I remember a program that featured a masked magician as he and his assistants did a magic trick and then showed the audience how they did it step-by-step. In effect, they were breaking the magician’s code: to never reveal their secrets. After that, I never looked at magic the same way again.
The way that Christians have dissected the Bible makes me think of the same result. It used to be a simple matter to ‘just believe’ as a child might. But as the child grows, he or she is taught all sorts of ‘-tion’ and ‘-ism’ words that fully explain and describe what we think it all says and means.
I was thinking about that in a recent conversation, after having been taught about cultural and historical and gender concepts color the whole of Scripture. Once you know they are there, they’re very difficult to not see. Yet at the same time, people are championing a literal (or wooden) interpretation.
It’s as if at the same time there are people who know too much and people who know too little and they both want to have it their way. Like the person who knows too much about the magic trick and wants to see it done a different way and the person who knows too little and wouldn’t want it to be changed because it is fine as is.
The magic industry solves this problem by having two kinds of magicians. Ones that rely on the old tricks and entertain people at small gatherings and ones that professional illusionists who work big stages in places like Las Vegas. Christianity sort of does the same thing – there’s the VBS / children’s version that keeps things simple and the details fuzzy. And there’s advanced materiel for people who outgrow it.
One of the older rapture movies – ‘a thief in the night’ I think it was called – features a scene where the pastor used a lot of big churchy words that confused the congregation and sounded like gibberish. It’s almost as confusing as these formulas to be the right kind of believer:
5 Solas + Nicene Creed + Universal Priesthood = Protestant
5 Solas + Nicene Creed + Westminster Confession + Calvinism + Covenantal = Reformed Theologian
Wesleyan Arminianism = Methodism
Magic work’s on the principle of being tricked. Faith does not. But I can’t help but feel tricked because the more I look into the more conservative and fundamental aspects of theology the more confused I feel. Then I think back to how Jesus lived and taught the principles he believed in. Maybe the parables might have been a little confusing, but it was much plainer than the church is right now.
Look, I’m all for knowing what I’m getting into, but I’m not interested in a list of concepts where I can’t ask questions back and forth. Why is Calvinism preferred over Arminianism? What does one mean by the covenants? How is a creed better than this or that set of beliefs? Are we talking about pure knowledge? When ‘the trick’ is fully known, how are we to believe in it?