this rant from myself, it sort of just happened, and maybe I just needed to get that all out. But what this post was supposed to simply say is that because of how I think about theology, I think I’ve become a different and better person than what I was before I really examined my faith. I am able to examine and detach from beliefs I’ve had that no longer make sense to me. I’m not just willing to follow the pack of Christians based on some sort of tradition or peer pressure to conform. This doesn’t make sense to a lot of Christians, and it maybe angers them. I just want people to know I’m not out to destroy beliefs, but I am willing to talk about beliefs that I don’t follow. I don’t care what beliefs a person has. I disagree with a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean those people are wrong, or even that I am right. The important thing to me is that people can think about what they believe. I’ll accept anyone who is Trinitarian, even though I am not. I don’t mind discussing the topic, either, as long as it can be done in a calm and friendly manner.
What can you take from this? Be willing to be wrong. It’s hard. You’ll burn some bridges. You might lose some friends. But look at it this way. If you are willing to be wrong on X, but you happen to be right, you win. If you are willing to be wrong on Y, and you are wrong, then you still sort of win. Everyone could get a long a lot better if we were just willing to be wrong.