Posts Tagged Theology
Last Thanksgiving was one to remember. Somewhere in-between the compliments on my mashed potatoes and questions about whether dessert should be both pumpkin and pecan pie, I was told by a fellow Christ follower that I was accursed and going to hell. The conversation had turned from culinary choices to Christian responsibility in discussion of things like same sex marriage, security at church, and evolution versus creation. I felt comfortable around my fellow believers to speak openly about the bible and how it is used in our modern churches. I think that may have been my mistake. Honestly it probably was one of the better thanksgiving meals I have had. It was enlightening.
The specifics of the conversation are less important but the overall context speaks volumes to how we understand God and how the world actually sees us. The modern church seems to have adopted a unique view of biblical understanding. We mash verses like James 1:5 explaining where we should seek wisdom together with Colossians 2:8 about reliance on Christ and not human acumen and we end up with the ability to blame the Holy Spirit for our willingness to argue with the world about what we don’t like. Do we really think that is honoring God?
It seems like our desire for expedience and frankly our fears that we might agree with something we shouldn’t causes us to jump to conclusions about things we probably should chew on and struggle with more. Paul preached in a town called Berea and their response in Acts 17 was to examine the scriptures daily to see if what Paul said was true. The word used (anakrino) is one of active and diligent searching. We seem to have sacrificed that today with a rote memorization of lists of things we are suppose to oppose. One offers the ability to swim in the words of the Creator himself and see how they change us to be more like him. The other affords us the ability to regurgitate on command. How can this truly honor God?
This is not a dark plot to squelch the words of the Spirit or a plan to usurp the throne of God with a conservative agenda of monotone “churchspeak”, it is more realistically a direction adopted from society itself to ease the burden of actually performing anakrino. With the information superhighway linked to everyone’s phones and the focus of modern communication, we are inundated with so many factoids that the only possibility to absorb them is to respond with “like” or “dislike”. We have exchanged the idea of a well-rounded and thorough education with a strong web presence. This does not honor God.
Don’t get me wrong, technology is not to blame, it is just a tool. Our use of it though will determine our efficacy in preaching the true gospel. I met a young man who was pursuing an online theology degree through a major Christian University. He explained it was faster and would get him into ministry sooner with the same educational value. He had been studying for a while so I asked who his favorite theologians were and his answer was that he couldn’t remember the names but he was willing to let me review his textbooks. If the quality of theological education being pursued by ministers today reduces the need to understand the history that brought us where we are and replaces that need with the requirement to offer an opinion in a class discussion post then we are breeding future ministers that will have no real ability to speak for the God they serve. Frankly this dishonors God.
If the some total of biblical examination that we are fostering in our church bodies is to look at an abridged online commentary or for that matter listen to a person who has done that and accept their version of truth, than how are we actually pursuing the call that was given? We are no longer preaching the gospel. We are preaching modern “churchspeak”. One of the clearest directives given in the text is from the prophet Micah. He tells us to pursue justice and mercy and walk humbly before our God. Humility starts with recognizing that our words about God are steeped in the tension of the fact we are speaking about something we have no possibility of understanding fully. If we present it as if it is simple and can be verified through a checklist, if we address the world’s concerns as if they are either on that list or not and therefore some type of abomination, if we stop examining the scripture and just read it to find agreement with our preconceived notions, than our ability to honor God has left the building. I have a large concern that God will follow shortly.
The message of the modern church is being obscured by our own voice. We are reaching some people, but I have to wonder if we are doing justice to them or the ones we are not reaching if we are encouraging compliance instead of diligent scripture searching. This does open up doors for possible misunderstanding and even not addressing sins in peoples lives. I am just not certain that is a bad thing. If we are truly seeking to honor God, then the most important thing to remember is we cannot bind his power to work in people’s lives by the insecurities of our own beliefs. The alternative is simply not working and I fear is an offense to the one we serve.
The diversity of humanity seems to grow exponentially and the desire for inclusion of each person’s uniqueness gains more support each day. We learn more and more each day that God created us as individuals to be part of a community rather than cookie cutter stamps of a preset ideal that we are all required to be. We are individuals and are as different as snowflakes falling from the sky. We do however all have one thing that binds us together on the most basic level. We are broken.
Brokenness is not a flaw that was built into us or an accident that happened to us. It occurred somewhere in the distant past and we are left with it’s effect. It is a flaw that is centered in our philosophical DNA. It is not necessarily something we have ever even seen or understood about ourselves but is definitely part of who we are. A chef may have the best recipe for gumbo with the freshest shrimp, chicken, and andouille sausage ever made, but if he starts with a butter that is tainted, the recipe will never be perfect. The broken spot happened at the beginning and reflects every action taken after that, no matter how pure the actions are.
There is dogma and anti dogma, theology and rebuttal, philosophy and doctrine that all try to explain the reasons and the causal factors. In reality though focusing on the why somehow misses the point and drives us even farther apart. We are broken at the core and deal with ramifications daily.
This one thing that really should unite us all seems to tear us apart the most. We have an innate desire to recognize other people’s brokenness and categorize it in a hierarchal fashion in relation to our own. If we like the person, we think there is hope for us to achieve what they have which is less broken in areas than ourselves and if we don’t, we see it as evidence that our own brokenness is not that bad. We chase the dream of evolution in that one day we might become more than we are and erase the broken parts. We pursue it philosophically and psychologically with self help books and structured treatments. We pursue it spiritually with levels of penance and forgiveness. But are we really just avoiding the issue? The allusive goal of a perfect non broken state is fleeting an can not be achieved. The broken part is in our past an all actions after that reflect it in some way. How can we expect to find perfection in a world that is broken? We approximate perfection and aim at it but can not even fully achieve our goals. So if we are aiming at 60% and get 75% of that, in reality we have achieved less than half perfect. We need to rethink the process.
We need to embrace our brokenness, not celebrate it, but embrace it. If we realize we are broken and unable to attain perfection or even a realistic approximation of that, we are only left with one thing, humility. The essence of humility is not born in the thoughts, it is born in the actions of the heart. If we approach relationships in humility, we stop the cycle of hierarchal evaluation and allow ourselves to experience the value that God created in each of us. The human perspective is real and we discount it far to much. Being real does not make it right, but being real makes it worth understanding and respecting as real before we start trying to fix each other’s brokenness. God created people who experience real circumstances and real fears and real concerns and real faults. Embracing that allows us to connect on a human level that gives us a perspective that can help in the healing process.
Romans 8:29 tells us that we are intended to be conformed to the image of Christ. This verb is active. We will be conformed, not “this occurs when a person starts there journey with Christ”.The journey itself is what conforms them. It takes their brokenness and begins to heal it through this transformation. It is a daily process of recognizing and working with our broken parts and making them change. If we recognize that in ourselves, why is it so hard to recognize in others. Each person on this planet suffers from the same problems as us. If we address those problems by pointing fingers and calling names, we are just making them worse. If we realize that we suffer the same problems, we open the door to communicate and help each other see God better.
Brokenness has no complete cure but it does offer fidelity with others in the same boat. It is the cosmic equalizer that gives us hope that there is more to life than just our own perspectives.
One of the largest foundational understandings of the Bible is that God created the world. Scientists and hardcore creationists can debate the “how” on that for years to come but from a purely faith perspective, God created it and throughout the prophetic books calls on it as witness to his majesty. He is first seen as Lord over creation and then allows humans to live in his domain through that creation. It would seem this subject should be very important in our daily lives, not the worship of creation but the respect for God’s creation. So why hasn’t the church historically been more concerned about that creation?
The claim that the polar ice caps are melting and that may cause torrential weather shifts is becoming less and less believable based upon scientific evidence. But it doesn’t take much to see that world is decaying on a dramatic scale. Air quality is getting worse, our natural resources are being drained, our landfills are overflowing, our ozone layer is reducing, and we spray toxic substances on our growing vegetables to decrease spoilage. We use nuclear reactors to power our world that even when run “safely” create a byproduct of spent uranium and thorium cells that remain wickedly radioactive for a thousand or so years. We currently have no manner of destroying them but we continue to produce them. As a people, we have learned to pollute and contaminate our world to an absurd level.
I am certain that the Christian church cannot stop this. I am certain it will only get worse and God’s creation will only take more and more abuse. But does that mean we do nothing to try? Do we think we are less culpable because the job is daunting? Do we think that God will hold us less accountable for our actions or lack thereof? Do we really think we are not to blame for the damage these actions have caused?
Think about this. We as consumers will not want to spend more money for fruits and vegetables. Stores will look for the lowest prices to ensure their profit margins. Farmers will do as much as they can to make as much of their crop sellable at the best cost possible, this includes toxic pesticides. The workers spraying these pesticides have statistically shown to have higher rates of disease, this includes their families though “take home” exposure. So in effect, simply because I want vegetables without spots at the cheapest price possible, I am affecting the health of other people. And somehow God will not care that I am unwilling to spend more because I want to save up money for a larger TV or Ipad?
I know it is not this simple and buying organic products solely is not possible for all and would not solve to overall issue. But is it not something to think about? I am not the one directly causing these problems, but do I have an indirect responsibility? Does the Church for not getting involved sooner? For myself, I would have to say yes, I do.
My concern is not that Churches are not picketing the local Ralphs or boycotting conventional products. That wouldn’t help and frankly Churches have done enough of that noise for a lifetime. I am more concerned they greatly ignore the question. As I stated, buying Organic will not solve the problem. But turning a blind eye will solve even less. If we are not willing to look at the problem, how can we claim we are acting morally? How can we claim we are treating God’s creation with respect? I don’t have a great answer for all the problems. But I do know that doing nothing is the worst possible answer.