[their] lost focus on Christ.” My friend rightly said: “Hold on to Christ, and let go of everything else. When I sense you’re not holding on to Christ, and holding on more to your ‘bad church’ experiences (and who hasn’t had them?), then I’m backing off.” That expresses my response very well.
In another exchange my friend further wrote what I have come to understand so profoundly in my latter years:
I am going two opposite directions at the same time, the older I get. My theology is getting more complex; my faith is getting more simple. In other words, in my faith I’m growing INTO childhood, not out of it. And my child-like faith is simplifying around this one thing: “You can have all this world, Just give me Jesus.” I can guarantee you that when I die, what will be on my lips is not my theology. It will be that childlike faith: “Give Me Jesus” or “Jesus Loves Me This I Know.”
This is my experience. Theology is more important to me than ever but not as a system that explains everything. Mystery is either reduced by theology or expanded. In my case my theology makes the mystery larger than ever. Theology is important because it helps me avoid the ditches and glitches that come to us all. It reminds me that God is God and I am not. It helps me glimpse the incomprehensible God in the face of Christ. It acts as a servant to my simple, childlike faith. Yes, you can have all the world, and my theological thoughts and systems with it, but give me Jesus. If you resonate with this creed then you likely understand me and what I am about. Much more important than understanding me and what I’m about you will understand and love Jesus above all others. This is what the Christian faith, and thus the Christian religion (a word Palmer and others do not like at all), is really ALL about. Come to think of it this is what the church, the very institution that so many want to walk away from, has always been about at her best. At her worst she has become a substitute for Jesus but to worship Jesus and reject the church will not work for long, at least not if you have a biblical and historical faith.