Archive for January, 2016

A disquiet in my soul concerning the gospel

For the last few years I’ve sporadically studied the meaning and significance of Christ’s death and resurrection. We have a theological word for it: atonement. It started when I watched a video that illustrated how many modern presentations of the gospel make Jesus and the Father to be very different kinds of people. The Father is holy and unrelenting in his need to dispense retribution on depraved sinners and Jesus the loving and forgiving saviour sent to provide us an escape from God’s wrath. This view is called Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA) and there are versions of it that attempt to maintain the unity of the Father and the Son but I’m not convinced they do a very good job.

I’ve spent many hours studying the scriptures, and now I’ve moved on to books on the subject. I’m still neck deep in it. It has been a fascinating study. The dominate evangelical view really only goes back to Luther and wasn’t fully articulated until John Calvin. When I read proponents of PSA they proudly proclaim this is the heart of the gospel and if we are missing this we are impaired in our faith. So if that were true almost the entire church missed the core component of the gospel until the reformation. That is an astounding assertion.

What have I concluded from my study so far?
That the atonement and our notion of salvation runs far deeper and far wider than forgiveness and the punishment of sin. The themes of victory over sin, death and the devil, reconciliation, redemption, ransom, cleansing, healing, receiving life are all tied with Jesus death and resurrection are all strong and directly related to Christ’s death and resurrection.

At the very least we’ve been proclaiming a gospel message that so heavily oversimplified it is a rump of what is known in the scriptures.

The most common expressions of PSA make God out to be an unrelenting autocrat that cannot tolerate any deviation from his divine will. It finds no common ground between holiness and love, justice and compassion, righteousness and forgiveness.

By viewing all salvation through lens of appeasing God’s wrath we ignore all the wonderful things the atonement has done and is doing for us.

The gospel has many facets and no one way of looking at it captures all the dimensions of it. We should carefully consider the early church’s view on this. It is beautiful.

Like many theological mysteries, where we end up is largely dependant on where we start. One of the most crucial questions is “What is the problem atonement is trying to solve?” I think the problem is human corruption through Adam’s choice to “know” good and evil. Rebellion is a symptom of corruption, and thus corruption is the heart of problem. When we start here Jesus’ death is more about cleansing, healing and restoring in order that we stop rebelling and in doing so end the hostility we have towards the holiness of God and resolve God’s anger over sin. God is satisfied, not because someone was punished for humanity’s sin, but because humanity has been freed from sin, cleansed of corruption and reconciliation has taken place. Jesus’ death frees the prodigal to return home and find the Father is already waiting for him with open arms.

 

 

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What does the church need for discipleship?

What does the church need for discipleship? It is almost a backwards question. It should be the disciples asking, how do we function as a church. But that is the state of things today. We have churches full of people that haven’t been discipled.

With the demise of bible schools, and one close to my heart, a lot of people are asking questions like: how do we replace these ministries geared towards young adults? How do we replace the schools that taught our movement’s distinctive theology? How can we ensure that our kids have the same kind of experience that we did?

Those are the wrong questions.

Here is a better one: how does one reach maturity in Christ? I’ve participated in many discipleship ministries and activities. I’ve taught at the college level, led small groups, house churches, preached, mentored and personally cared for people. Here is what I found.

The process of progressing towards Christlikeness is as much about healing as it is learning, it is more about perspective than knowledge, it is more about relationship than accomplishment.

In this post I’m going to talk about the first one: healing and learning.

I’ve walked with, cared for, mentored a number of different people over the last 10 years. What they need more than anything is healing and for that they need connection. Now connection is kind of modern word but it summarizes the biblical concepts of fellowship, abiding, oneness with Christ and each other.

Why is healing important? Without healing we don’t see things accurately. Our perspective is skewed. With our perspective skewed we our ability to learn is impaired. We can teach broken people things, we can give them biblical principles to learn and apply, but their ability to live these things out is significantly diminished. The more wounded people are, the more they live in shame, the more Christianity turns in to a dead religion that just becomes another means to find some sense of personal worth or distract themselves from the pain that lives inside them. Sometimes things get so twisted that what people hear is completely different from what is being said.

I think good theology is as beautiful as art. One needs have to be geared a certain way to see it that way, but that is the way I am geared. I am not geared to appreciate a fine painting in a gallery, but I do know what would even more difficult for me to appreciate it if my vision was blurry. Teaching beautiful theology to broken people is like getting people who can’t see well to appreciate a visual art.

Luk 11:34 NET. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is diseased, your body is full of darkness.

I think this is one reason the church spends most of its time teaching and yet people learn so little. We have the cart before the horse. We cannot learn until healing has started. To continue the healing process, we need to learn and come to a better understand of who God is. One is no less essential than the other, but an inordinate focus on either leaves us in an impoverished state.

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