I never really got into explaining my beliefs and influences that helped shape my personal theology when I was a believer. I won’t go into much history in this post, since I’ve already done that in my last few posts. I just want to talk about what I believed and who influenced my beliefs.
My hyper spiritual belief’s weren’t always there. Like I said in a couple of my earlier posts, I was starting to flirt with agnosticism before my conversion into the Charismatic side of Christianity. I grew up in a non-denominational house church that got hit with the Toronto Blessing in the mid-90s when I was in elementary school. Even as a child I was a little skeptical of all the charismania going on in my church at the time. But I trusted the people around me to think that it may be real Godly experiences they were having. Even though I didn’t have my own experiences as a child, I still looked to the Toronto Blessing as a big influence on what I believed God can do to a person.
The renewal meetings that got me involved in the Charismatic culture I talked about in my post God Encounter; or Not influenced me in what it may be like to encounter God. I started reading books like Bill Johnson’s Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind, Graham Cooke’s When Heaven Opens: Discovering the Power of Divine Encounters, John Crowder’s Miracle Workers, Reformers and the New Mystics and lots of others in that vein.
Supernatural stories I heard about Heidi Baker, David Hogan, Todd Bentley, Randy Clark’s Global Awakening, the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry and some of the Kansas IHOP stories were an influence. As well as miracle stories I heard from missionaries I knew personally.
The Supernatural School of Ministry also influenced my spiritual beliefs in that God was a miraculous God and we, the Church, are Christ’s body so we can do the miracles, signs and wonders of Christ, plus more (John 14:12).
The Gospel of John, the Book of Acts as well as other mystical passages and stories in the Bible were huge influences on my belief in what it was to be a spiritual follower of Christ. I use to read John and Acts constantly for encouragement.
Coming out of a liberal punk scene before my conversion into the Charismatic culture I had a hard time finding anything I could relate to or believe in the more Conservative and Fundamentalist cultures of Christianity. So I found my inspiration in the social gospel. I saw the social gospel as more on the lines of what Jesus was all about.
I loved the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke. The stories of Jesus driving out the money changers in the temple, calling out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, feeding the multitude and his love and care for the “least of these” made me want to be more like Him.
I was inspired by books like Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution (even wanted to spend time at his Simple Way community in Philadelphia) and Leo Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God Is Within You. I read and listened to Tony Campolo.
Other inspirations were the Catholic Worker Movement activists like Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin and Ammon Hennacy, the Catonsville Nine, Christian Civil Rights and Labor activists. I also loved knowing that Bill McKibben, the environmentalist author and founder of 350.org was a Christian.
The early Jesus People movement in the 1960’s and early 70’s was also a source of inspiration.
During the Occupy Wall Street days I often imagined God had a place for me in that movement.
– I always believed in evolution. I thought evolution was God’s way of creating all the living things on earth. So even as a Christian there was no doubt in my mind that evolution was a reality. I just thought it was a mystery on when exactly God breathed his Spirit into the animal called Man.
– I was on the fence about Hell. I had a hard time believing that Hell was a reality with a loving God in control of the universe. I wasn’t sure what to believe about it.
– Homosexuality was another hard thing for me to put my head around. I had a lot of gay friends and had trouble figuring out why it would be a sin. I wasn’t sure what to believe about the nature of homosexuality with a Christian worldview. I tried to stay away from the topic. But would always end up siding with the homosexual community.
– The Rapture was a joke. I knew enough about the history of Christianity to know it was only a recent belief within Christendom. I believed the Church was the Second Coming of Christ, because we were the Body of Christ. And we were here to bring the Kingdom of God to Earth.
How I thought Christianity should be:
With my beliefs coming together I thought Christians were to live a radical life similar to that found within the Social Gospel movements while performing miracles, signs and wonders, because we are the Body of Christ. All of this together would bring the Kingdom of God to Earth.
And that was the fantastical Christian utopia I believed in.