I apologize in advance that this email will be a little longer than the norm but it is a very important concept that I want to pass along to you so here it goes!
For most of my life I have been on this journey to discover theological truth and get to the heart of what God is truly all about. Sometimes that can be incredibly frustrating because deep down inside I know it's probably not even possible, especially when the old adage becomes true: "the more you know the more you realize how much you don't know." And yet at other times it is exhilarating to learn something new, unpack a concept you've wondered about for a very long time, or to finally connect a couple of dots causing that proverbial "light bulb" to come on.
This past Monday at God & Guinness we read and discussed one of my all-time favorite theological articles (for some extra credit you can read it here if you want: https://www.peteenns.com/fall-augustine-really-screw-everything/). It is amazing to me how (in my opinion) one theological conclusion from 1700 years ago could so deeply and dramatically affect the way we view the world, the way that we view ourselves, and the way we view one another! This one perspective on "the fall" has led to destructive (IMHO) doctrinal positions such as total depravity, the view that people are inherently bad, evil, and even repulsive in God's sight. Efforts have been made to sugarcoat this view with phrases like "when God looks at you he sees Jesus" which sounds kind of nice initially but when you stop and think about it it's like "wow, so how much could God actually love me if he cannot even stand to look at me without his Jesus filter?"
The good news is that if we are proper students of Scripture and with the help of people smarter than us (like Dr. Enns and others) we can learn that there are better and more accurate ways to unpack some of these concepts. Jesus gave us some pretty strong clues that he himself did not buy into such silliness when he said things like "let the little children come unto me for theirs is the kingdom" rather than "let these little grotesque, sin filled, totally depraved heathens come unto me and I'll do my best to tolerate them for a moment!" Jesus also said something incredibly profound when he said: "the kingdom of heaven is within you!" Now how can that even be possible if we are TOTALLY depraved? He didn't say "the kingdom of God CAN be in you"...once I go to the cross and you repent and you grovel and you beg for forgiveness and mercy and if I'm in a good mood then maybe, just maybe I will wash you white as snow and then maybe just maybe I can actually look at you." I know I am being a little silly now but hopefully you get the idea that bad theology can be really really destructive and one of the things that we will continue to do here at the SPV is to challenge and deconstruct some of what I consider to be incredibly harmful and even anti-Jesus theological concepts. I know that has and will get frustrating at times, but I believe with every fiber of my being that doing so is not only necessary but will lead us to a place far away from religion and towards increased freedom, liberty, and agape love. So if ever I talk about something that you don't agree with or I do a poor job of explaining where I'm coming from and you come away feeling more confused rather than enlightened, please do me a favor: 1) forgive me for my heart really is in the right place and 2) just rest in the fact that your heavenly father loves you and that his kingdom really is within you...and he doesn't just love you because when he sees you he's really only looking at Jesus. No, he's really looking at you and he REALLY does LOVE you (and so do I).