reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Talking about God.

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 15 comments
Especially working ye olde CUs one occasionally gets into a conversation that goes a bit like this.

A(vaguely heretical but nice): we should talk about God's love. People needs to know that God loves them because they have low self esteem/need to love him back/other platitude

B (not heretical but a tad self-righteous): er...no. People need to know that God is holy and angry at their sin so they know they need to be saved.

A: weeps

B: smiles beatifically while not intending to tell anyone who isn't a Christian anything about God at all.

Well, last week we tried this new thing at church. We had an excellent talk on Isaiah 6 at church in the morning. If you aren't aware, Isaiah 6 is the passage where Isaiah has an amazing vision of God's holiness and suddenly realises what a sinner he is.
In the evening, we then just sat round with coffee and discussed the talk, applied it, worked out what it means for us. I was in an excellent and lovely group of peeps who helped me to some great insights.
The thing I noticed is this. The response God wants from us in the Gospel is repentance and faith; that is to say - to realise that he is God and I need his help, and then take his help. As soon as Isaiah sees what God is like that is exactly his response - at least that is my paraphrase of "Woe is me for I am a man of unlcean lips". And so God's cleanses him with the stone from the altar.
No one explains to him what repentance and faith is. No one goes through two ways to live or knowing God personally with him. He just sees who God is and his response is "I am sinful, I need help".
Which means A is wrong. But so is B probably. The whole conversation stems, I think out of a wrong presumption - that my job is to tell people the route map to becoming a Christian - the steps. And then we disagree about what order the steps come in.
Rather it seems to me, we'd be better just talking about God. And cleverly, the way God has set it all up to work is that when we see who he is and what he is like (and I mean really see that - in such a way that he himself must have opened our eyes to it) our "knee jerk" reaction is to say "oh help" - which is exactly the response that the Gospel requires.
So much of my own sin and lack of repentance doesn't come through lack of effort, weak will and no self discipline - although those are certainly factors in my life. Those things, and my sin all come from on a lack of reflection on who God is. For if I reflected on that and God's Spirit opened my eyes to it as I reflect on it, then my reaction would be - well it would be to repent and believe.
It isn't cruel or nasty or cold to talk about the holiness of God. Because if people really get it they will knee jerkily think "help me". Exactly what God is looking for. Genius.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Evangelical = no head on my shoulders.

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 1 comments
Weird? Well about 350 years ago it would have been true.

Serious. I have been reading a book this week that I found, in all places, in Ben Mandley's filing cabinet at the Leicester office, called "The story of the church." And I really didn't realise before that it wasn't all that long ago that people like me - ie people who don't find a via media between Protestant and Roman Catholic an acceptable expression of faithfulness to Jesus -were being put in prison, not allowed to own property or get a job, being starved to death, and yes having their heads chopped off. That's why they mostly moved to America. then some of them had a nice time under Cromwell, who went a bit mad and chopped everyone else's heads off, and then the Scots managed to get Charles 2 on the throne and he was even worse to the Puritans. Another great gift from the Scottish.

You know, sometimes I wonder whether all of our 21st century western Christianity is just so sanitised. Our, " I need God's guidance - should I be a lawyer or a pilot," theology is miles away from the majority of Christian history where it was "I need God's guidance, should I back down from what the Bible teaches, or should I get my head chopped off?" - so far away, it almost seems like a different religion. For these people, they didn't just say that the Gospel was life and death stuff, it actually was that for them. And it wasn't that long ago. And those times weren't that different from these times.

I suppose what I'm saying is, let's not shape a theology that "works" for times of comfort. Our heritage was forged in the fires of burned martyrs, beheaded Puritans, jailed preachers. Our idea of God shouldn't revolve around "what should I do with my life" as much as "thank God I get to keep my life for this long". Our forefathers didn't.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Genius

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 10 comments

Ok - I reviewed a lot of books a bit negatively recently. So time for an extremely positive one. This book is total genius.

Joshua Harris is author of such titles as "I kissed dating goodbye" (maurice=NOT a fan) and "Boy Meets Girl" (maurice=a bit more of a fan). This is by far his best book, as it challenges the post-modern approach to church, and says "you may believe you are geting the best deal by dipping in and out of church, but you are only missing out."

There are loads of great things about this book - excellent advice about choosing a church, brilliant practical stuff about how to get the most out of it when you go, fantastic stuff about using Sunday to it's best potential.

But the best thing is that Harris takes what Jesus thinks of the church as the basis of what we should think of it. IE, this book is not legalistic (like some of his dating books have tended to be in my opinion) but grounds our commitment to church in relational, Gospel, grace terms. Church matters to Jesus more than we realise.

It's also immensely readable, short, and theologically clear without being at all heavy. You could easily give it to people who don't read much - students and teenagers and they wouldn't be bored or intimadated. And people who don't read Christian books much are the people, in my experience, who most need to hear the message of this one.

You know, I felt challenged by this working for a para-church movement. Often we can think, in my line of work, that we do the exciting pioneering stuff and the church is like the backstop or beneficiary of our missionary zeal. But the church is the point of it all. Jesus loves the church - the universal church represented by the local congregation, and our aim must be to be a resource and supporter of the local church.

One thing I'm not sure about, and I'd be interested in your views. Harris says that "corporate worship" is a special time, when we "worship" uniquely and differently to when we are alone. "Something happens" that can't quite happen when we are alone (or even gathered together with Christians outside the local church body.) I'm not sure what I think of this. My school of thought (heavily influenced by the conservative evangelical theology of Sydney Anglicanism, to which I owe much) says that the special presence of God with the gathered congregation is an Old Testament thing. Church is now about learning and encouragement to worship with our lives the rest of the time. Obviously Joshua Harris (and other people he is influenced by who I respect a lot, like John Piper and Mark Dever I think) don't agree with this sort of binary qualification on this. What do you guys think?

Oh - also, Joshua Harris has a subtle but definite dig at Blue like Jazz in this book - which also made me smile.