"We don't form our personal spiritual lives out of a random assemblage of favourite texts in combination with individual circumstances; we are formed by the Holy Spirit in accordance with the text of Holy Scripture. God does not put us in charge of forming our personal spiritualities." - Eugene Peterson EAT THIS BOOK
Reading this brought to mind my recent involvement in a “Hot Seat” Panel that was formed at our recent junior high retreat. The idea was that a bunch of us leader types would form a panel of experts who would be asked to comment on anonymous questions posed by the campers. In an odd way I felt uncomfortable taking my position ‘up there’. Two reasons: one was that I was the only panellist without a well worn Bible in my hand and two was my recent struggle with the spiritual hierarchy that we have created around spiritual knowledge. But hey it was junior high’s and a guy like me might just have something to say that might help them so there I was.
What surprised me most were the questions themselves. These were tricky complicated questions with multiple implications. Questions about the nature of sin, evidence and the nature of heaven, and the like. It’s always interesting to hear people’s spiritual questions because invariably behind each question is a story that motivates the asking. It is often more interesting to explore why someone is asking a questions than the original question itself. But of course in this case it was hard to do cause the questions were asked anonymously (presumably using anonymity to embolden student’s asking).
I held my own! I’m proud to say! I didn’t dominate the discussion. But I put in a few good jabs.
Then it came. “How do you know God is real?” Now there might be a thousand ways to answer this question. But this is what happened. No sooner had the question been asked then 5 Bibles slid open. Not the usual flipping around guessing where a certain verse might be but confidently busting open to specific places. So after Romans had been read and Hebrews and Psalms. I said something like, “There is no way to know that God is real – no hard core proof anyway. You can pick out any verse you want from the Bible to say that God is there but you first have to believe in the Bible. But“, I said, “If you are willing to take some time to get to know God – he’s out there for the knowing. And knowing that he’s real will mean reading about him in the Bible, seeing him in creation, and feeling him change your heart.”
Then I apologized to the panellists for sounding contradictory. And to be honest I really hope I did not screw things up for anybody. But I kinda felt like we were setting these kids up to construct a faith based on what Peterson calls, “a random assemblage of favourite texts.” I’m probably out to lunch on this…