Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christian Groups: Human and Supernatural

Is God's intent to foster a group of people prepared to enter into His intimacy for eternity or is it to establish a personal relationship with individuals?

Though you will hear both ideas in most groups, around here below the Mason-Dixon line there is a definite framework in which the words "Gospel of Jesus Christ" will be heard. That framework is that God's intent is salvation of the individual and intimacy with God for eternity is the reward for those who are so saved.

This theological framework is marketed (unfortunately not used metaphorically) by the tag line, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." So begins the gospel pitch to a me-oriented population. The gospel of Jesus Christ has become a passionate, evangelical hawking of salvation which warps the perspective by which God is known and the manner in which He is sought.

The irony is that all the words used are literally true and therefore continually draw new converts into the status-quo matrix of large organizations collecting vast sums of money, dollars often used for very real good works in addition to uses less noble. So why am I against this? Well, I'm not, if I can be allowed to split a hair or two.

Being against something and examining the same object under a critical-thinking lens are not necessarily the same thing. Nothing in my heart desires to see denominations deconstructed or ecumenically fused. The status-quo is there for a reason and supports many good people and good initiatives.

Yet, neither can I remain silent as I think I see something through which Christians might find themselves more deeply satisfied individually and, therefore, equipped more fully to seek the superlative spiritual life described in the Bible.

The solution to unfulfilling group-think, a condition which has the potential to become cumbersome and even rob adherents of spiritual life, is to seek a simple existence together as family in God and before Him.

Ephesians 4:14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming ; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together *by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

I contend that systematic theologies, named theologies, regional theologies, et cetera and et al, fail the simple truths in the Bible by masking them and reducing the clarity with which the Bible speaks. A group of believers who will purpose to build itself in love through submission to the spiritual headship of Jesus will learn to please God together. Individual needs will be met as the whole is prepared to spend eternity with God. It is more complicated than rocket science, perhaps, as it involves humans and not mathematical formulas; nonetheless, the Christian walk together in a group is uniquely sublime in its simplicity and profundity. Why do we bother over making it unnecessarily comlex?


Terry said...

I remember thinking years ago (a time I feel I was more in-tune with my common spirituality) when Burger King came out with the mantra of "Have it YOUR way", that it was the embodiment of our culture in a nutshell.

No collective sense of purpose and common destiny but rather a way to feel good about our self-centered existence.

You have always been good at raising questions that perhaps will never be fully answered, understood or lived out in large scale.

One of my favorite movies is South Pacific. In the song "Carefully Taught" we are told that to love or to hate..."you have to be taught, before it's to late, before you are six or seven or eight."

I am afraid that our current culture, Christian and secular, does not value collectiveness. We are taught rather to go our own way, never pick up strangers and take care of ourselves.

I know I have rambled but I hope you have followed.

Keep up the good work and infect as many people as you can with your viral thinking.

craig v. said...

Kierkegaard merges the two by bringing out the shallowness of the me centered self. A more solid self (to use CS Lewis' metaphor) is a loving self and that means community.

ded said...


We don't value collectiveness. You have directly identified an undercurrent within our Christian groups of all stripes that is counter to what God is all about.

Thanks for reading and the encouragement.


Thanks for connecting to C.S. Lewis. I like calling the "loving self" the basis of community. I can always count on you to add some rich nugget to the thinking.

careyrowland said...

I like collectiveness.

Josiah said...

In an adaption to a sermon given by a Chinese house church leader:

True Unity comes from obedience rather than doctrine. When we house churches are working to fulfill the great commission we operate in unity. When we are confronted with sorting out the different denominational theology from the west we get splintered. Doctrine is important, loving obedience is more important than perfect theology.

I would add individuals are important. Your unique revelation is important. All because of God's love which binds us together into His purpose and into one body.