Last month a Facebook acquaintance, who posts on the web as the Not So Hostile Pentecostal, had some nice things to say about this blog and web site in a post entitled Top Ten Blogs that You (Probably) Haven’t Checked Out Yet. The words of appreciation were a great encouragement to me. But it also caused me to reflect again on how silent I have become on this blog.
Here is what he said:
Commonplace Holiness is the blog of Craig L. Adams. Adams was a longtime United Methodist minister and now is a lay minister and servant at his current church, Mars Hill Bible Church. Adams is regularly a guest speaker at different United Methodist Churches and his blog still reflects the richness of the Methodistic-Wesleyan tradition. Although Adams blogs on a number of topics, I have been most interested in his thoughts on Entire Sanctification and holiness. Adams’ understanding of entire sanctification is refreshing to anyone who has only been exposed to the prideful and legalistic side of Wesleyanism. In fact, Adams is anything but legalistic or prideful. It was both Adams’ demeanor and his theological insights during our Facebook conversations that were influential in my conversion to a Wesleyan approach to sanctification. Additionally, Adams also takes old Methodist/Holiness books by authors such as Thomas C. Upham and Daniel Steele, and that are no longer in print (and are now in public domain), and types them out into an electronic format so that they are available for free to anyone. If you want to check out some great posts from a progressive Wesleyan and the people who have fed his soul, check out Commonplace Holiness here: https://craigladams.com/blog/
Lately I’ve mostly gone silent on this blog. It’s nice to know that those old posts have been helpful to him — and I suppose they may also have been to others. However, for a long time now I have been overcome by a sense that I just don’t have anything to say right now. I especially to do not have any strong desire to convince anyone of anything. And, that (I’m afraid) really does drive a lot of blogging — at least in the Christian world.
There are reasons that I feel I have nothing to say: some unresolved issues in my own mind. And, some of them are things I can identify and talk about a bit. So, here goes.
(1.) I have become what I never intended to be. This fact is well illustrated by the above remarks. He says: “…If you want to check out some great posts from a progressive Wesleyan….” And, I’m okay with being called a “progressive Wesleyan’ — especially by a blogger so obviously influenced by Calvinistic writers. Actually, I’m okay with it period. I guess that’s what I am — though I never intended to become that and I’m not altogether comfortable with it. A Christian “liberal” is the one thing I never wanted to be. But, I guess, if that’s what I’ve become (from someone else’s understanding of what that is) I’m okay with it. It is what it is.
I will always owe a very great debt of gratitude to the evangelical Christians — holiness and pentecostal folks mostly — that first shared the gospel message with me. They set me on the road I have continued to follow since then. They pointed me toward the Bible and toward a life of faithfulness and prayer. I have never intentionally left that path — I’ve never felt the need to dissociate myself from the label of “evangelical.” I no longer care about the labels of “conservative” and “liberal” — I care about what is right and fair and true. For me there has never been a point of dis-junction — where I felt I was leaving one path to pursue another. My spiritual journey has been a connected story.
If I’ve changed my views about the Bible, it came as the result of study and reflection on it. It’s the same with other issues. I’ve come to a point where many of the Christian writers I most appreciate are the ones who sometimes describe themselves as “emergent” (whatever that is) or “progressive.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ is progressive — it calls us to a new life, and to the prayer — and mission — that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. Getting back to the Bible means moving forward into a new and undiscovered reality — the Reign of God on earth. If we believe in a God of love and justice (even if we are not sure about the nature of such a God) then we strive to see love and justice prevail on earth — and certainly in our own lives. That’s the only kind of “progressivism” I care about at all.
Christians have to call people into the life of faith. People need to be given the resources to pursue their own spiritual journey. Liberal Christians have played church and preached politics for so long their churches are almost all dead. Conservative Christians spend too much of their energies fighting each other — and trying to figure out who is “in” and who is “out.” Both sides have been too closely allied with partisan politics. The world has plenty of politics. Somebody needs to proclaim the Gospel, give people the resources to grow their faith, and empower them to serve Christ in the world. Churches that don’t wish to do that deserve to die.
(2.) I have nothing to say on sexuality issues anymore. I have said enough — in the past (see here and here) — and I feel the need to shut up about this right now. I just want to listen. I no longer have a position that I can defend. The conservative view — that I know quite well — just seems to me to lead to a dilemma. So, I’m done talking. I have been saying to people lately that I am consciously moving in two opposite directions on this — and I’m okay with that.
On the one hand I have come to a renewed appreciation for the traditional language of the marriage ceremony. I love the language from the Book of Common Prayer that says that God created human beings male and female — that male and female are created for one another — and that God’s plan for human sexuality includes procreation. I’d hate for us to eliminate these ideas just because some people’s sexual attractions don’t fit the general model. If I understand James Brownson’s argument correctly in his book Bible, Gender, Sexuality, that kind of language would need to be eliminated in favor of language that speaks only of companionship — since (in that view) that was the real intent of marriage to begin with, and male and female complimentarity had nothing to do with it. I actually think its hopeful to say to people that their sexual drives have meaning in the plan of God — and that children are part of that too.
On the other hand, it bothers me not at all that some people are attracted to people of their own gender — and that they want to have a life together with a sexual partner to whom they are attracted. In a day and age where marriages are no longer arranged by families primarily for the purpose of continuing the tribe and the nation — where marriage is thought of as being about love and companionship and fulfillment — I can see how gay marriage makes sense. And, the idea of marrying someone to whom you are not attracted — or who is not attracted to you — doesn’t make sense. I really wish for people to find the best life they can for themselves. I know such relationships can be stable and enduring, because I know some people is such relationships. I am glad gay marriage is the law of the land, since stable and committed relationships should have legal recognition.
On this issue I am a contradiction to myself — but, I’m comfortable with that. I find myself in much the same boat as people like retired United Methodist seminary professor Steve Harper in his book For the Sake of the Bride — and many others who have come to a more accommodating position after having spent years on the conservative side. For me anyway, it is not the arguments that have convinced me that I needed to change my views — it is same-gender attracted people themselves.
I need to stand in support of people as they seek to make sense of their lives.
(3.) I keep drifting further and further away from the United Methodist Church — the Christian denomination in which I spent my professional life — and I think I’ve never really mourned that loss — or determined if it really was a loss. The events that led to my retirement from the United Methodist Church were traumatic and they had a profound effect on me and on my family. For some years I secretly prayed that there would somehow be a way back. I wanted this “way back” to bring healing and reconciliation for me and my family. But, I didn’t know what this would be exactly, and as time has gone by it is clear that no such thing will ever happen. I said to someone recently: “I am the only one in my family that cares about a relationship with the United Methodist Church — it was part of my life for so many years. But, no one else in my family cares — they don’t want any part of it.” My only United Methodist involvements at this point — besides frequently preaching in United Methodist Churches and attending Annual Conference — are the Vital Church Initiative in the Michigan Area and The Walk to Emmaus. (Though the Emmaus movement is declining in West Michigan right now.)
It’s too bad, I guess. But, there needs to come a point where I no longer care about this.
(4.) Lately I’ve become much more interested in learning than in convincing. I’m not especially interested in convincing other people to take my view of things. I’m still very much interested in learning from others — but, I’m not always so sure I have anything to contribute. So the work on the Old Books section of this web site continues — and it will. I post from the spiritual writings of Thomas C. Upham every day except Sunday (out of respect for Upham’s views on the Sabbath) at the The Hidden Life blog. That will continue. I post even when I don’t entirely agree with him. I am interested right now in learning and hearing. I have no arguments to make on sexuality issues, on the nature of the Bible’s authority, or on the nature of God. I did once, but it has become clear how little I knew — and it suggests that there is very little I know now.
I have tried to live a life without regrets. I have sought to travel in the path of Christian faith. I have sought to be honest and to live with integrity. I have sought to be supportive of other people as they seek to live a meaningful life.
I don’t know whether that makes me a progressive or a conservative or a evangelical or a liberal or whatever. It just doesn’t matter.
Maybe things will change. But, for right now I don’t have much to say.