Saturday, February 20, 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
"Losing My Religion"
Greg Boyd, in his newest book, The Myth of a Christian Religion: Losing Your Religion for the Beauty of a Revolution, begins with this: "Once upon a time I embraced the Christian religion... [which he lost and that was] "a tremendous blessing. Because when I lost my religion, I discovered a beautiful revolution."I have to agree entirely on McKnight's take on the state of American evangelicalism, but I also want to point out that it arose in response to conditions within the mainstream where it too had become "thin" - though a different remix. And frankly, such were the forces that shaped the Reformation.
The reason there are Greg Boyds in this world is because American evangelicalism has been a thin remix of Romans, a religion shaped too much by a simplistic gospel and too rarely shaped by the robust kingdom vision of Jesus that itself gave rise to a much more robust gospel in Paul.
Are we doomed to a never ending succession of splits, fractures, an divisions? It makes you wonder. I am not in favor of the post-evangelical future found in the individualistic or emerging expressions we see coming. I find myself hoping for revival of the institutional churches. I am probably pipe-dreaming, but it is what I pray for. The institutions offer us something that we cannot achieve without - witness by the ever increasing rapidity with which the next thing arises.
So what is an individual Christian supposed to do? Obviously, the move is to take one's ball and strike out on one's own - that is the move to the "emerging" church. I'd like to suggest that real Reformation comes not by going away, but by "seditiously" staying within. Change the church by being changed.
God changed the world not by leaving it, but by incarnating into it. The church cannot be fixed by leaving it - we can only reform it by living in it. We can only reform it if we are reformed.
Stay in the church, but don't worry about the church, worry about being who God wants you to be in the church.
Think about this for just a minute. The essence of leaving church is about us - we know better, we are smarter, etc. But the essence of true transformation is self-denial, service, even unto death.
Church is not much fun, nor is it often particularly helpful to my faith - though many of the individuals in it are. But I serve the church, it does not serve me. Think about it.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Hurt and Healing at Home
But sometimes following Jesus means being sent back to a place where we once knew desolation and indescribable pain. The thought of returning there conjures up fears of our old demons and the people who knew us as we were back then. But it is there that the grace of God in our lives will shine the brightest.Wonderful words, but frightening. I have (had?) such a place. I truly thought it past tense, but events of recent years have caused much of the pain and hurt to resurface. They are deep scars.
What Jesus wants us to know is that his salvation and his protection extend to those old, horrible haunts. If he can break the death-grip Satan once had on us and set us free, then he can redeem the places of our former slavery and make them showcases of God’s omnipotent grace.
Do not be afraid. The Good Shepherd will walk with you and protect you on the darkest road (Psalm 23:4). Declare how much God has done for you. You are being sent because there are other tomb-people to free.
One wonders what this was like for the man years later, or if Elijah (I Kings 19) ever had dark periods again?
We are reminded that the victory is won, but the battle is far from over. We are reminded that the victory is not ours, but His. We can't win - only He can. God gives us such places to remind us that only He can win the victory.
But we must remind ourselves that He has, and we must do as He tells us.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
The "Art" of Balance
- We must allow art to be art.
- Art is valuable, but so are a lot of other things.
- Art can do some things, and it can’t do some other things.
- Our worship should strive for artistic excellence, but our worship will inevitably be “popular” and propositional.
- Churches can learn to welcome artists, but artists should not expect the church to be an art gallery.
- Artists can help us see our idols, and artists have idols of their own too.
There is some good stuff and some not so good stuff there. There are a few things that I think need to be born in mind. First of all, we need to remember that the creative impulse is the first place we encounter God - when He created us. As creatures in God's image we are likewise made to create.
Having said that, creativeness has many expressions. I have long argued that an elegant theorem is as creative as a beautiful painting. Perhaps not as accessible, but certainly as beautiful and creative.
But in order to say that we have to understand that creative and artistic is not necessarily distinct from "propositional." A well rendered painting can communicate a proposition sometimes more effectively than the written word.
But I am unwilling to grant that Christianity is a purely "propositional" enterprise. You see, in the end, Christianity is an encounter with the supernatural. Such a thing will, I think, involve all of our nature, and our nature extents far beyond our intellect.
Which takes me back to creativity. Where do you experience transcendence? Where have you "touched the supernatural?" Perhaps it is atop a mountain, or staring at a beach - maybe in the love of your spouse or at your mother's bosom. If you have not experienced such, I pity you and urge you to seek it out.
Art can do that as well. Admittedly, much of modernity precludes it, but we do not have to be modern. I have personally found transcendence in the incredible cathedrals of old - as I have at 14,000 feet in Colorado. Artists, writers, and preachers are all the instruments of the Holy Spirit. He is the key.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
I am not saved by believing— I simply realize I am saved by believing.Agreed, but somehow the statement terrifies me. To many people take it as license rather than understand the humility that MUST be born of such a realization. Our "realization" is insufficient and incomplete. We act as if we are deserving of such incredible grace, such immeasurable love. The result is a church that looks no different than the world, which means that the realization is never truly passed on.
I am not saved by my repentance, but my repentance is necessary to truly realize God's grace.
When we fail to discuss our sin, when, for the sake of the seeker, we do not point out how deeply offensive we really are, the grace we realize is insignificant. We all grant insignificant grace daily. Even though someone cutting us off in traffic can anger us, it also often goes uncommented upon. It is an insignificant grace. Or the person that ungraciously races to beat us into the grocery store line - again, even if it elicits minor irritation, it eventually is forgotten. It is an insignificant grace.
But our transgressions towards God are not so easily forgotten. There is nothing insignificant in the grace He grants us. If for no other reason that He is God - KING, one does not ignore Him or His commands - such is treason and punishable by death. You see, in the end its not about us, its about Him.
God's grace is so often discussed, but its depth, width, height and mass rarely is. Yet therein lies the true miracle of it. The world is full of grace, and full of grace which we do not acknowledge. But only God's grace is that big, that incomparably immense - so big that the ignore it is sin itself.
I tire of hearing of grace, I want to hear of GRACE!
Monday, February 15, 2010
What Are You Fighting For?
Where films depart from the rules of objective moral order, they become merely silly. For example, there is a simply absurd scene in the third Matrix movie (I forget the name—Matrix Revisited? Matrix Rehashed? Matrix Regurgitated? Something like that) where Agent Smith, the Evil Secret Policeman of Evil, mocks and challenges hepcat ninja-Messiah Neo, asking him why he fights? Neo, being a hepcat postmodern ninja-Messiah figure, cannot say he fights for truth, justice and the American Way, as the superheroes of an earlier and healthier period could say (despite that Neo is quite obviously fighting for these things); he cannot say he is fighting for the woman he loves (despite that he obviously is, both during her life and in her memory); he cannot say, like an earlier Messiah, but one who did not use so much slick wirework Kung Fu, that he is fighting to bring the bread of heaven to men, to free the captive, to heal the sick and restore the dead to life (even though Neo has been freeing, healing and resurrecting like gangbusters during all three movies). No, his only answer, his sad and pathetic only answer, is to announce (amid a flourish of trumpets meant to sound inspiring) “BECAUSE I CHOOSE TO!” It is enough to make you spit your popcorn onto the floor in a flood of salty, butter-substitute dripping laughter. Well, if that is your reason, why not just choose not? It is, however, the modern subjectivist moral-relativist answer, and, unfortunately, even if moral-relativism were a true doctrine and not a heresy, it is an un-dramatic doctrine. It does not make for good theater.As a fan of the heroic, I am struck by two things.
For one, "truth, justice, and the American Way" is not ours to fight for, It is God's - we are His servants in the fight for those things. Secondly, and relatedly, we have no choice in the matter because we too are His.
"Something bigger than ourselves" is a vitally important concept - Lewis called it a "pre-evangelical" concept. That is to say, before there is evangelism, the world must come to understand that there is such a thing.
But like all things - that can become an idol too. We get so wrapped up in fighting for justice by say, a mission to the Dominican, that we forget why we doing it. We work so hard to prevent abortion that we forget we do so on behalf of the one that made the life to begin with.
The fact of the matter is, the very idea of a hero is a misguided one. Even when we do the heroic, we do not - God does it through us.
We must never forget.