Sunday, April 20, 2008


Sunday Reflection: Church and the soul

[You can click on my photo to make it bigger]

Today I missed church; I was in Houston with friends of a different faith who didn't go to church this morning. It doesn't feel right, somehow.

I have a lot of friends who both identify themselves with a faith and don't attend services. Many times, they will say "I'm Christian, but I can't stand church people," or assert that they have had a bad experience with a church. Neither describes me.

I really can't judge those people who don't attend church-- I got out of that business of evaluating the faith of others a while ago. I do know, though, that for me, I need church. If I don't worship in community, by spirituality starts to fade, and the sharpness, the directiveness, of my faith withers. It becomes ghostly and distant, and inactive within the machinery of my life and decisions.

Recently, I have started to ponder why this is. I don't look to church for easy answers to spiritual questions, since I do believe that we have to figure those out for ourselves-- I believe in both the priesthood of the believer and soul competence, and am not cut out for any denomination with a magisterium or creed. (Thank goodness for traditional Baptists!). Given that, why do I need church? I suppose there are two principle answers. First, I need church so that I can feel affirmed in the basics of my faith, and share worship with (somewhat) like-minded people. Second, I need the intellectual and spiritual challenges church provides to the answers I have come up with. I often find that in Sunday School or during a sermon I find an idea contrary to my own, leading to a re-examination and sometimes a change in my own beliefs. It keeps faith real and meaningful and active, and when that is true I can be at my best.

Could you explain the concept of "soul competence?" It something I've never heard of.

Good question! I should have made that clear at some point. To make sure I get it right, I looked it up in Walter Shurden's "The Baptist Identity," a book that pretty much sums up the way I view being a Baptist. There, Shurden says:

"Baptists assert that each individual is created in the image of God. Each individual, therefore, is competent under God to make moral, spiritual, and religious decisions. Not only is the individual privileged to make those decisions, the individual alone is responsible for making those decisions." [emphasis in original]
Since you're answering questions and in light of the recent post about evolution/i.d. - Ev, my 7-yr old, asked tonight if Adam and Eve came first or the cavemen. I balked, stalled and bailed. Any thoughts?
Like most questions like that, the answer I would give is "I don't know." That's my honest answer to most questions regarding what God does or thinks or likes or hates. I believe in God, but I'm also sure I'm not Him, and that means His ways are not going to be very well understood by me. It's a humbling position to be in, but I've gotten used to it.
Why not respond to your child that what we call "cavemen" could have easily included Adam and Eve? The evidence we have from the incredible artistic creations of the prehistoric caves of Santander, Spain, and Lascaux, France, point to the fact that prehistoric societies had developed communication, interpretation, comprehension, and artistic skills that we have only begun to uncover....why can't Adam and Eve be a part of this?
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