Once upon a time there was a man who was alive.

Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States
St. Cuthbert and Disciples in a Boat


Apologia Pro Vita Sua

Or, A Short Examination of My Rambling Walk Through Christianity

Since I have not offered a terrible lot of information concerning myself in depth, I shall now do so, at least as regards my journey through the Christian faith: from Baptist roots to Calvinism to high-churchy would-be-Anglicanism.

I was born into the Baptist tradition: my father was, and still is, a Southern Baptist pastor, so I have, from birth, been saturated with the Christian faith, particularly of course the Baptist understanding of it. My first recollections of the Church involve Shuqualak, Mississippi, where my father pastored a small congregation, and we dwelt in the parsonage. Of that I recall only the cemetery in the backyard of the parsonage: cemeteries being an elemental part of the rural parsonage experience. Anyway, I grew up in the environment of conservative Baptist churches, in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. I experienced annual revivals, river baptisms, Sunday School, and a plethora of traveling evangelists. I was baptized at the age of eight by my father while he was pastor of a church in Tennessee. I participated in the activity of the church all through my childhood, and believed in accordance with Baptist confession. However, from a fairly early age I developed a desire to compare everything I heard in a pulpit to the Scriptures; and this, I think, is the definite strength of the Baptist tradition. In doing this I began to be bothered by the sometimes conflicting messages of different speakers and evangelists, and this feeling of discordancy grew in me gradually. Also, the knowledge of conflicts and moral lapses within the different congregational structures did little to help me.

However, none of these things were enough to cause my disenchantment with the Baptist tradition, much less from the faith as a whole. As I began to examine doctrinal matters- particularly during my first couple years in high school, after my family's return to Mississippi- I began to shift into Calvinism. I would suppose my 'discovery' of Calvinism to be my first serious theological undertaking. I was quite a determined 'convert', eager to debate points of predestination with my staunchly Arminian friends. I must confess a slight, er, nonconformist bent in my persona, which I found Reformed-dom to fit quite well.

At the same time, I retained most of my Baptist views, just with a strong Calvinistic bent (and a rejection of dispensationalism along with it). Granted, with the predominance of a sort of generic Arminiasm in modern evangelicalism, that was quite a change I suppose, though fully within the bounds of Baptist tradition (most modern Baptists tracing their roots back to the Particular Baptists). Also, I might add, I began to expand my view into the avenues of the Church's history, primarily within the Reformed traditions, but also elsewhere, including Thomas a' Kempis. But more on that shortly.

In the midst of this I underwent a sort of crisis of faith which would influence my next transformation. I have always had an avid love for history, inherited from my father (a graduate student at USM in history at the moment in fact), and it was this care for history that impacted me. Essentially, I began to confront the history of Christianity, and grapple with the problems posed by the Protestant evangelical church (which I understood exclusively in the low-church sense of course). Could I really accept that God had allowed His Church to languish in the worst sort of sacerdontal darkness for so many centuries prior to the Reformation? And if it was in such darkness during this time, how could I possibly be sure of the authenticity of the Canon, or of such essentials as the doctrine of God in Trinity? For if so many of the ideas I had been brought up on were true, then for most of the history of the Church error of all sorts had dominated.

At the same time, I began to notice passages of Scripture which seemed to conflict with my accepted notions. Particularly I began to notice those passages which deal with Baptism: the Bible seemed to be saying things I found 'Romanish'. I also began to be perplexed by the accounts of the Church's structure and ordering; talk of bishops and elders and such, along with St. Paul's bold statements on the nature of the Church, did not mesh with what I had always thought. I also found myself disagreeing, this time by way of my Calvinism, with different evangelists.

It was during this time- in my last year or so of high-school (I am freshman in college right now) that I began to acquaint myself with writers from the Church's past, starting, oddly enough, with Thomas a' Kempis. My interest in him led me to St. Augustine and others from the first few centuries, though Augustine captivated me in particular. I also read more 'high church' Reformed material, on the sacraments in particular, and rather quickly found my views becoming more and more 'catholic'. I also began to understand in further depth the Christology I had always confessed, my worries over historicity and such being gradually relieved. As I progressed further, I found myself understanding and respecting the mind of the Church, particularly as expressed in her first centuries. Also during this time I began to use the Book of Common Prayer for my private prayer: this probably had as much an impact as anything.

To condense the rather numerous and sometimes rather convultuous ramblings involved in this process (including a couple amusing- in retrospect- e-mails I exchanged with Mark Horne), I shall describe where I am now: essentially high-church, orthodox Anglican in my beliefs, with an inclination towards the catholicity of Anglicanism, and a strong respect for Eastern Orthodoxy. I have unshod myself of much of my earlier Calvinism: but that is another story. Also, I should add, that I am still very much a part of a Baptist congregation. There are not a lot options in the small Mississippi town where I currently reside: Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, and then various Charismatic sorts. My current church is also pastored by my dad, which has a definite influence! I might add, we do have some rather weighty disagreements to be sure, but we only discuss those on occasion. Otherwise we get along quite well, and I still take part in congregational life to a great extent.

I am not entirely certain what direction I will take upon leaving my current two-year school and heading off to continue my education. I intend to continue in Anglicanism if I can, as several of the schools I am considering have orthodox churches nearby. But then, I would hardly call myself absolutely determined: lately I have been considering Lutheranism somewhat more, for example. There are a number of difficulties inherent in the Anglican Communion, which are evident enough for me not to list. But right now I am fairly convinced that the Apostolic, Scriptural faith is best met within the parameters of Anglicanism.

So that is a brief (sort of) summary of my somewhat curious walk through the Christian faith thus far.


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