My Tiny Faith Story ~ Guest Contributor, John Thompson
Back in 2001 I showed up at a Christian church and had my hair blown back as I heard the gospel preached for the first time by a pulpit-free preacher/drummer. That got my attention. The good news and the promises of God were like nothing I’d studied in college or heard before otherwise. The power of the Spirit is something else. What I hadn’t expected was to find the big answers not in human knowledge and ideas, but in the revealed Word of God (as I said to my soon-to-be in-laws at the time “wow, it’s all right here in the damn book!”—they’re still helping me learn reverence).
That’s where the faith adventure began. But once on the ride, watch out—it sped up quickly and hasn’t stopped yet. Soon after pronouncing my grand “Amen & thanks be to God!” and joining that little church, Kendra and I moved on to other churches, learning all about the subtleties of theology, worship styles and Christian sub-cultures that are expressed just a bit differently in each denomination. We soon moved out of state for seminary, then off to other cities, other jobs, other graduate programs…
Fast forward to the present, 17 years (and 2 kiddos) later, and here I am, still hanging out with people from a number of different denominations and political persuasions, learning about faith, life and what it all means. One thing that stands out is the value of authentic Christian faith. I’ve been part of the ‘liberal’ mainline for a number of years now, and strangely enough it’s helped me grow spiritually, despite a lot of false teaching. I’ve heard (one way or another) that the Bible is just a human artifact; that Jesus isn’t really God; that the resurrection is just a symbolic myth; that the promise of eternal life is just ancient wishful thinking; and that basically every tenet of Christian faith is reducible to ethical theory and liberal political ideologies.
And yes, this has helped me. I started out a liberal-minded atheist, and ironically enough, ended up in a tradition where the clergy are often liberal-minded, and sometimes even atheist (God does have a sense of humor). But this has forced me to critically evaluate every drop of my faith; to hone my understanding of what believing in Jesus really means—and, at least on a good day, to put it into practice. Martin Luther says that we should expect to be “harried” and disturbed in our faith. If we’re serious, and in prayer, and properly “chewing” on the Word—this is when the “attack” comes, and often times from within the church itself. He goes so far as to thank his Catholic opponents for making him into a real theologian! I hope to become one someday too…
So I’ll go on, I’ll keep reading, seeking fellowship, and thanking God for faith. And I hope the next 17 years are as cool as the last.
John Thompson is an an Assistant Professor at St. Ambrose University. His interests, scholarship and teaching are interdisciplinary, bringing together wisdom from Christian theology, philosophy and the social sciences. His courses in the master of social work program focus on understanding human behavior, and address social issues such as mental illness, the opioid crisis, environmental degradation and mass homicide.