Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Well well well...

It finally happened. I turned off comments. You can still comment. They just won't display on the page anymore. I'll get an email with the comment. But no one else will see. That way, I can be privately angry and not have to share the thought with anyone else. Right?

I just got so tired of all the ignorance. Its like people aren't even reading what I'm writing. They don't get what I actually say. Crazy conclusions being jumped to and words being put in my mouth and on and on... I just got tired of dealing with it.

So now, I can write whatever I want again without having to worry about the response. My wife won't have to hear me complain about the moron's writing on my blog anymore and see me on the verge of either tears or blowing something up. So very soon I'll go back to normal writing. I swear.

Until then, thanks for reading. Holler back...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

After a good night's sleep...

I'm growing increasingly concerned for several reasons. I never expected my blog to stir up so much of this... senseless arguing. I use this as an outlet. A place for me to write and express my opinions, concerns, feelings, thoughts or anything else I feel like sharing.

I've been asked why I don't use more Scripture when writing on Biblical topics. Two reasons: 1) I don't wanna sound like some pompous a-hole. I don't wanna sound like a Biblical know it all; 2) this isn't authoritative. I'm not "preaching". I'm not trying to convince anyone else that I'm right. I'm not writing my graduate level exegesis. I am expressing my viewpoint. Take it or leave it.

For those of you who disagree with me, I don't care. I really don't care. And I'm getting really tired of reading your lengthy responses and dealing with phone calls, to be honest. I'm surprised people can't talk to me like a rational human being. I'm surprised people that don't know me at all don't have the guts to talk to me first before letting loose some bitter Biblical diatribe about what I think--calling my beliefs wrong because they disagree. I've never deleted a comment before. And I'm not about to start. Why? Because you are welcome to think what you want. Because I believe what 1st Corinthians 13 says about us never having it all figured out until we stand, one day, before God. Here on earth, no one is going to have all the answers. Therefore, I'm willing to admit that this is what I think, but I could be wrong. Everyone else should be willing to do the same thing. You should be willing to say: "This is what I believe, here's why, but I could be wrong, no big deal."

Oh, and when we stand before God one day, and full knowledge is finally available, I don't think we'll care. I don't think God cares about what we think NOW. Everyone is so wrapped up in orthodoxy. In believing the "correct" way. I don't hear anyone talking about orthopraxy. About living like Christ. Some of you are all torn up about my personal beliefs, but I don't see anyone talking about the 50,000+ people who died yesterday from starvation, lack of clean water, and AIDS. I don't see anyone who's critical of me, getting worked up about how far American Christianity is from what Jesus started. I just don't get it guys.

This is my place to write what I want. Feel free to comment. Feel free to respond. Feel free to agree. Feel free to disagree. But to those who are so blind as to call me wrong, I ask: you think I'm wrong based on what? YOU THINK I'm wrong. YOU do. I've heard people say things like: "I read the Bible for what it says, without interpretation." Impossible. We are all going to have our own view of things like the Bible. We all come from different backgrounds, from different places, with different parents, with different thoughts and feelings. No matter what, we all interpret these Christian Scriptures as we read them. We're human.

I still hold to my statement that asking questions and searching for answers and healthy doubt is a good thing. My wife made a good point in her comment: no one can say they've never doubted anything about their faith. How can you grow if you've never questioned your own beliefs? One of my favorite songs is by the OC Supertones that says "I don't believe in what you call blind faith." I can't just accept what someone else teaches me as truth. That's not faith. That's stupid. One of my favorite Religious Studies teachers taught me that. He's a Harvard Biblical scholar, and he encouraged me to question him. I would have no confidence in Biblical texts if I hadn't had doubts. Because of those doubts, I have taken the time to research the Bible's history, research what historical outside texts say about it, read it in its original languages. Because of my questions, I have a stronger faith. I choose to follow Jesus. I choose to pursue seeing his kingdom come. Not blindly, but with confidence in what I believe. I understand someone's concern with my using the word doubt (the book of James was quoted), but don't take that section out of context and don't take what I'm saying out of context. Basically, quit using Scripture to win an argument in the first place.

I'm going to go back to normal writing on Monday. I'm done responding to the mess some people are stirring up. This is John David Ryan. This is my blog. This what I think. What I want to say. Thank you for reading. Thank you for caring. It means a lot, it really does. Keep expanding your horizons. Keep searching. Keep pushing forward. But don't lose sight of the big picture. Holler back...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I'm taking a deep breath first...

And now I'm letting it out.

Obviously, when I wrote my last few blogs, I was prepared for the responses. I've heard there has been much said lately. And I say: high five! Glad to hear I make you think.

Two things: 1, I've never said I am some super-theologian writing his newest exegesis on systematic theology--I say I am me expressing my opinion; 2, if you don't like my opinion, I don't care.

I'm not saying I'm 100% correct. I don't think anyone is 100% correct. I'm saying that "this or that" is what I think, what I believe, how I feel. Take it or leave it--it is what it is. And I'm not asking you to agree. I'm not saying: "Follow me! I've got it all figured out!"

So feel free to disagree. Please! I encourage thinking, asking questions, doubting... they are some of the best things for one's spiritual growth. But don't waste my time and blog comment-area space by writing some long dissertation on the opposing view point. And please, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, stop putting words in my mouth.

I'm not big on labels, but I am Arminian. I stand on the opposite side of the fence from Reformed or Calvinist doctrine. True. However, that does not mean I don't believe that God is sovereign above all else. I believe he is. I don't believe my Biblical view points contradict that. No matter how you feel, this is how I feel.

I believe that God initiates salvation. SHOCK! Yes, I do. I believe in prevenient grace. A better phrasing would be preceding grace. In other words, when Romans and Hebrews say that Jesus died once for all, it means it. Contrary to what Reformed doctrine says (that this means he died for the elect) it clearly says he died for all. Therefore, following along with the rest of the New Testament (SHOCK again! I read my Bible) grace is OFFERED to all. Jesus offers grace to all. Therefore he has started the process. We choose to respond or not.

I do believe that God is in control! SHOCK! But just because he's in control doesn't mean he causes everything to happen. I can't look at the world and say that its this way because he desires it to be. That's not the God I see in Christian Scriptures. I don't see a God who creates a bunch of human robots--controlling their every move and decision and so on and so on. I see a God who creates and gives that creation the choice. What's more glorifying to God? A robot that praises him or a human that chooses to praise him?

And I agree with those who say: there's some mystery to this. Sure. Certain concepts and ideas and parts of Scripture simply cannot be fully explained. I don't think that rules out us being free to discuss it.

So discuss away, I say! Let's talk about it. We don't have to agree. I'm sure we all won't. We're humans. That's kinda the beauty of it all: we won't really know it all here on this earth in this life.

But don't put words in my mouth. Don't think I'm going off the deep end. I'm just trying to honestly pursue Jesus and what he has for his church. That looks different for everyone, and that's okay. I'm just trying to be who Christ has made me to be. I make no apologies for that. And as always, I encourage you all to do the same. Holler back...

Friday, July 6, 2007

But there's a couple of bananas...

Good friends and great food made for a wonderful evening. In the midst of discussing a lot of different things, one of my friends made a comment about how much he felt like I had invested in the local Emergent movement. I got to thinking about that...

I lost my house. Lost my home church. Lost friends and colleagues. Lost a lot of sleep. And someone asked the other day: "Would I go back six months ago and do it the same way?" Yes. Without hesitation: yes. It was all really sad. It really was. A lot of things were done really wrong. Lots and lots of things. I wasn't happy with the way it all played out. Brittany and I just say its sad. But in the end, ignorance is not bliss, and so I wouldn't trade in what all God has taught me for what has happened. I'm not saying the Emergent movement or emerging church is the answer to all of our problems. Its a great start.

I'd rather be somewhere where its okay to be asking the questions that need to be asked and doing the things that need to be done and not be part of a local congregation than to be part of a local congregation and not be allowed to question or doubt or try to change things. My buddy and I were agreeing with each other tonight that we have tremendous hope for change and that we want to do everything we can to pursue change from within the walls of a local church. But if we aren't allowed to pursue change honestly, and if not allowed to do the things that need to be done, then (and only then) would I do otherwise.

I guess I feel like I need to make that clear. While I think there's a lot of things wrong with me and with you and with us and with American Christianity, I think there's hope for change. Hope gets me through. And I pray the church realizes how far off we have gotten. I pray we as a church acknowledge how badly we've messed up and begin to turn from the sins of our past and present. I pray we do this together as the body of Christ. Whatever that may look like.

I can't go back to the way things were. My eyes have been opened, and I'm beginning to see how my faith really becomes action. I'm beginning to see what was really going on with all those people in the first few chapters of the book of Acts in the New Testament. God is stirring something up. I can feel it. I can hear it. Its coming: change. No matter who you are or what you do, I hope you see it. Things are not all as they should be. And its up to us to make it right. No matter what it costs us personally. I hope we're all willing to sacrifice. I don't think I've really even sacrificed anything yet. I've been blessed... lucky... pampered thus far in life.

"God, remind me you meant it when you said to sell everything I own, give it to the poor, then to go follow You."

Holler back...