We have become people who must be in a crowd or at a special event to feel we have fellowshipped with God or known the power of the Spirit. We must have products to buy to feel we are following Jesus. We must decorate our cars, walls and bodies with slogans and art to reassure ourselves we are Christians. We want Christian entertainment, and we call it “worship”, but that is almost nonsensical in any ordinary sense. When we must have a stadium, a six-figure audio visual set up and a major league praise team to have worship where “God shows up”, who are we fooling?
The simple disciplines of the inner life escape us. We rarely pray, but we have all Stormie’s books on prayer. We rarely evangelize, but we’ve been to all the seminars and can use the Evangecube with skill. We can’t stop complaining about the boring worship at church, but we’d drive 500 miles to hear Third Day. We don’t read the Bible and we don’t read books about the Bible and we don’t train our minds, but then why should we? Pastor Rick has been to the grocery store and brought home all the verses we need on every topic, illustrated and alliterated. We aren’t talking to unbelievers, and we can’t turn off television- Christian or otherwise- long enough to read a book. We can go to a Beth Moore study, but we can’t go to the scriptures on our own for 15 minutes a day.
We’re pitiful. I’m pitiful. What are we doing with our lives? And how the heck did we convince ourselves that membership in the mall and the amusement park is following Jesus, loving God and serving our neighbor?
• • •
Before you start praying for my deliverance from the demons blinding me to the truth, I want to make it very clear that C.S. Lewis’s version of demonic activity in The Screwtape Letters is one I can confidently affirm and follow. Lewis shows demons suggesting behavior, bringing thoughts into consciousness and working within divine limitations to bring souls to the “Father below.” But Lewis does not deal with demonic possession or causation, and this is wise. He stays within the boundaries of a cautiously conservative view of scripture without throwing out the insights of science or the truths of human development.
Screwtape advises Wormwood to keep the patient unaware of his existence, and to work to keep the patient in conflict with his mother, at a distance from serious discipleship and attracted to peers who despise religion. A person reading Screwtape is sensitized to the “schemes” of the devil Paul warned the Corinthians to consider, but without the tendency to go into areas of Satanic explanation that are unwise and unwarranted. There is a great deal of pastoral wisdom in Lewis’s book, but it won’t make for much of a conference on “Power Encounters.”
I would urge those who find spiritual warfare to be a valid category to believe what scripture says, but to also believe that scripture does not tell us to resort to the demonic as an explanation for what is plainly ordinary or simply unpleasant to consider.
• • •
So…if the culture war cafeteria line has a left and right side, what side am I on?
I’m a conservative in most ways, but I am not concerned if am labeled a liberal on issues where I deviate from the norm. I’m an evangelical Christian who intentionally identifies with the Liturgical worship of Presbyterianism because evangelicals have become pragmatists at the mercy of merchants. I have no use for the word inerrancy, even though I love the Westminster Confession’s words on scripture. I believe the best way to read the literature of the Bible is as literature. I am totally comfortable with Biblical criticism, as long as it is honest about its presuppositions.
I really don’t care much for what is usually called evangelism. Some of it I completely reject as manipulation, but I believe that the Gospel message must be communicated in every way possible. I think that social action, missions, living a vocation, art, family life, justice and mercy ministries all combine into evangelism. The false choice between evangelism and social action seems childish to a student of church history.
I am pro-life, but I don’t want laws making moms and doctors into criminals. I can live with civil unions. I am not afraid of homosexuals in public life. My experience tends to confirm a belief that key elements of homosexuality are nature more than nurture, but it is a complex phenomenon with many components. Evangelicals are obsessed with homosexuality. It’s weird.
I’m a libertarian sympathizing Republican who could conceivably be a Democrat if a lot changed. I’m a bad Calvinist who can appreciate good Arminians. I love C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias and many other Arminians. I’m for the war on terror and the defeat of terror states. I can live with anyone as a pastor because I read the Bible to say that subjection of women to men isn’t the creation order, but the result of sin.
I support public schools, but I work in a private Christian school. Why don’t we support whatever parents believe is right for their kids? I reject Young Earth creationism. I can accept some aspects of evolution, but not others. I listen to every kind of media and every kind of entertainment. Secular entertainment is better. Conservative media is sometimes more effective, but often knuckle-headed and obnoxious. I’m a blogger, and so are a lot of other idiots.
I want less government unless we need more in order to survive as a nation. I think people ought to be free to do what they want and Christians should quit protesting everything that offends them. I like Dobson on a few things, Piper on most things, Capon of anything related to the Gospel and Jim Wallis more than I did a couple of weeks ago. I voted for Bush, and I like him because I can understand him. He wants to do the right thing.
I graduated from Southern, but I think I would be mostly happy at a liberal school that takes a more progressive view of the Bible. I’m into a lot of modern scholars, but I don’t buy all they say. I treat the scholars I read as people worth listening to, but I don’t expect them to line up with everything I already believed. What would be the point?
Submission in Ephesians 5:21. Egalitarianism in Galatians 3:28.
Every translation has something to say. The ESV is on my desk. The Greek is in my computer. I can preach from anything.
Am I buggin’ ya?
As I said before, it isn’t important to me to line up all my beliefs with the rest of the team. I have my doubts. I have my questions. I am obstinate and stubborn, but I also might be right that we should be true to our own journey, and not true to some team in the culture war.
• • •
A lot of people have a “mission statement” for life. I have something I call a “Life project.” I’m more of a project-oriented person. It helps me think in very practical terms. My current life project can be described like this:
I am deconstructing everything in my life that is not vitally connected to Jesus as King and Messiah.
Why “deconstruction?” Am I just trying to sound postmodern? No…I really am better at tearing things down than at building things up. Like Graham Greene said in The Destructors, “Destruction is a form of creation.” That’s very true for me.
The issue for me is not relating to Jesus. All kinds of people relate to Jesus in some way. The issue is for everything in my life to relate to Jesus. The issue is how does Jesus relate to the total package that is Michael’s world?
When I approach that question, I find that I have to tear down all kinds of things. It’s like discovering a wonderful, valuable painting on a wall, but it’s under coats and layers of other paintings. Those layers have to be removed and then the original painting, once it’s revealed, can be restored to what it should look like.