Accepting Limitation

A Testimony

by Christopher C. Warren

When you enter what politely might be called one's "declining years" there is a tendency to seriously review one's life's philosophy not because one "ought" to but because declining metabolic efficiency forces one to. One simply doesn't have the energy to maintain artificial barriers or sustain illusory philosophies. One seeks only after reality, and a reality which sustains and builds in an incontrovertible way.

Ceaseless Speculation

Whilst on holiday in the United Kingdom this summer I visited our local Baptist Church where one of the hymns sung was "Holy, Holy, Holy...Father, Son, and Spirit, Holy Trinity". I got to thinking about the numerous times I have speculated about the nature of the Godhead and the numerous ways I have tried to formulate it over the years. And then I thought to myself: "What's the point? Do I need to know?" And my conclusion was: No, I don't need to know. There are more important things in this short probationary period that I must know so why bother about things which aren't going to affect my salvation here on earth? Someone dying of thirst isn't interested in the molecular theory of water -- whether it's really H2O, H6O3, or some other combination -- all he cares about is drinking water. In other words, the circumstances he finds himself in, and his immediate needs, forces him to limit himself.

In order to live a full Christian life in this world I need only know that the Godhead consists of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Whether there are female members in that Godhead, or whether there are more than Three Persons, or whether they are separate, distinct individuals, pales into significance when compared with the need the human soul has to experience God in a way that will change his life for the better. A couple of evenings ago as I meditated on the Godhead I was overwhelmed by its sheer unity -- the oneness of God struck me deeply. I have always had problems trying to visualise a Triune God -- talking to the Father through the Son, etc., so I thought -- why not "visualise" them as One? The effect was immediate positive. I could focus on One to adore and worship rather than Two or Three.

I must admit the Godhead doctrine continues to nag me alot. It has frustrated me over the years, despite the tidy intellectual explanations I have worked out. Too often, I think, we try to bring God down to the human level and measure Him through our finite human lenses of understanding. "My thoughts and ways are not your thoughts and ways" (Isa.55:8). It is true. Twenty years of Christian discipleship has taught me that lesson. After all, did not Isaiah say that Christ, the Son, was "the Everlasting Father" (Isa.9:6)? I am a father, and have been for thirteen years, but I am still a son to my mother. So why can't God be both? Perhaps you think my reasoning is over-simplistic. Maybe. But I am tired trying to work Ptolemaic-like systems. In the end it boils down to what you experience within (provided it does not contradict what Scripture says).

The Need for Simplicity

So I have decided to limit myself in many areas of my life, philosophy, theology, and thinking in general. I've stretched my mental elastic band as far as it will go right now, so why risk snapping it? So I have decided, pending further revelation, to accept the Unity of the Godhead, because that is all I can experience anyway. I shall adore the One God of Israel, Jesus Christ, the Eternal Father, and bathe in His Spirit which He sheds upon me from time to time.

When you get older you simplify. You don't deny that life is complex but you discover that the happiest way to be is to be simple, direct and honest. I have tried to be direct and honest, but now I want to make it simpler. After all, Jesus must have had a purpose in calling uneducated fishermen to propagate His Gospel. There was only one New Testament intellectual -- Paul -- and frankly his theology makes my mind boggle sometimes because I can't always grasp his historical background or experience.

I must find out the truth for myself. I cannot build upon a Paul or a John, however inspired and inspiring they are. I must observe life around me and draw my own conclusions. Besides, I live in late 20th century Europe and not first century Palestine. Don't misunderstand. I am not becoming a liberal -- I am not "reinterpreting" the Gospel to "fit" into 20th century philosophical systems. No way. The truth is the truth in every generation. And it seems to me that we have enough of the basic tenets of truth in the Apostles' Creed. It's neat and comes to the point. Liberals challenge even that.

People are Life

I observe people. People are, after all, the stuff of life. I am a person with all the contradictions that implies. I observe that what brings people joy are the simple things in life. I note what brings me joy. People bring me joy when they are joyful. It's really quite simple. So if I can devote my life to bringing people joy, then I have the purpose of life all wrapped up, I believe. And by joy I mean inner wholeness, contentment, even when on the outside there are raging storms.

I used to be a book-worm. No more. I've filled my cranium with books. Now I read my Bible, the occasional commentary, and the testimonies of fellow Christians (and sometimes non-Christians). Life has pretty well taught me that when we face the Judgement of God -- as we surely shall -- it is not our theological orthodoxy (or heterodoxy) which will bless or condemn us -- but the way in which we have treated other people. How do I know this? Well, not only because it's common sense but it's the basis of the teaching of Jesus Christ. Take the story of the Good Samaritan -- a heterodox person with (by Jewish standards) apostate beliefs -- and the orthodox priest (for example) who refused to the injured victim of robbers. Which one is going to heaven -- the priest whose theology (we suppose) was impeccable or the apostate Samaritan who had odd ideas about the Scriptures, Mount Gerezim, etc.. We know, don't we! But what if both the orthodox priest and the good Samaritan had done equally righteous things -- would the orthodox priest go first to heaven? Our answer, I think, will determine our spiritual maturity.

Confessing a Name is Not Enough

I must admit that I am troubled by people who say that only those who verbalise the Name of Jesus will make it. I am glad Paul says that those who live as Christians without knowing the Name of Jesus will make it too. I am glad God placed a blind man in Jerusalem for Jesus to heal because that blind man was born such to bring glory to God through my (and I hope your) praises. That man believed before he knew who Jesus was. He was asked if he believed in the Messiah. "Tell me," he asked, "that I may believe!" Hearing the Name of Jesus merely confirmed what he already believed -- that the man standing before him, whom he could not see, was from God, and was God.

There are going to be alot of Jesus-confessors who won't make it because they are rank hypocrites. And there are going to be alot of non-Christians who do not confess Christ, because the "Christ" they have been taught and have rejected has been through the testimony of hypocrites. I only have to think of some of the people who think I am a demon-incarnate because of the lies and slander that they have heard from others. It's not their fault they don't know me. I'm not going to condemn them. The worst of it is that most of the slanderers are "Jesus-confessors" (I hesitate to use the term "Christians" in case I should unintentionally mislead). "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you." "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." These words ring in my ears. I believe them.

Am I being over-simplistic? Perhaps some theological zealots will say so. They must accept responsibility for their judgement and I will accept responsibility for mine. Zeal without wisdom is folly, I say. I think I have just a pinch of the latter. I intend to use it.

Boxes, Labels and Categories...

Over the years boxes, labels and categories have become less and less meaningful to me. When we are young we like to categorise -- label people, define them so that we know how to relate to them. Goodness knows I've done enough of that over the years. Well, I'm throwing more and more of the boxes and labels away.

The one thing I hate about Great Britain is the class system we have here. And I get really annoyed when in Oslo I get political newspapers thrust into my hands on the street which say "Class War" on them. In the UK. we have "upper", "upper middle", "lower middle", "working", and umpteen different "classes". India has its wretched caste system which you enter by birth and never leave. There are the economic "haves" and "have nots". As far as I'm concerned there are only two classes of people on this planet -- those who are free and those who are not. And my "freedom" is the freedom from spiritual bondage. So you see, I am simplifying on this front too. It's so much easier.

Another thing which annoys me is all these wretched church denominations. I accept they're there, and will be there as long as there are human beings with their own Gospel agendas. When I was a Mormon (that was a long time ago) I would wander into another church with great reservation. Today it makes little difference. I try to cut past the theology and outer forms and ask myself: Are the people here really free in Christ or not?

To Be Free in Christ

And I've learned that those who are free carry a certain atmosphere or spirit with them. It's really hard to put into words. They are serious about other people but don't take themselves too seriously. They are sensitive to what's going an around them without being over sensitive about how people feel about them. They are natural. They have an inner peace and joy. They aren't attention-seekers and are just as at ease being quiet as they are being chatty. They aren't superficial. They like a good laugh but don't go overboard. They are keen to help others at the first opportunity. They are alive to what is happening around them. They don't boast of their gifts and are happy to take a back-seat. They are both strict in their morality but also merciful, knowing how frail they are themselves. And I suppose I could say alot more.

I am a New Covenant Christian. I have a very deep and involved theology but I rarely speak about it, except in writing. I take my covenants with God and my fellow man most seriously but I don't tell many people about them. I don't even tell very many people that I am a "New Covenant Christian" (though reading my articles you might be tempted to think sometimes that I talk about nothing else -- but like Paul I am very different when writing than I am when speaking face-to-face -- 2 Cor.10:1). When I talk now I keep it simple -- or say nothing at all. The times for deep theological comment are rare -- they're great when they happen but happen only when the Holy Spirit is present in a special way. I am not now (as I used to be) recruiting for a Church (though I'm overjoyed when people join us) but for a certain Spirit -- and by implication Jesus Christ, and therefore the heavenly Father. Like Peter I know that Jesus is the Christ not because the two words "Jesus" and "Christ" belong together but because God has imparted His Spirit which readily testifies of this truth without words.

I have found limiting myself to be a wonderful thing, not at all painful as one I supposed it might be. Limitation makes it so much easier for joy to express itself. Less talk, more "being", I say. I hope you will agree with me.

This page was created on 7 April 1998
Last updated on 7 April 1998

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