I certainly have had a paradigm shift over the last few years. I was raised in a fundamentalist Baptist environment, and had evangelical fundamentalist doctrine ingrained in me from the time of a small child in junior church to my early twenties. In my early twenties I got married, left home and went to a state university. Over time my paradigm shifted toward a liberal humanist point of view. While I rejected the assumptions of fundamental Christianity, I none-the-less maintained a strong belief in a Creator God. I believed deeply in a spiritual purpose to our existence on earth.
From my twenties to my mid-forties I continued on with a liberal humanist point of view, and my religious leanings were somewhat pantheistic and slightly new aged. It was in my late forties that I began to see that humanism was not accomplishing its intended result. Humanity was not getting better with education. I saw the innate pathology in myself and others and was watching the world become increasingly callous and evil. In view of this I became reactionary and returned to the evangelical roots. I initially was drawn toward the most legal aspects of Pentecostalism because I thought that this would perhaps be the way to eliminate the pathology that I had grown to dislike.
Over time, I saw that legalism was not really improving me in any substantial way, and it became obvious that it was not improving anyone; especially the ones who thought they were the holiest. What I really saw was that those who were striving to be the holiest were in fact some of the meanest, angriest, most self-righteous people I had ever met. Still, I could not shake my abiding belief in Jesus and redemption, in the Father’s love for humanity, and I did not stop the deep and ever growing relationship that I had with Jesus and the Father via the indwelling Holy Spirit. I knew down deep in my being that evangelical Christianity was way off the mark but I could not demonstrate it to my satisfaction with the scripture. Yet, through all of this the Spirit of God would continue to tell me to “read it all Joe.” I heard this often, and I always knew that the Spirit was telling me that I should read it all because somehow, some way, I did not properly understand what the scripture really said; what I needed was a paradigm shift.
I remained faithful to the prompting and I would continue to read. What I began to see was the Jesus and his followers had shifted paradigms. I saw this shift in four distinctively important ways. First, it was the way in which they viewed scripture… they saw it as solely redemptive. Secondly, they redefined the phrase “word of God” to mean either the gospel, or Jesus the living gospel. Third, I began to see that the New Testament writings were transitional between two covenants. They began with the Old Covenant and a strictly Jewish audience, and progressed to a shift that included the gentiles without circumcision and Torah observance… looking forward to a time when the age to come would make the New Covenant, the only covenant. Fourth and finally, they saw the impending judgment of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple as the end of the age and the beginning of the age to come.
When you stop to think about it, this is a significant paradigm shift; One that was not continued by the early church fathers. The interesting thing about that is that the early church fathers did not come on the scene until forty-years after the destruction of the temple and the fall of Jerusalem. There is a complete silence for forty to fifty years. The faith and practice that began after the forty year silence did not really resemble the faith and practice prior to the destruction of the temple. The fact is… what ended up being known as Christianity, resembled the practice of the Pharisees much more than it did the first century church. Yes, the leaven of the Pharisees did in fact permeate the Church from the early church fathers forward. I have concluded that it is the strong delusion of 2Thessalonians 2:11.
The original paradigm shift was brought about by Jesus and those who immediately followed him and was subsequently lost. I optimistically believe that it will soon be recovered by more and more people.