12.07.2005

Myself (or someone like me), v. 1

How to get started on this project...? John at least can't wait any longer. Okay, how 'bout this. I grew up thinking--like millions of evangelicals in America--that salvation happened like this. God tailored salvation for each individual. A lone pilgrim's progress. If I had been the only person on Earth, Jesus would still have died for me. I've come to question that. What I'm not saying is that Jesus didn't die for me. Or that salvation does not demand a person-by-person commitment. What I am saying is that I don't think that Jesus died for me. The individualism in the statements surrounding the "only person in the world" view of salvation I now read as anti-biblical and certainly anti-historical. Instead, to me, this view looks as consumeristic and perverted by American individualism and self-sufficiency as any "Army of One" advertisement run during a Saturday afternoon commercial break. But unlike the US Army, Christians run their "just Jesus and me" commercials on Sunday morning television. What the "just Jesus and me" mentality assumes--and what I now find downright counter to the gospel--is that the Church plays a background role in what is very much my faith. Church is essentially a pleasant waiting room with soft lighting and well-performed music between here and heaven. This explains why many evangelicals take God's prohibition on homosexuality, for example, much more seriously than they do the utopian, idealistic, impossible claims of Paul that "in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no male or female." When we come across a passage like that, we mentally assent to it; then we quickly move on, thinking: that's great in theory, Paul, but no one ever had a church like that. But when it comes to prayer in schools, posting the Ten Commandments in front of a courtroom, or voting down the gay marriage amendment, we initiate nationwide campaigns--we cross all kinds of denominational, class, and even racial boundaries. Why is it so hard to follow the Bible in certain areas and painlessly, even seductively, easy to follow it in other directions (which aren't mentioned in the Bible but are assumed to be in there)? I think some of the answer has to do with this individualism and this consumerism that American Protestants have imbibed over the last century or so. How do we fix it? Well...er...uhhh....

8 Comments:

Blogger Scott Sloan said...

E, I have been reading "Life Together" by Bohoeffer and I think he would agree with your thoughts.

A Godly Community when running on all cylinders is majestic, awesome, and angelic. When a Godly Community made of sinners functions; it isn't running on all cylinders.

I do agree with you that God has created us for a relationship with him, and a relationship with others. The best place to relate to others is through the Church.

My two cents

12/08/2005 12:40 PM  
Blogger e said...

scott--glad you brought up that book. it's one of my favorites. bonhoeffer was so right that the nazis killed him. why do the wicked prosper, indeed.

12/08/2005 1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

e

i like the latest entry. q and i have been discussing this very issue recently. we are quite different in our approach to an answer but agree that the priority of values in the american conception of church is self-serving.

the only person in the world situation is quite the paradox. if that were true, how did Jesus himself get here, let alone the person who needs salvation. also, what about adam and eve? are we assuming that they commited the original sin and we are on thier line?

too many open ended questions to really pin down the circumstances.

as far as the sbc link goes, i think that is a tailored message that takes biblical facts and presnets them in a consumer friendly manner. to borrow a saying, "God is not the cosmic vending machine". the sbc i think can and does tremendous work in Christendom, and thier message would resonate with just about anyone who can understand english. i dont think this resonance will result in accepting Jesus for many of the readers. there is a reason community is important to God, and i believe that a big part of the answer is that we are image bearers by being with and near others.

my quarters worth...

matt

12/08/2005 3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

E-
I don't think I caught the distinction (or at least the significance of the distinction) you make here:

"What I'm not saying is that Jesus didn't die for me. Or that salvation does not demand a person-by-person commitment. What I am saying is that I don't think that Jesus died for me."

Could you explain?

I also wanted to signal my full agreement with the frustration you expressed at the energy many Christians pour into the posting of the Ten Commandments and other politically charged issues, to the neglect of (possibly) more central issues of the faith. Though I certainly agree that the secularization of our culture has gone too far and understand that many of these issues are a fight against that, in regards to the vast amounts of money and time spent on these issues I often think of something Rich Nathan said in a similar context: "Friend, if you want to serve Jesus, you should just give that money to the poor." But, of course, that is not nearly as much fun as a good political fight....

Brant

12/08/2005 3:32 PM  
Blogger 3rp said...

Hi E -

You put to words something I've been feeling, mulling and wrestling with for quite some time. As with many of these things, however, it's easier to spot a problem than it is to offer solutions. I'm not saying this by way of critique, but in admission of my own frustrations. Yes, the church is broke, and frankly anti-Christ in many ways...but Jesus! what to DO about it? (That was a cry, not a curse in case you were wondering.)

These questions-without-answers have me in quite the existential funk, if the truth be known. My only salvation when I'm feeling that frustration is to find that place deep inside my soul that Jesus touched all those years ago...and feel, to my great relief, that it is indeed still warm.

Looking forward to more conversation on the topic...

Sincerely,

A founding brother of the Coalition of the Clueless

12/08/2005 5:09 PM  
Blogger John McCollum said...

"What I'm not saying is that Jesus didn't die for me. Or that salvation does not demand a person-by-person commitment. What I am saying is that I don't think that Jesus died for me."

Brant,

I think I'd put it this way: Jesus is not my personal savior. He saves me as an individual, but not to have an individual, one-on-one relationship with me. He invites me into his FAMILY, grafts me into his BODY.

Growing up, I was always told, "Jesus would come to the earth and die for you if you were the only person in the world." Nice sentiment, possibly true, but not biblically provable, and not necessary to my understanding of God's plan for the world. Even when God uses or sends individuals, he sends them into and uses them within a familial, national or other cooperative context.

It would be inconceivable for writers of scripture to think of a Messiah without an Israel, and later, to think of a Christ without a Church. A Christian living outside of Christian community? Sure, it's possible, but it's almost nonsensical, right? Sort of like being married, but living apart from one's spouse.

12/09/2005 9:14 AM  
Blogger e said...

Brant,
First--thanks for posting. Insightful question.
I want to add something to John's explanation, but honestly it's precisely what i meant to say.

And I want to underline one thing John said: "...not necessary to my understanding of God's plan for the world."

Not only is it not necessary, I think for years that kind of thinking kept me trapped in a "that's someone else's (possibly God's) problem" type of faith. I'm not sure that everyone has that proclivity, but for those who do--for those who are quick to turn away from opportunities to serve others and to live out the gospel surrounded by others--the "doctrine" that salvation is fundamentally an individual choice can be counterproductive, anti-biblical, aiming one away from rather than toward what God likely wants for his people.

What, you might ask, would be evidence for the non-individualistic view? The whole of the NT, but especially Hebrews, James, Acts, 1&2 Corinthians.

But to that I'd add the course of Church history. The testimony of the Church seems to be (among other things) that we can't go it alone ... another reason why that Baptist website was so discouraging....

12/09/2005 8:43 PM  
Blogger e said...

Rich--Existential funk? I hear you. Do you think that, ultimately, that's a good place? I don't like it when I'm there, but somehow I always exit in a different place than I was before. And I wonder if the -ugh- of the existential crisis is the pain of reorientation... i dunno.

12/09/2005 8:46 PM  

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