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A Few Ways My Christianity Has Changed. (Re-dated)
November 16, 2008, 7:46 pm
Filed under: Christian Doctrine, Christian Experience

(1) I no longer believe all non-Christians are continually unhappy and miserable.  I’m no longer scandalized by the happy pagan.  I no longer believe all Christians are (or should expect to be) constantly happy and cheery.  I no longer believe that what is promised in John 10:10 is continual success and happiness in this life.  This a great relief to me.

(2) I no longer believe that what sets Christianity apart is its moral teachings.  I no longer believe that moral reform is the most pressing concern of our distinctly Christian mission today.  (This, even if I do believe that moral reform is absolutely necessary today.  And this, even if I think that Jesus’ moral teachings deserve a fair hearing in our day.) I believe the moral law is in our hearts naturally.  And so there is a loose sense in which, if all religions reduce down to morality, then all religions are equal; or at least some religions approach equality. I do NOT believe all religion reduces down to morality.  What sets Christianity apart is the Gospel.  The Gospel is not in our hearts naturally.  The Gospel is utterly strange.  I’m a Christian because of the Gospel, not because Christianity is the supreme moral system which will save our society or myself.  Our distinctly Christian mission is NOT a culture war to save our society.  Our mission is not to capture the power of the government and use it to coercively enforce moral laws.  Even if we had a government fully dedicated to enforcing the whole of ‘Judeo-Christian morality’, we could still be on our way to hell in a hand basket.  Our distinctly Christian mission is to preach the Gospel; this essentially amounts to story telling about Jesus.  We should focus on baptizing and discipling a peculiar people in the midst of our society, not on capturing our society by force.  This a great relief to me.

(3) I no longer believe that Christian mission begins with recognizing the felt needs of seekers and then providing for them.  (This, even if I DO believe that you can’t properly preach the Gospel to someone who is starving or without shelter.  Feed him and secure shelter for him first.) Christian mission begins by telling the Christian story; by re-narrating the lives of seekers into the Christian story.  Seekers need to be shaken out of the story which currently defines them and shapes them.  If the Christian story is true, seekers don’t yet understand what they need.  Their felt needs need to be reformed; as do my felt needs.

(4) I no longer believe that the Gospel is merely how we get into Christianity, and then to be left behind as we move on to higher things.  I believe the Gospel is for Christians too.  I believe that the key to holiness is repentance and confession of sin, not being careful that no sin is found in our lives.  If our focus is on not being found with sin, then we will reap a harvest of hypocrisy and self-righteousness.  If you can’t imagine your pastor confessing a fairly serious sin, there is something deeply wrong.  If you haven’t confessed fairly serious sin to God recently, don’t congratulate yourself.  Pray that God will open your eyes.  I also no longer believe that confession of sin needs to be a terrible and horrendous thing.  If we keep the Gospel ever before us, it will be free and easy.  I believe this is the path to holiness.

(5) I no longer believe that God is as concerned with our singing to him as we think he is.  (This, even if I believe we ought to sing when we gather.) I no longer believe that God can be sung down from heaven and into our presence.  I believe that most Evangelicals judge their standing with God according to the felt results of singing to him.  I believe that this usually amounts to a denial of the Gospel, in practice if not in words.  I believe that the contemporary Christian music industry (a multi-billion dollar industry) has reached the point where it has begun to do more harm then good.  (This even as I continue to think well of certain folks like Steven Curtis Chapman.  I grew up on his music and to this day I sometimes find myself singing his music in the shower.) CCM and the worship music industry is often destructive of Christian piety.  I believe that, while traditional Evangelical worship music used to be a big embaressment which turned off modern people, now it is the modern worship industry that is making us look foolish.  To people who’ve been in the Church for a long time this stuff seems edgy and exciting.  But I believe that to people on the outside it increasingly just seems silly.  I get the feeling they see it as unserious and weightless.  At its worst it is little more than new-country music with Jesus’ name in place of the girl/boy.  Jesus is NOT my boyfriend, and so singing boyfriend/girlfiend style love songs to him is totally inapropriate.

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