I recently heard a pastor talk about being “stumped” when one of his parishioners asked, “How do I know I’m becoming spiritually mature?” He had no good answer. I think the question comes out of a good place. Most of us want to see movement on our spiritual journey. Yet, like an amateur mechanic using a hammer to loosen a bolt, so a Christian might reach for a “spiritual growth” to tool make sense of her spiritual life. I think it’s an inadequate tool. It might be handy and even accomplish a small task on occasion. Yet it can just as easily fail. Of course, it’s not always the tool’s fault. How it is used is just as important. So, there are two primary factors involved in “fixing” something: 1) the tool used, 2) how the tool is used.
I think the “spiritual maturity” tool is faulty. Yet, having an appropriate tool, in this case The Participatory Paradigm, is only as good as the operator. This tool works. Hundreds of saints can testify to that fact. But a person must live it, actually participate in it, receive it and do it.
There are thousands who will not because they’re convinced their way is better. I’m not going to argue or seek to persuade. I just invite you to consider this paradigm and live into it as you will.
- I’ve changed “The Trinity” to “Holy Trinity” – I wanted to emphasis the Godhead’s essence more clearly. God is beyond us and unknowable by us. We cannot know Him in His essence. We can use human words to try to understand God. But He is far beyond any terms we may use. He is incomprehensible. If so, then how can we know Him? Keep reading…
- I’ve changed “Energies” to “Grace” – The word “energy” simply means: “the capacity or power to do work.” It is a good word as I’m using it in the diagram. (The discussion of the reality of “God’s uncreated energies” has been around for centuries but hidden from most of us.) The Holy Trinity provides the power for us to “live, move and have our being.” We do not exist apart from God making it happen. We have a relationship with God as God makes it happen. We are transformed from God making it happen. We know God as He energizes us to know Him. Yet, for many evangelicals, there is baggage that comes with the word, mainly “new age” connotations. So, “grace” might be a better word for my purposes. However, “grace” may not clear to many either. Unfortunately for many evangelicals, grace is reduced to Christ’s salvific work on our behalf – we are “saved by grace.” Of course, this is true. However, everything that happens to us is by God’s grace not just our justification. Our life can’t happen any other way. So, for purposes of this diagram, I’m using “grace” and “energies” synonymously. I may be wrong, but I’m assuming most evangelicals relate to “grace” easier than “energies.” Theologians may take me to task for this. I’ll see how it plays out.
By the way, since God is unknowable in His essence, the only way we can know Him is in or by His energies/grace. He gives us the power to know Him. The gold arrows from “Holy Trinity” to “Me” indicate this reality. As one of my favorite modern-day theologians has said, “We cannot know God. But, we must know Him to know that.”
I’m also wrestling with a really good title for the diagram. The Participatory Paradigm still reigns supreme. But I wonder if “The UnCommon Journey With God” would work. Maybe that would be better as a subtitle. “The Ancient-Modern Faith Paradigm” or “The Classic Christianity Paradigm” might work. What do you think?
I received a couple comments on the first diagram. I’d like to hear more. Share below. Thanks!!