Reality Check

10 01 2009

My wife and I are quite different in our reading tastes. I only read non-fiction. She only reads novels. A few days ago my wife said to me that she wished she had the desire to read the Bible more, pray more, and “spend more time with God”. While I read a lot of theology, and am often reading the Bible, I too desire the same thing as her. Her desire wasn’t for the Bible or prayer. Like many Christians, what she wanted, was a connection. A relationship. We all want to experience the love of Jesus in our every day lives. We hunger for that authenticity, and reality in our relationship with Jesus that is just not there. We long to be fully human, we groan for it, as does creation.  

My distrust of the emerging church and post modernism has slowly been eroded. Not completely though, as there are still some radical strains of this church out there. Those, according to Mark Driscoll, who have a low view of scripture and refer to God as a “Chick”. I remember reading Rob Bell’s book Velvet Elvis, and thinking that he’d got himself a set of very muddled beliefs. I still do in some respects (Bell’s position on Sola Scriptura is a bit strange, and so is his view on eternal security e.g. forgiven people in hell?) but I realise there can be unity in diversity. Today I watched some of his Nooma videos and was blown away. He expressed the same longing for intimacy, and authenticity in my Christianity as I do. It was moving. He didn’t have to have all the answers, all the right doctrinal positions, but he sure was asking the right questions. Thinking this over has lead me to a couple of interesting places.

Firstly, The Church has been and always will be made up of human beings. No matter how good we get at handling our own sin, and brokeness we will always be human beings. Our final, resurrected glory will still be very human. Mark Strom used to say “This stuff, this matter. Get used to it ’cause it not going anywhere”. Those leading, and those within the Church need to own up to this fact. The mission of the Church is not to have a definitive position on every ethical issue but to reach the world with the Gospel. We are the vehicle that proclaims the Lordship of Jesus Christ to the world. No other vehicle can do that. But it starts with us being human beings who are remade, and are being remade in the image of God. 

Secondly, the Church needs to keep its doors open to imperfect people. We need to welcome people who do not share our theological point of view. We need room for people who doubt, struggle, and wrestle with the Christian faith. If we’re honest we all do, and it should not be something we try to hide. We need to be open about it and by jove be proud of it. Christians are still humans after all, hooray! However flawed by sin we may be, we are still something worth dying for. The Church can be united in essentials and differ on non essentials. I don’t believe in the Rapture, never have. Some people do, and thats okay. Some don’t believe in speaking in tongues, I do and can speak in tongues. Does that mean we go off and start separate churches? No, the result of us staying as one body means we both grow as we wrestle with each others interpretation. We grow in Grace and in Humility. Instead of us learning 9 marks that separate prebyterians from baptists we learn how to love and respond to those who differ from us. We need to learn how to be human beings.

Lastly, I’ve learnt that my struggle for honsty, authenticity, and the holy discontent I feel at times is completely normal. Its supposed to happen. Its part of the growing process, its part of the “birth pangs” Jesus spoke about. Its part of us being a sign to those around us. We’re learning with them, not learning how to be against them. We serve an invisible God. Someone we don’t see everyday (unless those tortilla images are real). Its hard to trust someone you see, let alone some one you don’t see. Its hard to understand someone finite, with well defined expectations, let alone someone infinite.

My question to you is will you join me in my struggles and doubts? Will you stand with me, not against me, as I learn. Will you model Grace to me so that I can in turn model it to others? Will you be a sign to the unbelievers that this Christianity, that loving, serving and following Jesus really does work? That is my question to you today!

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3 responses

10 01 2009
Mason

Grant, I really enjoyed this post, it resonated a lot with where I am as well right now. I have my openions on theological and ethical issues (obviously) but I am incredibly fed up with the idea that differing on those issues amoung belivers means we should break fellowship and start different sub-groups. How do we expect to learn, or grow, or be challenged to deepen our faith is we only assosiate with people in our little group who all believe exactly what we do?
One can take that too far, but within reason I think a great many of the things that separate Christians should be embraced and discussed while not leading to disunity. Doubt, struggles, and differences in understanding are very much a part of being human, and it is ridiculous for the Church to pretend they are not.

As far as Emerging/Emergent goes, there are indeed some who take it way too far (Wittmer’s “Don’t Stop Believing” does well in critiquing that) but there is a lot of good in the movement as well. There are some outstanding authors who are in one way or another “Emerging” but very Biblically grounded, and like you pointed out there are a lot of important questions being asked. I think postmodernism is important if for no other reason than how it points out the flaws of the modernist/Enlightenment project.

I don’t know that I’d really call Rob “Emergent” unless you’re defining that rather broadly. I know he says some controversial things, but most of the time it seems that is to get people to think or reevaluate stuff.
I actually have been going to his church for the last six months or so, and have read each of his books, and find that he really is a lot more Biblically grounded than people give him credit for (of cource, if I didn’t think that I wouldn’t be going I guess).
Their doctrinal statement below sound a bit Wrightish actually, and affirms all the big things (Trinity, deity of Christ, virgin birth, death/burial/resurrection/atonement/ 2nd Advent/ Creation/Fall/New Earth/etc.) might be worth a read.
http://www.marshill.org/pdf/narrativeTheology.pdf

11 01 2009
aworthydiscussion

Yeah I was on their website the other day. Bell tends to be a mixed bag, and as my pastor says, very “stream of consciousness” kind of stuff. I’ve listened to some of his podcasts and watched some of his noomas which are better articulations of his sermons. I love the authenticity of those in the emerging church. People are remembering that once they acknowlege Jesus as Lord and Saviour, they remain people, not supermen and women. This is what is drawing me to them at the moment. I guess it will take a bit of time for the ideas to work themselves out. My next read will be Grenz’s Theology for the Community of God.

11 01 2009
Mason

Actually used Grenz’s “Theology for the Community of God” as one of the textbooks in the series of Systematic Theology classes I took as an undergrad.
It was quite well written, and really made you think through the issues in a way many systematics don’t, didn’t spend so much time listing passage references for one thing.
Even though I was not always in line with what his conclusions I’d definitely recommend it and say that overall I liked where he was coming from.

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