Will Sorrell writes as a denominationally available seminarian. He enjoys dominating in Super Smash Bros., getting way too emotionally invested in fantasy football, and exploring the intersection of business and ministry. He's semi-active on Twitter.
I am denominationally untethered. I was reared a Presbyterian, baptized a Baptist, and molded in a largely ecumenical college ministry. Today, my wife and I are members of a non-denominational, Baptist-leaning church with emphases on liturgy, sacrament, Creeds, and the Church calendar. Now studying at an interdenominational, reformational, and evangelical divinity school, life is grand.
I’ve heard it said that upon beginning serious theological study, one is unconsciously ignorant. Upon graduating, one is simply consciously ignorant. For better or worse, the eyes of my consciousness of ignorance began to flutter as soon as my first semester began. I do not use “ignorance” in the sense of voting for a politician because your parents did or in the sense of being a flat earth truther. Simply put, I’m growing very aware of how much I don’t know.
And I think most of us are. I have yet to meet the knowledge-puffed, theologian-thumping seminarian we were perhaps all warned about. My colleagues are a humble crew, always asking before telling. Yet amidst the sincerity of our unity, nearly all fall neatly into doctrinal divisions on secondary and tertiary issues.
Growing up behind the walls of the largely Reformed camp, I never understood how Arminians slept at night (quite well, come to find out). I never knew to ask that perhaps determining the ‘correct’ mode of baptism was more than a question of quantity of water, but rather an enigma of efficacy in and for the soul. I never considered the weight of glory and grace presented in varying views of sacramentology, ecclesiology, and soteriology.
I didn’t know what I didn’t know, but I’m learning. And it’s glorious.
It’s the common joke in the common area of Beeson for other students to recruit me to different denominations. And while there is certainly a humorous aspect to these shenanigans (largely catalyzed by yours truly), it’s easy to despair in the uncertainty. In no way do I wish to waffle till Kingdom come. I’d rather be settled in the solace of solidarity.
And I struggle. I struggle not to hate myself for either not being learned enough to form a solid position, or for not being bold enough to trust myself and the Spirit to discern what I should believe. Now, we’re not talking about whether or not I affirm the resurrection, salvation through Christ alone, the Trinity, or anything else that makes a Christian “Christian.” Rather, by happenstance I see validity in varying opinions on baptism, the Eucharist, and church governance. John Calvin warned of not attempting to navigate the mind of God regarding predestination, as it is a labyrinth from which there is no escape, but I wonder if perhaps sometimes we parse scripture into doctrine into theologians into practice to a point where we lose ourselves and lose our way in the journey of faith. Granted, the same can be said of never deciding, but perhaps a practiced patience in forming a foundation for doctrinal stances could be at minimum not unwise, and at best wisdom personified.
So in this season, I wait. I wait upon the Lord. I believe it to be an active waiting, filled with asking, seeking, and knocking for the Spirit to enlighten the eyes of my heart, give me the mind of Christ, and continually awaken my soul into greater grace and truth. For this season, I see merit in the diversity, folly in the heresy, and joy in the discovery. I read, listen, and question unto exhaustion, relying upon the rest of the Triune God to raise my tired gaze unto Him for another day of exploration within the confines of the Kingdom.
In my very first class in seminary, the professor urged us all, nearly hourly, to read the Bible with a “hermeneutic of love.” That is a phrase that has not and will not depart from me. But I think within the words are another application still: I’m learning to read doctrine with a hermeneutic of love, an exegesis of empathy. And if I—if we—can continue in this vein, perhaps the Spirit will grant us the ability and the will to exegete one another with a hermeneutic of love too.
Ten years from now I’ll be resting in the community of a denomination, but 10,000 years from now I’ll be resting in the commonwealth of Christ and His Church. Though then our theological differences will not have been for naught, we all will have shared in one baptism. We all will drink of the same cup at the marriage supper of the Lamb. We all will have one Shepherd. We will comprehend together with all God’s saints how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, or at least we’ll spend an eternity marvelling over it together. But today, my wandering is intentional toward a resting place this side of heaven, and my wonder is increasing every day along the way.