Jesus is the Way, Truth & Life: What I Mean

Years ago in my early 20s, I came in my unsophistication to an understanding of the relationship between Jesus and ‘orthodoxy’ that has served me well. Every five years or so what I believe tends to undergo some rather dramatic shifts, either in actual content or emphasis. So much so that the me of 15 years ago would scarcely recognize me as a “Christian,” in the way that ‘he’ would understand such a term. And yet, I still consider myself a friend and follower of God in the way of Jesus. Why is that, if the actual ‘beliefs’ (or ‘way of believing’) is so fluid?

Because Jesus is the Way, Truth, and Life. What do I mean? Jesus is the Path, for one thing. It’s about becoming, not being. But even as ‘Destination,’ Jesus is Truth – not a set of propositions about Jesus, God, life, or reality. And this is a way of Life God invites us on, again, not a set of propositions.

Propositions aren’t the enemy here. To some degree, they’re unavoidable. We all hold images of God in our hearts. For my part, I try to have the best darn images I can – informed by Scripture, the best of our shared story (Tradition), my own life and lives of those around me, and, well, reality. I want a true-to-life picture of God, and a story-honoring Story to live by. But where Pete Rollins is so helpful (and him, taking a cue from Derrida, Levinas and others) is he won’t let us rest here…and I never let myself rest there. Because by my early 20s I realized that beliefs are like snake’s skin – they protect and keep clean and fit for a season, but then they get old, scaly, and slide right off – to reveal new and supple skin beneath. A snake trying to carry around old skin would be ludicrous…as would living in denial of the natural life-cycle of beliefs. Because Jesus is Truth, I can safely navigate provisional truths that lead me closer to Truth. Because Jesus is also Way – lived in the context of Life.

For this reason, “Orthodoxy” has never been a very helpful idea to me – in the popular understanding, not in terms of “right praise” which really resonates. Not because I’m hell-bent on being unorthodox – no, most of my beliefs might well be pretty staid by most people’s standards – but because of the sheer varieties of religious orthodoxies (with apologies to William James). Even within the Christian family, there are just so many to choose from. I think as we enter postmodernity and postchristendom, we’re realizing that it’s absurd to think we have to choose between ‘Orthodoxy A’ and ‘Orthodoxy X’ out of whole cloth; rather, we can, in the apostle Paul’s words, hold fast to what is good and helpful, and disregard the rest.

8 Responses to “Jesus is the Way, Truth & Life: What I Mean”


  1. 1 Benjamin Williams August 7, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Eloquent as always; thanks.
    I’ll trackback when I get off work.

  2. 2 Todd Littleton August 8, 2008 at 3:19 am

    Mike,

    Great post. Read it on our forum and saw it in my bloglines reader. Great job, talented writer.

  3. 4 Bill August 10, 2008 at 12:06 am

    Mike: as always, blessed by your words. Captures me own journey. Changes. Some times I’ve just thought I was spiritually wishy-washy. As I’ve matured I’ve considered it sanctified growing to be willing to re-think, re-imagine, re-conceive. Infinite wisdom demands infinite change among the finite.

  4. 5 Peter August 10, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    My testimony is that this process you have eloquently described here can (and will, if allowed to develop normally) continue through a long time of growth in life: peripherals changeable; the core just getting stronger and better!

    As a mundane example: my wife and I have a different car, a different house, a lot of different stuff, than we did 25 years ago; we are even raising a different set of kids, since the older ones have entered their own adult lives…but the core of our love for each other has developed through all these changes and is stronger and healthier and more filled with life and hope than ever before…

    Bless you, Mike, as you enjoy the flexibility to grow in the knowledge of Jesus and to recognize just how much of Christian teaching and ‘assurance’ and experience really does belong in the category of the peripherals!

    Peace and continuing mercy in Jesus,
    Peter

  5. 6 astatum August 12, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Mike,

    This is great! I’ve been thinking a lot about heresy this summer (hear me out, please) and I think I’m beginning to believe that the “varieties of orthodoxy” that you’re talking about are really just various Christians groups’ accepted and unacknowledged heresies. What do I mean? A good definition of heresy is, in my view, an inordinate and extreme focus on one particular doctrine or way of belief as superior to other doctrines or forms of belief. It seems that the “tapestry of belief (and practice)” you’re proposing is the opposite of heresy – and I like it. Maybe I’ll blog about it.

  6. 7 Nikita August 17, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    Good thoughts. While I was reading I kind of felt like saying ‘yeah – of course’ but then I realized that a lot of Christians still need to hear that sort of thing.

    Of course, it still sucks when Jesus devastates you and knocks you up side the head – and you find that he’s taking you through a paradigm shift that will inevitably cause some upheaval, intense personal reflection and, ultimately, loss; but I’ve always found it’s worth it. Always. Always. Always. Always. Even when it hurts.

    BTW – you go through shifts every five years? How old are you anyways? You’d have to be a Christian at least 30 years for that to be a verifiable trend!:-) HA HA HA.

  7. 8 Elysa Mac August 20, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Mike—Thanks for writing this. We found out about it thru Jeff’s blog and my husband says it was a “refreshing drop of grace” for him. The part about “becoming” really hit home for him.

    Thanks and grace to ya!
    Elysa Mac


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