A Breath of Rejuvenating Air
I was born the year before the Bay of Pigs invasion. Although we had connections with my grandparents' church in the country, we were basically a pagan American family. This all began to change when I turned eight. Thanks to the influence of the caring members of a little neighborhood church down the street, my parents sent us to our first church service. This proved to be a life-changing experience.
After a family crisis in 1972, we came to faith in Christ as a family. My personal acceptance of Christ came in the summer of 1974. From this point, my spiritual progress was rapid and intense. Through Sunday School, teen Bible quizzing, and the Christian Service Training program of my local church, I made up for lost time and progressed beyond many of my teen-aged Nazarene fellow disciples.
Now my home church in northwestern Pennsylvania was typically Appalachian in many ways. Many of our folk revered the King James Bible, dispensational premillenialism, southern gospel music, and Liberty University--not necessarily in that order. When as a senior I announced my intentions to study at a Christian university, several older saints at my church expressed deep concern that I was attending a “liberal” –– albeit Christian –– northeastern school. I, however, would not be dissuaded from what I sensed God wanted me to do.
In my university days, I was exposed to another side of the holiness movement. This branch of my Christian family tree was not afraid of scholarship; not shy about new ways of sharing the Gospel; and not close-minded in its cultural vision of what a Christian could and should be. This experience, plus my master’s work at Seminary, confirmed the vision of my college Dean in my life: There is no conflict between the best in education and the best in Christian faith.
Rather than going on to doctoral studies after the M.Div. work was completed, my wife and I followed God's leading to enter into full-time Christian ministry. During the past 25 years, my politics have become more conservative; we have had two wonderful children; and we have influenced dozens upon dozens of people (maybe hundreds) to accept Christ as Savior and to follow Him as Lord. But, with one exception, none of our churches seemed to highly value the role of the pastor as scholar. On second thought, let me clarify this statement. My churches wanted their pastor to be intelligent. They just did not think that further formal study was necessary to achieve that goal.
Presently we are serving in the mid Ohio Valley in West Virginia. The Appalachian factors mentioned above still exist here, but one more factor is at work now. Young Earth Creationism has become the dominant view in our church culture here, and for many people has become a critical test of orthodoxy. As a pastor, I understand the reasons that people are drawn to this view. On the surface, Creationism appears to take the word of God seriously. It greatly simplifies the issues, and it also creates a comfortable hedge of protection between Christian faith and atheistic philosophies.
Historically in my church, however, we have allowed members to disagree agreeably on a number of issues. Among these issues are included eschatology and, at least to this point of time, the science of origins. But in the world of middle America, one can feel like a traitor at worst, or disingenuous at best, if one does not walk the line of Lindsellian inerrancy and Young Earth Creationism.
This is why I appreciate the BioLogos Web site. BioLogos brings a breath of rejuvenating air to those who want to think more deeply and challenge the Zeitgeist of our popular evangelical age. I myself have only begun to scratch the surface.
Welcome to the curious, the doubting, and to any who would enter this world of wonder.
Rev. Mapes has 25 years of ministry experience throughout the Appalachian region. He is currently serving in the small town of Ravenswood, W.Va.