Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Shaky Business of Changing My Mind

On Friday, I will post a blog post through "That Reformed Blog" in which I will out myself as a conditionalist. Conditionalism means that I believe the Biblical language of hell best describes nonexistance, not eternal conscious torment. I will let my Friday post share why that is. Today, I want to reflect on the transformational journey. How does someone change their mind? Often, I run into the belief that people change their minds because of major life experiences, and thus changing one's mind is weakness. I had no life-changing experience which made the shift. It was slow, methodical, and based on boring research.

But I did change. First came new information. Scot McKnight's "Jesus Creed" blog was very helpful. But then I had to put the information into practice. What do I lose when I lose "Eternal, conscious, torment?" At first, the loss presented itself as fear- fear of the slippery slope, fear of the loss of evangelistic urgency, fear of losing the Gospel. As I articulated and practiced my new belief, I discoverd that my fears were for naught. If anything, my passion for the Gospel increased as I focused on what Jesus brought, not the nightmarish scenes of hell. Christ is still the center of my life and of my theology. The slippery slope is a lot stickier than I would have thought. If anything, upon reflection, my change in belief makes me much more present to the hell-on-earth people experience today (in those places where the Gospel can do some great and liberating work). I can listen to a person express doubt and wrestle with real faith questions without the anxiety of "DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT IS COMING IF YOU ASK THOSE QUESTIONS???"

How does a person change their mind? Typically, it is a cognitive and an emotional issue. I am not going to say that any part of me was absent in the process. Behavior, emotion, will, logic, faith all combine in one human person. But the change process took time by necessity and design. First came information, then came practice, last came reflection. And I survived the change, at least in my mind. You will have to see on Friday if you think I emerged free from heresy or not. Today, I want to communicate that change is possible, even in a polarized age like today. It takes courage to question oneself and long-standing tradition. It takes grace to hear the opposition and the warnings. Hopefully, even a simple change like the one I made will help me love God and neighbor more, and isn't that what this life is all about?

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