I’m reading TOUCHING HEAVEN, by cardiologist Dr. Chauncey Crandall, which chronicles his discovery of Christian faith over many years, particularly focusing on the fact that all of our lives are accessible to Heaven’s touching us and therefore, in return, that we have an avenue open to us along which we may travel to touch Heaven.
Dr. Crandall is a man of medical science who might be understood, for that reason, to be unlikely to believe in the existence of a two-way thoroughfare between earth and Heaven. Yet, as his book attests, he has experienced many medical healings and demonic exorcisms that are inexplicable by mere medical science.
His book is engaging; I recommend it.
But the reason I write about Dr. Crandall’s book is that I was struck by a quote he includes, on page 68. The quote hit me in the head. The quote hit me in the head because of a struggle I encountered recently. The struggle relates to the struggle my wife Channa and I grappled with during 2016—a profound change of life and of denominational orientation.
Within the past year, we moved not only 860 miles from the Maine coast to the Blue Ridge of SW Virginia, not only from a community we had known for almost 20 years to one we had known only for 6 weeks, but also—and most importantly—from the Baptist Christianity through which we became Christians, after our many years as Jews, to orthodox Lutheran Christianity.
Consequently, our daily Christian experience changed. Among other changes, the theology by which our new belief system interprets Jesus’ earthly existence differs. Baptist theology arises from the Reform movement, whereas Lutheran theology arises from Luther.
The presentation by which our new belief system offers Jesus’ earthly function differs as well—non-liturgical to liturgical.
There are other areas of difference which are circumstantial--small church to large church, tiny staff who do everything, to large, departmental staff each responsible for a single thing, leadership in a deaconate by which I was assigned as deacon to my pastor and therefore had exhortatory authority in his regard, to friendly relations with my Lutheran pastor without any formal responsibility concerning his own Christian witness.
Channa’s and my fundamental faith as Christians
remains the same as it was when we came to Christ eleven years ago. However, the changes we have recently experienced make a significant difference regarding our Christian daily walks.
To accustom myself with grace and humility to this new reality has been my struggle in 2016. Here’s Dr. Crandall’s head-hitting quote.
The quote is used in a paragraph when the doctor is recounting his and his wife’s experience of suffering through the death, from leukemia, of one of their twin sons, aged nine. What was at that time Dr. Crandall’s relatively new and enthusiastically evangelical Christian faith sustained him both as a father and as a husband during this family crisis. In earlier pages of his book, he has demonstrated how, in both his professional and his family life, his Christianity has become for him a rewarding faith system.
The head-hitting quote is used to nuance his term “faith system.”
Dr. Crandall quotes evangelist Reinhard Bonnke, who states that faith is “always the instrument of new resources. Christianity is the release of the Holy Spirit into the world. Faith itself is not power, but the link to power.”
Christianity is the release of the Holy Spirit into the world.
What an assertion!
What a comfort for me!
Christianity is the gateway. It’s not the destination.
Grappling as I have been between the form of Baptist Christianity and the form of Lutheran Christianity, I have been confused. Which form seems right to me, and why? Which should I adopt? And, more pointedly, who am I even to believe that I have the right to make such a choice? Am I blasphemous to think so?
Here’s my basic prayer: I desire the Holy Spirit to empower the world.
In order to cause this to happen, which cloak of Christianity shall I wrap myself in, Baptist or Lutheran—or in any of the others, for that matter? I want my vote to count toward the victory I pray for. Which cloak shall I wear?
Bonnke’s quote does not say “Christianity allows for the release of the Holy Spirit into the world.”
If it said that, then one or another of the denominations within Christianity would need to be judged by a Christian as the right one, and then my struggle to ally myself with one or the other would be worth my time. Also, having aligned myself with one or the other, I would be membering-up with one of the teams, as though my assignment of my faith conviction might give my team new power.
No. Bonnke’s line says “Christianity is the release of the Holy Spirit into the world.”
This means something different. It means that the very existence of Christianity at all, in the first place—as it stands now, including its various factions, including their fractious relations—is the thing in itself that releases the Holy Spirit into the world.
I want the Holy Spirit to empower the world.
My requirement therefore is to strengthen my faith commitment to Christianity, first. It's the gateway.
Intellectually, there are fascinating differences between Reform theology and Lutheran theology. Experientially, there are deliberate differences in terms of gorgeousness between non-liturgical and liturgical presentations of the Gospel. Each of these areas of difference are to be explored for their value.
But Christianity comes first.
Do you agree?
Click on the comment button and tell me what you think. I’d like to know.