When I became a Christian, I became just that – a Christian. I eventually joined an Anglican church via a contact at work but I didn’t really think of myself as ‘an Anglican’.
When a friend’s husband asked me where my church was, I replied, ‘In Bedworth.’ That wasn’t what he wanted to know. This was his next question: ‘I mean, where is your church? Is it high or low?’ Well, it’s the ‘default’ church for the town and it’s got quite a tall steeple, so maybe it’s ‘high’? I’d missed the point again, apparently, so he asked me a third question: ‘Do you have bells and smells?’ I dodged out of that one and told him I’d check it out with one of our leaders.
A lay reader filled me in. We were ‘low evangelical – the lowest of the low.’ She explained all about ‘bells and smells’ and about the high church up the road and I felt that I was becoming initiated… into something…
Little did I know then about all the ‘-isms’.No, that’s not entirely true.I had heard of Methodism and Catholicism and of course, baptism. Now I’m hearing about Calvinism, Evangelicalism, Presbyterianism, Lutherism/Lutheranism, Barthism…it is so very complicated and I often wish it were more straightforward.
More recently, the word ‘inerrancy’ has found it’s way into my consciousness and I am still amazed by all the debate about it. I have a part of my mind which I label ‘don’t know’ and I ‘file’ things in there and pray about them, ask about them and do some research on them and so on.
I suppose the good thing about the ‘-isms’ and the debates about inerrancy is that they remind us that we don’t have all the answers- far from it… and that we are dependent on God’s grace and have a continued need to study the scriptures, meditate, pray, research, seek the counsel of others and so on.
Just imagine if it were all simple and plain-sailing and we could all get it ‘sussed’ quite quickly. We might easily forget our need for God and that just wouldn’t do.
Jesus said: ‘Apart from me, you can do nothing.’
These words sustain me. I love the rich breadth and depth and complexity of the scriptures but I also do a fair amount of fretting about the passages that don’t add up for me and I am thankful for those simple words of Jesus. He is the vine and we are the branches. We need him and we need each other.
A verse from an old hymn has just come into my mind ‘He that is down needs fear no fall, he that is low, no pride; He that is humble ever shall have God to be his guide.’ [John Bunyan]