Friday, February 05, 2010


Where's The Church?

Matt Anderson wrote a post recently in criticism of an essay that appeared in Christianity Today about the problems in evangelicalism. The piece is an extended metaphor about where the church stands - at the foot of the Cross or in the glories of Pentecost. Says Anderson:
Galli’s essay is undoubtedly evangelical in its orientation. But I worry about his choice to locate the church at Golgotha, looking up to Jesus on the cross. While perhaps only symbolic, our formulation of the vertical will significantly alter the resources we have to bring to bear on the horizontal. And how we structure these issues matters, a point Galli clearly agrees with and uses against those who are advocating spiritual formation. But the Church does not look up at Christ on the cross, but rather looks up to the ascended Christ. By positioning the Church at Pentecost rather than Golgotha, we preserve and maintain the Church’s distinctly pneumetological character, a distinction that it might be said is particular to evangelicalism and our emphasis on the contemporary working of God through conversion.
In my never to be humble opinion, both men have a good point. We do indeed "look up at the ascended Christ," but we must remember that the early church did so while still feeling the sting of the crucifixion.

Too often we stand in the glory of Pentecost without the requisite humility of the Cross. In point of fact, if we do not take the entire journey with Christ, cross to grave to resurrection then to be followed by the indwelling on the Spirit, our claims of victory are hollow.

There could be no Pentecost if there was not a crucifixion. Too often we rush to the former and ignore the later.

I attended university as the hand-held calculator came into vogue. My first 4-function cost well over $100. I took most of undergrad school on a slide rule because I could not afford a scientific calculator. There is a feel, an intuition, to higher mathematics that one can develop only when one has lived in the in the boredom and mechanics of arithmetic. There is an understanding of the "guts" of math that is missing in those who only know the buttons of a device when it comes to addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. When one can handle numbers as easily as one breaths, something that comes only with doing lots and lots of arithmetic, then the manipulation of algebraic equations, really just doing arithmetic in the abstract, practically happens in your head without effort.

Absent the arithmetic background, steeped only in the calculator, algebra and beyond becomes complex, difficult, and often done wrong.

So it is with Pentecost - it is the calculator. When we rush to its use, we first grossly underestimate its power and usefulness, but we also tend to misuse it.

The Cross and Pentecost are a package deal. The church stands at Pentecost, but the Cross casts an immense shadow over the crowd.

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