Words of Hope: Extremes

My husband Shann and I took a class together when he was getting his PhD in clinical psychology. It was a religion class taught at the university. The professor said his greatest desire was to revolutionize religion by having a scientific breakthrough and creating a brand-new understanding of “god.”  

He wanted to expand outside the boxes and rigid parameters of calcified religions. He was a sweet man, but his disregard of Christ and the messages of scripture struck me as hubris and diminishment. 

On the other hand, my daughter had a religion class at her classical school. She was on Zoom, and I could hear her conversation. She and another student were discussing Romans 8, one of my most favorite passages of scripture. The teacher began to get very stern and rigid toward both girls, demanding them to agree that grace alone saves us. The other girl became silent and began to cry. My daughter defended her position that grace is preeminent but faith without works is dead. She got off the Zoom call feeling like she had just gone to war.

I hold these two teaching experiences in my mind. They seem to hold the stereotypical experience of faith in our modern world. Some try to invent their own religion, and some try to punish others into believing their point of view.  

I liked to talk with Dad about his insights into these polarized experiences. I believe he would say, “Jennifer, in many ways these stories are the same. Both teachers want to be in control. One by creating God, the other by controlling God. When we replace God with our opinions and preferences, this will be our outcome. In the one experience this teacher wants to disregard rules and invent his own reality. In the second experience this teacher wants to create rules to perpetuate the ability to control opinions.” 

Then Dad would ask the most important questions. He would want to know why these stories troubled me, what is God speaking to me in these experiences, what is my role in these stories, and how can I bring greater love and health to these situations? 

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. – 1 Corinthians 2:6-10