One of the books I’m going to carry over into 2013 to finish is Journeys of Faith by Robert L. Plummer. It details the stories of 4 people who have made the switch from one denomination to another. For instance, there is a protestant who became Orthodox, a Catholic who became Protestant, etc. The book is structured so that we read the individuals story, followed by a rebuttal from the someone who is still in the originating denomination and finally a response to the rebuttal from the original author. It’s a fascinating look at the reasons why people switch traditions.
Needless to say there is much consternation among those watching their peers make an unbelievable jump to another denomination that some might consider “barely Christian”. How could a protestant who loves Jesus become… Ca, Ca, Catholic?
This is all background to a thought I had recently. Atheists like Richard Dawkins like to point out that the only reason you’re Christian verses Muslim is largely determined by geography. If you grow up in the west, at least in the past, you stood a good chance of being raised at least nominally Christian. If you were born somewhere else you might be Muslim. The same could be true of your denomination. If you’re born in Germany vs. Italy vs. North America vs. England, your denomination might be selected virtually by default. In other words, how much of your faith journey is determined by your culture and not an honest search for the truth?
Here’s my thought: Could these faith journeys be a sign of health? Could they be the result of disciples fulfilling their call to the truth? Clearly, if someone is Catholic they believe differently about the nature of the Eucharist than most Protestants. It is difficult to say that all of them are correct on every point of course, but perhaps it is being willing to make that honest search for the truth, for that connection with God, is more God honouring than having your theology nailed down and knowing how to defend it 10 different ways.
While I would clearly grieve if people’s journeys took them in a direction outside orthodoxy (say, LDS, JW, Islam, etc), within what I would consider orthodoxy, how can we fault people for responding to what they believe to be God’s call?
Is there room to look at what is attracting people to these other denomination and seeing if there are lessons to be learned? Do they reflect an aspect of God that yours does not? Not in a “let’s do better marketing” kind of way, but with a sense of humility to think that perhaps we don’t know everything and that maybe God doesn’t belong to US or OUR denomination.