The Point-of-View Problem

The Point-of-View Problem March 29, 2021

The scientific word for point-of-view is cognition. Your cognition takes many years to develop. It is the sum-total of all you have learned, everything you believe, and all your individual experiences. My cognition, or point-of-view could be completely opposite from yours regarding, well…anything. Therein lies the conundrum: We are who and what we are, and we are unwilling to change. What we know is all we need to know. Instead of remaining polarized by our differences, we should embrace and celebrate them!

During my tenure in local church ministry, I encountered various understandings about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, Soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), worship, communion, tithing/giving, servanthood, evangelism, Protestants, Catholics, and the various expressions of these things. The conundrum is that everyone of us perceives these representations of faith in a myriad of ways. Thus, begs the inevitable question: which expression is the correct one? The answer is simple.

They all are…according to our own unique perspectives.

As an evangelical pastor I held up the Bible as the final authority on all matters of life and principle. That viewpoint was indoctrinated to me in Bible college. I was warned of the potential dangers of doubting God and the Scriptures. Sola scriptura – only the Bible. All my sermons were centered around living up to the standards of God’s word and the consequences for not doing so. I was a preacher of fear. Obey God, or else. Read your Bible every day, or else. Meditate on it day and night, or else. Bring it with you to church, or else. Leave it open during the sermon, or else. Stand in honor of its reading, or else. Memorize it, or else. Love it, or else. Hold it up against anything that dared to contradict it, even the Bible’s own contradictions were our problem, not God’s, or else! It’s all part of the mystery. God’s ways/thoughts are higher than our ways/thoughts. I believed that God superintended the copying of the inerrant original texts over thousands of years. SOLA FREAKING SCRIPTURA! God said it, that settled it, and I believed it! And by the way, you do too, got it??? Anything less is heretical. B-I-B-L-E, that’s the book for me. The end. Ex cathedra.

That was my expression of the Christian faith. There were other expressions more Jesus-centered. I merely dismissed them as the peddling of cheap grace. The social gospel was heresy to me. Catholics were all going to hell, along with all the people who reject, or have never even heard, the gospel. Collateral damage. Hell was hot and filling up more and more every day with unfortunate victims of pastors who didn’t preach the word and their congregants who had the misfortune of being in their liberal, seeker-friendly churches. It was what it was — my cognition, or point-of-view of Christianity.

Would you like to know what turned my cognition around? It was, in fact, the Bible. John chapter one, verse fourteen, specifically. The WORD became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood (MSG, emphasis mine). That verse stopped me dead in my fundamental tracks.

The Word of God was the ultimate expression of God in his perfect and unique son, Jesus of Nazareth. The word was not a book, it was a man who is at once human and divine. Jesus is the Word of God. He is the fullness of every aspect of almighty God. I had been worshipping a book, not a man – not THE man, the Lord Jesus. I would discover that the teachings and the ways of Jesus stood in stark contrast to much of what was known as Adamic, Mosaic, Abrahamic, and Davidic. Lots and lots of “ics,” propagated by men like me. We were called Pastors and Scholars. The ancients were called Pharisees, Sadducees, and Rabbis. They upheld God’s law as it was contained in the original manuscripts. They rejected Jesus and everything he represented as God in the flesh. Every good, kind, and noble thing Jesus did was harshly criticized by the religious elite. Sound familiar?

Meanwhile, people were being healed, delivered, and made whole by this man named Jesus. Twenty thousand people or more were fed by Jesus on a grassy knoll from a little boy’s meager lunch, of which twelve baskets of food were leftover and everyone’s bellies were full.[1] Jesus spoke of being sent to finish what God had started by doing His will on earth. God was with us, finishing what he started through Himself. John said that he came unto his own (that’s us), and his own rejected him (that’s also us). Jesus made many bold proclamations about himself, as He was, head and shoulders over other messengers from God.[2] The other messengers were prophets, kings, scholars, and leaders like Moses or David.

What the heck was this guy’s problem? Jesus was upending what people had believed for centuries with one simple, but not easy, commandment: Love God, Love Others.[3] What about the rest of the commandments? What about the sabbath? What about honoring your father and mother? What about not bearing false witness? Who did this guy think he was?

Emmanuel – God with us. He breathed the same air we all breathe. He was fully human. He likely had bad breath in the morning. He farted, belched, peed, and pooped. He was warmed by the same sun as we are…the one HE created. He ate and slept. He was human like us but also contained all the divine essence of God within himself. He shared that divinity with the world and left us astonished.

Jesus challenged every cognition of every person everywhere. He created a holy conundrum that He brought with him from heaven to earth. He spent time with lowlife IRS agents, adulteresses, foreigners, lepers, the demonized, and the outcast. He restored life to a man who had been dead for four days. He restored our lives by giving up his own on a Roman cross. He pleaded for us to be forgiven while we mocked him as he hung on that same cross. He obliterated the cosmic separation we were told we had from God. He revealed that he has always loved us and always will. He supernaturally evacuated himself from a borrowed tomb, placing once and for all the seal of His majestic grace and forgiveness on our lives. Jesus left us with another part of himself, the Holy Spirit, so that we could do what he did and so much more. Through this he revealed that divine ability has always been inside of us.

What have we done? We have imposed our arrogance-blinded cognitions on the gospel narrative so that we can control the outcomes. We have murdered to spread this faulty expression of grace. We took what Jesus did and turned it into a religion that demands conformity and cooperation, held together by the Bible, which we have also hijacked for personal power and gain. We have become judges, prominent leaders, and modern-day Pharisees. We decide what is truth and what is not. We hold up our Bibles and pronounce the authority of scripture that we probably have not even read. We blindly follow along with the rest of the Bible thumpers and pick up their mantle of exclusion and mockery of the “least of us.” We elected a President who is nothing like Jesus and held him up as the man, “God put in the White House.”

Not me. Not anymore. My point of view has been altered due to deep deconstruction. In no way am I trying to imply that I am better than anyone. I’m still perfectly flawed me, but I see things much differently now. Unlearning thirty-plus years of personal theology was harder than I can say in words. It was like the death of a long-time friend whom you trusted and believed in for so long. I have experienced this type of loss both literally and spiritually. In some providential way, it was my dear friend Rick who planted the seed of deconstruction in my life. I brushed a lot of it off back then. When he died suddenly in 2013, I started reading the books he had recommended and began to understand his cognition. His death inspired me to write The Renewing of Your Mind, and I proudly dedicated it to him. The funny thing is that while I was deconstructing, I did not even realize that it was deconstruction, technically. I was amending my beliefs to be more like Jesus.

Not Jesus, the white-American-fundamentalist-evangelical savior. I had to free Jesus from my indoctrinated cognitions and just allow Him to be who He truly is. He is God who came to us and traded his perfection for our imperfection. He gave his own life to demonstrate how deep his love for us is and always has been.

I did not change right away. Before I discuss reconstruction, I want to caution you that deconstruction can lead to cynicism and a critical spirit. That was me for a little while. Be careful with that. Jesus loves all of us, even those who don’t think as we do. The religious right, left, and middle are deeply loved and adored by Jesus, whose grace permits us to have our own personal cognitions, popular or not. I personally believe that our diversity, if united within the unmeasurable grace of God, could turn the world upside-down with love. I really believe this!

[1] John 6:1-15

[2] John 3:31

[3] Matthew 22:35-40; Mark 12:28-34, and Luke 10:27a

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