For those of you who haven’t heard, I’ve resigned — or more accurately, been asked to resign — from my seminary teaching position. You can find the announcement here.
As the dust has settled, a few questions have come to the forefront.
- What will I do now?
- Aren’t I mad about being asked to resign?
- Why did I change my position on spiritual gifts?
Let’s take them in order.
What I will do now is exactly what I have been doing. Youth ministry at The Fount, writing curriculum for Headwaters Christian Resources, involvement in the Englewood community, seeking to know and follow Jesus, to introduce others to Him and help them follow Him, to be a better disciple, a wiser discipler, a more loving husband, a stronger friend. I won’t be teaching in the RMBC&S classroom, but I’ll continue to support the students, my friends among the faculty, and the mission of the school by whatever avenues are open to me; they’re doing good Kingdom work. The beauty of seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness is that the work is not tied to any one organization (Pope Benedict, are you listening?). Organizational ties come and go. Wineskins wear out; all is mist, as the Preacher once said, but through it all, we fear God and keep His commandments.
And no, I’m not even a little mad about it. I don’t believe that this is an issue Christian brothers should divide over, but the school is serving a community that feels differently about it than I do. Theology is a contact sport, and when you change your position on something, you have to expect some organizational alignments to change as well; there’s nothing sillier than a professional theologian whining about having to change jobs after he’s changed his theology. That’s just the nature of the beast. When it comes to something like this issue — where the very, very contentious debates only died down about 40 years ago — the lines are brightly drawn and well policed. They’ll be gone in another 10-15 years, because people on both sides have matured, because much of the divisive craziness that characterized the debate 40 years ago isn’t around anymore, and because the younger generations are simply refusing to polarize around that issue — and God bless them for it. However, we have to deal with what’s going on now, and right now, things are still polarized enough that some folks feel the need to politicize the issue.
Also, not to put too fine a point on it, God will not be mocked. We reap what we sow. I was a foot soldier for the Doctrinal Purity Police in the not-too-distant past; in God’s good pleasure I am reaping a little of what I have sown. Of course I don’t like it, and I wish that God had arranged things differently. But discipline is never comfortable, because it brings change, and change is never comfortable. I look forward to being trained by it in order to reap the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
Finally, why the shift? This is the most common question I’ve gotten over the past days, and it’s more difficult to answer than you might expect, for two reasons. First, it’s not quite as simple a question as it looks, sitting there on your screen. Some people mean, “Please give me an autobiographical account of your shift.” Others mean, “Please tell me you haven’t turned into a snake-handling whacko.” (I haven’t, by the way.) Others mean, “Is there something wrong with my theology?” Still others, “Young man, we taught you better than this. No excuse will be good enough, but explain yourself anyway!” There are other nuances too — lots of subtext on this one. I need to be clear about which questions I can hope to answer. I intend to give an autobiographical account of how I came to hold this view. Along the way, I do also feel a responsibility to explain myself to the community that raised and trained me. If what I say addresses some of the other nuances along the way, then so be it, but these two are all I’m really trying for.
Second, it’s difficult to give an account for my shift because I’m kinda done being a foot soldier for the doctrinal purity police. I’m happy to be clear about what I believe and why, and I have no intention of dancing around the shortcomings of cessationism. As I always have, I’ll say what I believe to be true and make no apology for it. That said, there’s a lot of needless division and brother-hatred around this issue, and I have no desire to exacerbate the wounds already inflicted on Christ’s Body. I don’t want to be dishonoring to anyone, least of all to the community that raised and trained me. I can hardly avoid criticism — at least implied criticism — of that community; an autobiographical account of my shift will discuss why I started with their position, found it inadequate, and adopted a new one. That said, it is still a matter of Christian duty for me to be properly honoring and grateful to my community and the many gifts it has given me. This is a difficult balance to strike, and it is essential that I do it well. With that in mind, I’m going to delay answering this question publicly until I am able to do so in a manner that is agreeable to my conscience.
I intend to put an answer up in a few days to a week, but I’m making no promises. Articulating all this well has been significantly harder than I had thought it would be, and I had a full life before all this came up. I’ve got other things to do, and if this is going to take 50 hours, it will be a while before it gets done. I welcome private conversation on the topic at any time, so if you feel you need an answer sooner, please don’t hesitate to contact me. As I said in my resignation announcement, nobody has anything to hide here, and I’m happy to share the details in private conversation.