Rather than defining faithfulness as absolute conformity to authority and tribal identity, a trust-centered faith will value in others the search for true human authenticity that may take them away from familiar borders of their faith, while trusting God to be part of that process in ourselves and others, even those closest to us. Pete Enns, The Sin of Certainty, p206
After spending forty years in the pastorate and seeing the corruption, competition, and compromise first hand in three major denominations, I have concluded that we are deeply in need of a new reformation. I left one denomination due to the cover-up of a major fraud oriented scandal and a change in my theological understanding of salvation, was forced to retire from another due to being falsely accused of sexual misconduct (never officially charged-just not reassigned so I could be accused of being a bit biased), and as a member in the third I ceased to seek recognition of orders simply because I am tired of jumping through hoops in order to convince the powers that be (whoever they may be) that I do have God’s call upon my life. Boy that was a long sentence. Still, the church is the bride of Christ and will continue to await the return of the Lord and perhaps receive some needed plastic surgery to cover up the scars that have been self-inflicted. I still believe the church is the means through which we carry out God’s will.
For the last three years I have been seeking to understand what it means to seek God’s will. I finally found a definition that I can fully trust due to its biblical support and theological rational. (Quote) “God’s will is the vocation of every Christian, of every person. In every act of willing we should explicitly or at list implicitly be willing the glory of God for God’s greater glory.” I found this definition in my study of Ignatius of Loyola. I have also discovered that Ignatius put together a set of rules to help a person discern if a path is likely from God or not. These rules are very practical and take into account the reality of the existence and influence of an enemy of humanity and God.
In my own life I wish I would have come to find these rules for discernment sooner. It would have saved me a lot of grief, sorrow, depression, pain, and making choices I wish I would not have made. In all my theological training (and I have a doctorate from Perkins Theological Seminary) I was never given any aid or instruction on how to discern God’s will. Also, there is a great emptiness in how ministers today are trained in regard to engaging in spiritual combat and in dealing with the immaturity and hostility that thrives in most churches today. Even in the training I received to become a certified Spiritual Director I was not introduced to a way of discernment as helpful as I have found in Ignatius.
I love what Jules J. Toner, S.J. writes in his book on Discerning God’s Will; “We ought to take for granted that what the Lord of the whole world works in persons is either for the sake of giving us greater glory or for the sake of lessening our evil when we are not disposed to receive the greater glory (p.22).” God wants to work with us to not only our good but for the good of all creation. When we understand and work to be able to be available to God and to recognize His voice (the purpose of discernment of spirits) we are much better equipped not only to spiritually survive but thrive and bring defeat to our enemy.
I would (and do) encourage all who want to develop deeper confidence (not certainty which is idolatry) in their spiritual walk to seek out a spiritual director who is knowledgeable in Ignatius rules and also to read all they can get their hands on concerning this incredible gift this Spanish mystic has offered us. More on this later.