In the 1960’s I had been secretary of a Community Association for 5 years and Treasurer of an Anglican Parish Church in the UK for 8 years (as well as having a full time job) but gradually became disillusioned with what I saw as a lack of ‘radical’ Christianity. By this time I was reading “The Plain Truth” magazine published by Herbert W Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God – a Sabbath keeping church that also rejected the traditional teaching of the trinity. We ‘knew’ we were the one and only ‘true church’ because nobody else kept the Sabbath and the biblical Holy Days properly. How wrong could we have been!!!
We have been married 52 years and have two children, seven grandchildren and two plus great grandchildren.
It was in 1995 that the church suddenly announced that much of its theology was misguided. With hindsight it is now obvious that it had in the past, not unreasonably, been described as both a cult and a sect. Along with over 100,000 people I was faced with a dramatic reappraisal of my own beliefs. It was a very traumatic experience that resulted in serious family break-ups.
I believe it was in 1998 that I suddenly became aware of a freedom and liberation from the slavery of legalism. But it was only a few years later that I really came to the conclusion that I am not an ‘evangelical’ Christian – it’s not what we think we know ABOUT God (head knowledge), but whether we have a living relationship with God (heart awareness)!
“The Shack” was first published in the summer of 2007 (just 11,000 copies). I’ve never found reading easy, but I couldn’t put the book down. Several of my friends on the Internet had already read it for the second time. Within a couple of days I was re-reading the book making notes as I went along. It’s no exaggeration to say that I spent three whole days living that weekend with Mack. The next day I found myself wondering why it had taken 57 years for someone to give me a picture of ‘the trinity’ that began to make sense.
With hindsight it is really surprising how the traditional teachings of the trinity have had an enormous impact on my understanding of the Christian FAITH over the years. My parents left school at 13 and 14. They never attended a church and never, ever owned a Bible, but from the age of 9 I was forced to go to Sunday School with an acquaintance (not even a friend) of my father until I was 14. It’s hard to imagine that happening today isn’t it?
A couple of weeks before I was 14 there was a lesson on the trinity where the Superintendent used three ‘fuzzy felt’ type discs labelled Father, Son and Holy Ghost. He talked about each separately and then placed one on top of the other to explain how the three were really one. I have no recollection of ever doubting the existence of God but that just did not make sense. I remember walking up to the Superintendent as I left and telling him that I was glad I didn’t have to come after the following week because that was a lot of nonsense. I was upset and told my parents in no uncertain terms what I thought. I was very surprised when my mother said I didn’t have to go the following week.
I had been a Cub and a Scout from an early age and when I was 23 I ‘accidentally’ started helping to run an Anglican Church Cub Pack. Some years later I was being trained as a Lay Reader by a Parish Priest who had once been the Principal of an Anglican Theological College. I remember asking him to explain the trinity to me. His response was along the lines of, “greater minds than mine have wrestled with that for centuries, and I just have to accept what they have taught”. What I see as so ironic is that this man later became a Bishop before being appointed as the first Archbishop of the Indian Ocean, and he couldn’t explain the trinity. He was recognised as an authority on the Old Testament but once said to me that we don’t understand the myth and symbolism of the early part of Genesis! It’s only recently that I’ve noticed that many Anglicans seem to ignore the first eleven chapters of Genesis.
It would have been a couple of years later when I was leading a Men’s discussion group that I asked the question, “What is the purpose of life?”. The immediate response of the new Vicar was, “Peter, you can’t ask that, it’s the 64,000 dollar question (a lot of money in those days), please go on to your next question”. With hindsight I think that was the beginning of my disillusionment with the Church of England. It would have been soon after this that I started subscribing to “The Plain Truth” magazine but it would be another 6-7 years before I started attending the Worldwide Church of God.
It’s impossible to explain the thrill that many of us who knew the story of “The Shack” experienced as it was published around the world. I was already retired and had plenty of time to read many of the reviews (maybe as many as 500). I learned so much from the critical reviews of why people believe what they believe – often as a result of divisive, denominational theology.
Some time later one of my Internet friends suggested that I should listen to a talk by John Lynch entitled “The Room of Grace”. It was when I listened to it again about six months later (with my own understanding of the myth and symbolism of the early chapters of Genesis) that it had an enormous impact.
I am one of the world’s introverts but it wasn’t until 2008 that I stumbled on the realisation that I have lived with Aspergers Syndrome (or High Functioning Autism) all my life. I hate labels but that was an exciting discovery because it suddenly made sense of so much of my natural approach to life, and why, because of an inability to make eye contact with others, that people thought I wasn’t interested in what they were saying. No wonder, like so many other introverts, I feel so much more comfortable on the Internet than being face to face with people I don’t know well!
Going a little deeper you might find The Hare and the Tortoise interesting.