From the Desk of Mr. Zissman

The musings of an over-stimulated mind

I’ve gotta have faith-a-faith-a-faith…

with 3 comments

It’s been a while since I’ve felt the urge to do a theological blog entry, but reading the news lately has inspired me to write one. It all started when I heard about the pastor in Florida who had burned a Koran and still continued to prove it, even after it was directly responsible for deaths of Americans. There were some other motivators too, but that’s neither here nor there. They are private ones that I don’t feel comfortable disclosing at this time.

I’ve expressed my struggles with own faith in the past. It’s been something that swirls around me, like a big stew of confusion. At times I felt like I was lost in a fog, desperately trying to follow a voice in this haze that seemed to be coming from all directions. My experiences as a Protestant, or more specifically, a Free-Will Baptist had at times left me feeling disjointed and disillusioned.

Now that’s not to say I came close to becoming an atheist or agnostic. In fact, it only furthered my hunger for Christ, because I felt like I wasn’t getting enough “spiritual food” at my place of worship. True, the argument could be made that I should “feed myself” spiritually, and I agree. But I felt like I was a contractor on a construction site, who after laying the foundation for a building was repeatedly instructed to continue laying foundation with no real attempt to build on it. I attended a Free Will Baptist church, I told folks I was Free Will  Baptist, but in my heart I just didn’t feel any connection with it.

SIDE NOTE: I do not wish this come across as some sort of scolding, holier-than-thou tear down. There is no doubt in my mind that Free Will Baptist’s are Christians and are living their lives as they feel Christ would want them to. Just because I prefer orange juice to grape juice doesn’t mean that grape juice is a poor excuse for juice. Rather, it just doesn’t taste good to me.

One of my biggest qualms is a “with us or against us” attitude. That is, if things weren’t done in a 100% “do as we do” way, it was projected as being wrong or immoral. But I disagree, as Jesus speaks of this. When the disciples saw people preaching and casting out demons, but weren’t associated with The Twelve, they took objection to this and asked Jesus to tell them to stop.

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward” ~ Mark 9:39-41 (NIV)

So I continued to wander in this fog, unsure of where I was going, but knowing I wanted something deeper. I wanted something that dove head first into the mysteries of faith and explored with awe, respect and amazement the things of God. And I found that in Catholicism.

Now here comes the tricky park, admitting publicly to my friends and family that in a mere 8 days, the Protestant Stephen Allen Harvey will become the Catholic Stephen Allen Paul Harvey. It’s difficult, not because I am ashamed of my decision, but because this is so different and radical from what my family worships. I fully believe we worship the same God, but for me step out and say “Hey, I’m Catholic now.” is like a vegan to tell another group of vegans, “Oh hey guys, I totally love meat now.” It’s just a huge break from generations of Harvey Tradition.

I did not make this decision lightly. Rather, it took months and months of intense soul-searching, praying and quiet meditation. It was not a sudden rush, but instead a quiet walk into something new. When I  made my decision, I knew in my heart it was the right one when I felt at peace about it. I may have concerns about how my decision will be perceived, but I have no doubts that it was right for me.

So now that we know how I came to believe this, what exactly do I believe?

For starters, let us get the basics out-of-the-way: Jesus Christ, the only son of  God, was born to the Virgin Mary. He lived in what is now Israel for 30+ years and was crucified, buried and risen on the third day. He ascended into Heaven and will return again someday to end this world as we know it and bring about the new eternal world full of Heaven glory. Okay, we got that out-of-the-way. Let’s go deeper.

I do not believe the world was created in a literal six-day, 24 hour period. I’m sorry, but I just can’t ignore the scientific evidence or sweep it under the rug by claiming that fossil records are tests of faith by God or somehow an attempt by Satan to throw Christians a curveball. Could God have created the earth in six 24-hour periods? Absolutely. I even feel God could have done it in less than a second, if He so desired. But as Psalm reads…

“For a thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.” ~ Pslam 90:4 (NIV)

To assume that God follows a 24-hour-7-day work week schedule, I feel, is to severely limit His power. God transcends all concepts of mortal understanding, so things we use to organize and classify the world around us are of no use to Him. We can’t box God in and pretend He follows the same rules we do, because we can’t. Genesis was written by Moses who was trying his best to put down what he interpreted from God. That’s not to say Genesis is wrong or incorrect, but I think we’re missing the point. The point isn’t that God could have created it in six days, but rather that  God created it in the first place. When I look at life and all it’s complexities, I can’t simply believe that life is some random accident as we uselessly float in a big ball of mud in the middle of cold, empty space. Things are organized and done in such a way that I can’t help but feel there is a hidden hand guiding all of this. The Bible is not a text-book, but rather the living, breathing, awe-inspiring, mysterious, powerful, magnificent, life changing Word of God. It is dangerous to take everything written at 100% literal value, as we need to dig deeper and study and find the context in which these words were written.

I also believe that it’s entirely possible for Christians to have wildly different ideas of worship and praise, and yet it still be just as valid as another. I feel it mostly boils down to personal taste. Let me explain a bit more by hopping in the Way Back Machine, Sherman.

Let’s go back 2,000+ years ago to when Jesus walked the earth. Now-a-days, you and I are pretty spoiled because we can get the gospel whenever we want, however we want. As of now, I own three different Bibles, two different translations, as well as having multiple translations loaded as an app on my iPhone. But back then, a majority of the people were poor and illiterate. To even own a written copy of what we now call the Old Testament was the same concept as owning a solid gold yacht today. It was something only the very well off could own. So in order to understand and interpret the gospel, you needed a Rabbi to do it. But just like today, different Rabbis had different ways of interpreting.

For example, it says in the Old Testament to avoid doing any work on the Sabbath. But it never actually goes to on to explain what actually makes up work. So Rabbi Bill might say “On the Sabbath, you can walk up to 5 miles total for the day, but anything past that is work.” but Rabbi Ted would say “Actually, I believe you can walk up to 10 miles on the Sabbath, but no more.” This concept is what was known as “binding and loosening.” You “bind” something by restricting it, but “loosen” it by allowing it. And again, what does Jesus say?

“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be  bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” ~ Matthew 18:18 (NIV)

That doesn’t mean we can grab a sawed off shotgun and shoot up a daycare and pass it off as “Well, Jesus said I could!” because it doesn’t work that way. But if you feel convicted to not pray with your eyes closed, but your friend does, neither of you are wrong. You are both right, because you both have become a “law on to yourselves”, as Paul writes, and have followed your own personal convictions. How I feel is not the only way to worship, nor is it even the ideal. Rather, it’s my own personal theology developed from my experiences as a Christian and how I perceive the world around me.

I also feel like God does not want us to be some sort of global censorship squad. If Christians were to get into a tizzy over every little objectionable thing out there, it’d be an endless fight till the end of time. And indeed, at times it seems just like that. Book burnings, protests, completely inaccurate anonymous e-mail forwards…it’s pretty bad.

But as much as I talk about peace, love and charity, I hardly follow-up on this, much to my displeasure. I am quick to anger, slow to forgive and am always suspicious of a homeless person asking for change. It’s like what Paul writes in Romans…

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” ~ Romans 7:24 (NIV)

BUT, where I lack, Christ’s grace over flows. If humanity is the brittle, cracked and broken Highway of Life, then Christ is the tar that fills in the gaps and makes it whole, complete and strong. THAT is what the church should focus on. The world is full of hurt, broken and wounded people who may not be “sinners”, but carry with them a lifetime of regrets, sorrows and pain. It is only when we focus our attention on the sick, lonely, shut-in, depressed, suicidal, ill and show the same love and tenderness to them that Christ has shown to us, that the will of God is truly enacted.

I wish I could go on more, but there simply isn’t enough space on all the internet for me to really unleash. If you’re interested in what I’ve had to say, I have a few books you might want to look into…

“Velvet Elvis” by Rob Bell

“The Jesus I Never Knew” by Phillip Yancey

“My Utmost for His Highest” ~ Oswald Chambers

Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile” ~ Rob Bell

I hope you walk away from this entry with a better understanding of Who I Am and What I Believe. I’m always open for a respectful discussion, so by all means feel free to leave a comment or send me a private message. Remember, we’re all in this together.

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Written by MrZissman

04/15/2011 at 5:18 PM

3 Responses

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  1. Have you read the book “So What’s the Difference?” by Fritz Ridenour? Just the first chapter might be interesting to you….there are lots of protestant faiths (ie-Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians) that believe what you do and have a different understanding of the Bible than those from the Anabaptist-based faiths. I can tell you quite a bit about the differences between basic Baptist beliefs and Lutherans and Presbyterians (though I am not as well versed with the Methodist faith). Not that I mean to be discouraging nor am I saying Catholics are not Christian, I do not believe that at all. But, there are some tenants of that faith that, it seems to me, might not suit your personality or are at odds with your true core beliefs. Or, maybe reading something like “So What’s the Difference” will further strengthen your resolve that Catholicism is, in fact, the perfect expression of the Christian faith for you. Your search is so important and you are so brave to undertake it the way you are. In your struggle, you are partnering with the Lord to walk through it, not abandoning your path and searching for something else all together. I so admire you and your strength of character, Steve. Love ya!

    Paula Shupe

    04/17/2011 at 2:50 PM

    • I didn’t want to give the impression that Catholicism is somehow more appropriate than all of the Protestant faiths put together. It’s more of a personal taste, than anything.

      And in the end, I can’t quite explain my attraction to this faith in the first place. I guess the best way would be to say it feels like owning a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle but only have 499 of them, till one random day you happened to stumble across that one missing piece you have been searching forever for.

      MrZissman

      04/17/2011 at 11:13 PM

    • Okay, so thank you for the suggestion as I’m always ready to read new books on theology and such. I found the complete second chapter on Roman Catholicism online and read it and honestly, it didn’t do much. So I went and found other chapters online (the whole book exists in basically one form or another.) and the whole concept, to me at least, came across as “Everyone else is wrong and here is why!”

      So yeah, I do appreciate the suggestion, but I didn’t care for it. If I may be so bold to make a suggestion, try “Velvet Elvis” by Rob Bell. I have a copy if you want to borrow it.

      MrZissman

      04/20/2011 at 5:24 PM


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