Through the Back Door

Through the Back Door

Fundamentalism is the house I was raised in. It sheltered me and kept me warm. I was fed there and, most importantly, I was loved and learned to love there.

I was taught two foundational things in Fundamentalism that remain with me today. I was taught to love truth – “Truth never fears a challenge.” And I was taught to love Scripture – the Bible itself holds authority over any ideas we may have about it.

Those two things took me out Fundamentalism’s back door and into a world filled with the goodness and beauty of the presence of God.

The pursuit of truth taught me not to be afraid of other perspectives, of hearing other voices, other experiences, other lives. And the fruit of those lives – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control – showed me God at work in the world far beyond our house.

And as I sought to understand Scripture ever more on its own terms, I found there was more there, too.

The Bible is God’s gift to us, and I want to know it for the gift it is rather than something I think it should be. Like the preeminent Word, Christ himself, it is not only divine, but thoroughly human.

It’s that thorough humanity that makes both Christ and the Bible even comprehensible to us. God in frail and vulnerable flesh and words, subject to violence and misunderstanding. It’s a thing of stunning beauty and power.

The Bible always speaks with a human voice – stories told and songs sung over and over again through generations, each speaking making them discernible to a new context.

It gives us what God intended to give, which isn’t always what we think God gave (or should have given) us. It gives us a conversation that crosses millennia. Sometimes that conversation is an argument, with different understandings of who God is and what he wants expressed. Sometimes that’s a conversation of poetry and song. It often gives us just what we would not expect.

I never rebelled. I didn’t have to blow the house up. I simply found it wasn’t big enough to contain the goodness and glory of God.

I discovered the foundations of the house I was raised in extend well beyond its walls. It’s the path of Jesus – the walls of this temple are too small, and its particulars are not what is truly important.

There’s a back door. A screen door that bounces and bangs behind you. Worship and life doesn’t have to stay inside – it can be transformed in spirit and in truth. Grace and joy and love are there to be found. And the foundation fills the whole earth.