Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Really, Really Good News

To restate the “raison d'être” (reason for being or purpose) of this blog is not to create a militant vantage point, on which to cast down fireballs of criticism of the “franchised church,” or even Evangelicalism. Neither is it to persuade those happy with the status quo to be unhappy. It is my feeble attempts to create a smooth place in the vastly confusing Evangelical Christian world for those of us who have suffered some sort of disillusionment.

While there are excellent, well thought out and written blogs and other web pages on this matter, I have chosen to write simply for two reasons. First, I don’t have the time to write the deeply theological and philosophical treatise. If you notice, although I try not to be sloppy, that I do have typos and this is the fruit of my haste. If I do not write in haste, often between patient visits, then I would not have time to write at all. The second reason I write colloquially, is that I don’t think the reader has time to read a well-written treatise. If they do, there are other web sites that they should explore, along with this one.

I want to also restate my expertise and perspective . . . in summary. I am not an ivory-tower theologian. I too am a pilgrim. I started my life deep within the Bible-belt in Tennssee. I got involved with a very intense Evangelical group as I was graduating from high school (The Navigators). I spent four years in college with them and then went to an intensive (monastery-like) program of “discipleship” and training to be staff. I went on staff and then became a missionary to one of the most difficult places on earth (the Moslem world . . . in the Middle East). There I suffer a devastating disillusionment with Christianity (when I had a “The Emperor is wearing no clothes” event). It was when I came to the enlightenment of my boss’s dysfunctional behavior . . . and then my own (and we both thought that we were "godly"). Read more about it in my posting below “The Year of the Rabbit.”

My expertise in this matter is that I became consumed with trying to understand what happened with me. I studied for over a decade. I intensely studied scripture—cover to cover. I studied history, philosophy and psychology (although I already had a degree in psychology). I don’t think I have all the answers but I have enough. I have enough that I’ve gone ahead of you and cleared out a place in the woods where you can rest.

Now the purpose of this posting is to act in balance to the negative things I’ve posted. Maybe (and sadly) it came about after reading other Christian blogs (see my Disney Land Christianity posting). While I do not believe in “smiling” Christianity, I do want to point out, that if you really listen to what I am saying, there is more real joy in these posts than anywhere else within Christendom.

If you listen to the most popular preacher in America today, Joel Osteen, you can see why his message is so popular. I want to do an entire posting on his phenomena later. It is the same reason that Norman Vincent Peale’s message hit a cord with his hearers (and I went to one of his talks once). But I think their version of the Good News is a little like giving alcohol to an alcoholic rather than food. The immediate result is positive (good feeling) but in the long run, solid food would do more good for them.

The good news that you will hear me allude to, over and over, is the simple gospel. Jesus’ blood has covered all our sins, our faults, our short-comings, failures, poor judgments, mistakes, criminal acts, bad feelings, mental illnesses, lack of skills, lack of money, lack of good looks, lack of discipline, lack of perfection, lack of success, bad attitudes, emotional baggage, rage, psychosis, and I could go on for ad nauseum. But you already know that . . . but you don’t really KNOW that.

I know that you don’t’ know (I sound like Donald Rumsfeld don’t I?) because none of us fully know the essence of the gospel.

Almost every protestant church would agree with this impression of the Gospel, Jesus alone, but in reality, American Evangelicalism teaches something else. It is Jesus plus strings.

The strings get emotionally mixed up with the gospel and with our false concepts of sanctification. We say, come to Jesus and you are saved, his righteousness covers you in the “Justification arena” but not in the practical arena. Just listen to the verbiage in Christian circles, sermons, music, and interactions with other Christians (especially around group prayer or Bible study). Listen to concepts such as “God pleasing,” “I’ve disappointed God,” “God is mad at me,” “There’s a barrier between God and me,” “I failed God again,” and this too could go on and on.

Throughout the history this attempt of reconciling God’s grace with God’s judgment has been very difficult for the Church. The best example, in my opinion, is Luther. His revelation, after spending his years trying his best to earn God’s good pleasure, not trying to win salvation (although one could argue about that point) was when he realized that it was GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS, not his own. This was a huge breakthrough. But, as much respect that I have for Luther that even he never fully understood how good this news is. Read more about him at: http://www.xenos-cincy.org/study/luthcross.htm

I know that this posting is getting long, but I must get to my point.

My point is that all humans, and Christians are no exception, are deeply driven by the desire to be significant (see my posting about the Essence of Human Behavior). This is a natural longing that I believe that God put in us at our creation. Of course all of our significance has been tainted by the Fall and our own sin. But we don’t realize (or if we do realize it is so brief it is like the micro, nanosecond creation of a sub-atomic particle in an atomic accelerator). So on this side of the cross, we still feel inadequate and continuously strive for adequacy. But the good news is that we don’t have to strive any longer. If we accept the righteousness of Christ, we MUST ACCEPT it fully. I am perfect in God’s eyes. When he looks at me he sees Christ. When I do bad things, he still sees the righteousness of Christ. Can you get that? I mean, if you look at porn, God sees Christ. When you fail your kids, God sees Christ. When you are irritated, God sees Christ. When you don’t have some fantastic ministry going, God sees Christ. At this point you should feel (if you are really listening) a huge burden lifing from your shoulders. You should start to float above the room.

Now the reason that the Church has not wanted you to know this, is that throughout the ages, the false information has been very useful to the church. Just look at the dark ages, the Church manipulated people with their constant feelings of inadequacy. It was called penitence then (and the Church got rich off of it).

But modern Evangelicalism is no better. The present church uses guilt all the time. The best example is the penitence of “going to church.” If you are not giving enough to him (as one pastor was saying on TV this week) you are "stealing from God." There is much more I want to say here but I will move on.

So to beg the question, and the fear that’s been used since the reformation, is that if the masses really understood how saved they were (not just “justified for Heaven” ) but constantly and totally approved by God . . . even after your most hideous sin, God is still smiling at you and saying “This is my beloved son with whom I am well please.” God leaps over you with joy . . . just when you get done lying or stealing or masturbating. This my friend is the good, good news not, as Joel Osteen would say, “You can be a better person next year than this year.”

Okay, next you think about . . . what I am saying opens the door for “cheap grace.” Hey, first of all grace is FREE. But if you mean that this gives us the license to sin up a storm . . . then you are starting to see how wonderful grace is. But, at he same time, you are failing to see how harmful sin is to your life here and now. God didn’t give us his law because he was a “control freak” in the same way that a dictator would say, “salute me when I enter the room or I will execute you.” God gave us the law for OUR good, as his loving gift to us. If we understood the law, that our failure in it makes us dependant on Christ and by obeying it we live a higher quality of life, then we have the proper motivation to do what it says. I would like to write much more about the real reason that we shouldn't sin.

More later.

No comments: