Unleash Your Inner Warrior
Oh my dear warrior!
Last week I shared with you my ‘epic’ quest for truth, and the fact that I am exploring Christianity as objectively as possible. I have chosen to step back and try to see Christianity for what it is, what it was intended to be, and to discover my faith for myself. It is a deep and difficult journey, and on some days my quest seems to lead to more questions than answers. But this is not a journey of doubt. It is a journey together with God to discover deeper and more glorious truths than I have yet allowed my heart and mind to access. Scripture tells us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. This is me doing just that.
As I wrestled with some particularly difficult topics, I felt myself torn as I realized that the logical end in any direction went to ridiculous extremes. Then I realized: you can take any thought, statement or belief and follow it to its logical conclusion (meaning you can chase it down to its extreme end) and you will end up with such radically heretical beliefs that they cease to be Christian. When we use human logic to try follow something to its so-called ‘logical’ end (meaning, we go beyond what God said and meant), we will inevitably end up with something corrupt, ungodly and far removed from what God intended.
It occurred to me that our faith and these logical ends are beautifully displayed by the compass rose which Father Thomas McKenzie talks about. The compass rose represents our Christian faith, and has 8 points on it. (For the sake of some semblance of brevity, I will only talk about 4 of the 8 points). These ‘directions’ are orthodox, catholic, charismatic and evangelical. Notice that I did not capitalize any of these. That was purposeful. I am not using them as proper nouns because I am not referring to denominations or religious groups. I am referring to the directions in which our Christian faith can go. Yes, Christianity is all of these.
If you look at the horizontal bar of the compass rose, running West to East, evangelical is on the left and catholic is on the right. Those who are evangelical in their faith see faith as personal, as being between them and God. Religion is about relationship. They have a high view of the Bible, going so far as to believe in ‘sola scriptura’ (meaning scripture alone). It is often jokingly said that they believe in the ‘Father, the Son and the Holy Scriptures’. Going in the other direction is catholic (not referring to the Roman Catholic church). Those who are catholic in their faith are those who see faith as corporate. Their faith is communal; it is shared; it is not individual. Faith is practiced together, not on your own. The catholic does not believe in sola scriptura, but relies heavily on doctrine and tradition.
Then going up and down we have the orthodox at the top and charismatic at the bottom. While the horizontal bar refers to how we relate to God, the vertical bar refers to how we see God. The north-facing arrow is the orthodox direction (not referring to the Eastern Orthodox church), which sees God as being far removed, distant, and holy. The focus is on God’s transcendent holiness. The south-facing arrow is charismatic, which sees God as being close. Those who are charismatic in their faith hear God speak to them in their hearts and you will often hear them say “God told me..." or "God put it on my heart..." or "God said..."
Each of these directions is absolutely beautiful, and hopefully you recognize the value in each of these from my brief overview. God is indeed holy. He is our Savior, King and Lord. But He is also our Lover and our Friend, and He is closer to us than our own thoughts. Our faith is corporate, and we are the body of Christ, and we ought to commune with one another. But our faith is also personal and individual; Christianity is about intimate relationship with God, with whom we share the secrets of our hearts. We should practice our faith on our own, but we should also practice corporate faith, communing with others. We ought to recognize the beauty and authority of sound doctrine and tradition, but also read and study scriptures on our own—and then return to those who are trained and knowledgeable with our questions and thoughts. We cannot do Christianity alone.
Now, if you follow each of the arrows on the compass to its logical ends, if you try to follow what each of these directions believes to their extreme end, no matter where you go, you will end up with something outside of the bounds of what it is to be Christian. We have a stunning balance and brilliant example of the reality of Christianity at the center of that compass (which is covered by Saint Gregory's shield)—but if you follow any direction to its end, you come up with serious nonsense. If you follow the orthodox arrow to its extreme end, you end up with people who believe God is so holy and so far removed from us that we dare not bother Him, and end up with deism—belief in a distant God who has nothing to do with His creation. Look to the charismatic who has followed the arrow to its extreme, and you may find someone inventing an entirely new religion, and seeing themselves as a prophet or even a god! Follow the catholic arrow to its extreme end, and you have a Christian for whom faith is entirely cultural. It is simply about the corporate experience, and no belief in God at all anymore. They hold fast to tradition for the sake of tradition, with God removed from the equation. Follow the evangelical arrow to its extreme end and you will find a Christian who sees no need for others in their faith, and is entirely individualistic and separated out from others.
I’ll give an example of the kinds of logical extremes I’ve seen that have come out of such reactionary choices. We need only look only to the Virgin Mary for such stark example as these extremes. On the one extreme, you have Protestants who have thrown Mary out entirely. There is no reverence for her; she is not even acknowledged; she is forgotten and ignored except maybe around Christmas time, if for no other reason than that she ‘happens to be’ in the beautiful story of Christ’s birth. On the other end of the spectrum you see the heresies of the church at Ephesus in the 4th century being repeated, and see Mary elevated to goddess status and made co-Redeemer, co-Mediator and co-Advocate alongside Jesus as His perfect equal. Either direction is too far.
I hope this gives you all something to think deeply on this week. This has already been an interesting year for me, to say the least, but I am absolutely enjoying delving into these difficult topics and learning deeply. Beloved, I challenge you to step back and look at these things objectively as best as you can. Find where you are on the compass, and (if you have gone too far towards one extreme, or aren’t really sure what you believe) find where you ought to be. For those of you who are curious, I fall on the catholic, charismatic and evangelical ends of the spectrum. I am new to the orthodox ideas. I grew up in a charismatic, liturgical, sacramental church. I have friends and family all over the compass. (Some are within the bounds of Saint Gregory's shield, and some follow one arrow to its extreme.) All four of these are necessary in order for us to be Christian, and it is a beautiful thing to me how much freedom God has given us as the body of Christ.
©Michèle Aimée, 2016
About the Author
Michèle is a warrior with a passion for God, a deep love of writing, and a fire for combat training. As a warrior, she understands that when she is given orders, she must follow through.