Friday, May 04, 2012
We hear it all of the time in modern evangelicalism. “God is pure, and he cannot endure impurity.” Most skeptics I’ve come across dismiss such a god because (1) he must be some supreme perfectionist who just can’t stand impurities in his house (“Ooh, get it away . . . it burns, it burns); or (2) he would have to be the supreme grump who gets just plain irritated by it (“Whew—wow! Get that stench out of here . . . it’s stinking up the place something awful”).He goes on at great length, but the heart of the matter is this:
I don’t consider those characterizations to be irreverent, because I now believe they are byproducts of a well-intentioned but wrong-headed (sometimes wrong-hearted) evangelical idolatry, which I have long and enthusiastically practiced and preached. I came by it honestly enough, though . . . it’s ubiquitous in just about everything evangelical. Nevertheless, the consequence is a doctrinal malady in the Western church of which I’d like to argue it’s time we all repented, especially in our evangelizing, preaching, and teaching.
Christian faith is not about sin management, it’s about managing to love.
As with sin, so also holiness—we evangelicals can be just as prone to make holiness all about perfection, when it is actually entirely about intimacy. Accordingly, perfection is not what makes holiness holy—any perfection that would be holy is merely its symptom (as verb-sins are to noun-sins). The irony is that love is what makes holiness (and anything or anyone) holy.Excellent point, right on! But somehow this formulation sits wrong with me. By using phrases like "God is no perfectionist," Bubeck leaves the door open for the lazy, cheap grace Evangelical to drive through, often with a Mack truck. (A problem I find far more prevalent in Evangelical circles than the perfectionist strain - "self-help" is a different story.) God is in fact a perfectionist, it is how we get to His perfection that is at issue - something that Bubeck says, but way he says it appears to give permission to those that wish to not try so hard.
Just consider that sinless incarnation of the consummately holy God the Son. It’s not as if when he became a man, the Creator needed to avoid contracting some viral or genetic dispositions. Sin is independence from God; and God the Son, though fully in human form, cannot be independent from God . . . if for no other reason than that he himself was and is fully God. So it should follow that the reason Jesus would not commit (verb) sins was because he was not in the (noun) state of sin. The reason Jesus was perfectly sinless was because he was perfectly in love with the Father (and Holy Spirit).
The problem I think Bubeck would be better attacking in this manner is the problem of the self-help Christian. So much has been reduced to that. Such expressions seeks to help us overcome our psychological maladies more than our sin.
One of the hardest thing about being a Christian is that it is all encompassing, every point has a counter-balance. We need to be careful when we make points not to negate that counter point.