“Each word…is like a prism whose shape allows the refraction of many colors. The color or colors you see will change, depending on your position and the position, angle, and source of the light interacting with the prism.”
-Brian K. Blount, author of “Can I Get a Witness?” regarding interpretation of the Book of Revelation
I’m sure that many of us can attest to the beauty of scripture and have found that it speaks to us in different ways on different days. Likewise, I could well imagine that many of us have sat in on numerous Bible studies where the range of views and responses to the lessons have been quite diverse. We can carry this idea even further when we think of the breadth of gifts and graces that have been extended to each one of us by God in order to carry out the work of the Kingdom.
Yes, we are a diverse people. And that is no less true of our theology. One only has to look around to see the many denominations that comprise our Christian faith to know that we often hold differing views of what constitutes worship, study, sacrament, or mission in our churches. And, a review of the works of theologians throughout the centuries reminds us that there does not appear to be any single universal thought about who God is, what role Jesus plays, and how we are to respond.
So why, then, is it so unsettling to learn of the various ways that people view Jesus? Why do we feel shock or amazement when we encounter views, particularly at seminary, that are more liberal or conservative than ours? Does it make us question our own faith? Or, does it make us more resolute on the beliefs we currently hold?
One thing I have found during my time at seminary is that I’m learning to celebrate our differences. Case in point: There are at least 18 different denominational affiliations represented at the seminary which I attend. Being in chapel and exploring the various ways that people worship, experiencing the many expressions of faith in song and word, and participating in a wide range of communion practices is actually quite illuminating. Likewise, the classroom turns into a great place of discussion and sharing when many divergent views are present. Do we always agree with the beliefs of others? No, nor are we required to do so. Perhaps we can be like John Wesley who shared the following:
“But although a difference in opinions or modes of worship may prevent an entire external union, yet need it prevent our union in affection? Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may.“-From The Forty Four Sermons by John Wesley, Epworth 1944, pp443-444.
One of the reasons that I chose to attend seminary was to be tested. I truly wanted to know why I believed what I believed. I wanted to be challenged and to be poked and prodded regarding my faith. How else could I expect to be a steady and clear voice to those who will one day look to me for answers? And, will I have all of them? Certainly not. But, I know the One who does and I will gladly commit myself to journey along with my fellow travelers as they discover the beauty of the Christian faith.