I remember the first time I heard a theologian use the term "both/and", now some 25 years ago. Maybe I had heard the term used before, but in this particular meeting of clergy, in a multi-denominational setting, it became convincingly liberating.
Liberating in that it provided permission to view God as more than a rigid rule maker, although by then I was well into grace. However, it was a grace constructed upon underlying and fixed denominational opinions.
I had earlier attended a Baptist College, but other than that my only experience with the faith was a rather fundamentalist Pentecostal exposure.
The only difference in requirements between the two persuasions was an openess to the gifts of the Spirit. Sin avoidance was still the dominant goal, with an either/or approach that seemed at times to soil the good work of grace I was experiencing with God.
In this particular gathering, we were exploring an emerging culture where listening and processing, selling vs. telling was in its early development, we called it the "coach" approach. Of course today, everyone in leadership identifies with coaching, though in our early adopter days, sports only came to mind when the term "coach" was used.
This was a period of time when I would be exposed to believers, who were also thinkers. Before that, most of the clergy in my life were rigid purveyors of a relatively fixed understanding of scripture as they had been taught, one that seemed to fit better in another world for which we all waited and prepared for.
Such concepts as, a Christ first revealed in Creation, only secondly in scripture, and now to be fully lived out by way of the Ecclesia was foreign to me. We were of the Sola scriptura sect, where scripture was the sole infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice. Actually, it wasn't scripture, but rather a denominational slant upon scripture. Science was even at times subjugated to one's understanding of scripture.
My dilemma was that as a child, I had fallen in love with nature, pursued a degree in the sciences and found little comfort in my either/or upbringing. After being confronted by the Spirit in a rather convincing epiphany, both science and spirit, the rational and the supernatural seemed not so deeply at odds, as I had been taught earlier in life.
This may have been the beginning of my comfort with asking questions of God, for the deeper I walked into the rigors of religion, the less application I found either with my formal training in the sciences or my deep calling to community.
I even stepped away from my years as a science teacher and public-ed. administrator for about six years, serving a beloved pastor in a booming mega church, thinking that my inner turmoil was evidence of error.
Within months of my new role, I saw God blessing my efforts in the church arena, both in terms of an anointing for teaching scripture, as well as the leadership and marketplace skills gained earlier as an associate school superintendent, the latter at times seemed absent from the clergy staff with whom I was working.
Collaboration with a nearby university, gained me opportunity to serve on the local planning board, afterwards forming an alliance with multiple churches of different stripes, launching an early childhood education venture. Still later, an invitation to participate with an African-American, church-based community development corporation, to include the construction of affordable housing.
I soon resigned my church career, just as I had before left public education, launching my own consulting firm. I was following the Spirit and finding success by means of my gifts, both in the church and the community.
I have since found God equally concerned with both, andtruth a matter of spiritual discernment, the scriptures a Sovereign tool of text and wisdom. My previous and more tedious either/or approach now long left behind, though I am amazed at how the text of scripture enlightens my daily pursuits with words, "new every morning."