(This post is inspired by Richard Burnett’s discussion of the release and response to Barth’s commentary on Romans. See,
(This post is inspired by Richard Burnett’s discussion of the release and response to Barth’s commentary on Romans. See,
Barth, Barth and more Barth:
Travis McMaken reflects on his experience of teaching Karl Barth to undergrads.
Rick Wadholm looks at Barth’s take on pistis Christou.
The schedule for the 2013 Karl Barth Conference has been announced. The theme is Karl Barth in Dialogue: Encounters with Major Figures. Presenters include: Cherith Fee Nordling, George Hunsinger, Paul Molnar, and more!
Check out the Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise which will be awarded to 10 young theologians from around the world.
Marc Cortez has announced that he is leaving Western Seminary and accepting a position at Wheaton College.
Women in Theology is looking for a few more contributors.
The Sententias journal has an open call for papers for topics related to theology, philosophy and science.
The Christian Theology and the Bible section at SBL is looking for a few more proposals.
Nijay Gupta looks at Constantine Campbell’s Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study.
Travis McMacken lists all the books he read in 2012.
Stephanie Lowery looks at the Handbook of Women Biblical Interpreters.
Gender, Sex, and Women in Ministry:
Ken Schenck takes a look at 1 Cor 14:34 and the issue of women in ministry.
The end of the month saw controversy over gender roles when Owen Strachan suggested that boys should not be told that it is ok to play with dolls. Check out a few responses to the original post, including — Hermeneutics , Matt Emerson, and Jason Morehead.
Phillip Jenkins looks at the parallels between today and the “Dark Ages” in relation to church growth.
Rod ponders John Millbank’s use of Patristic theology.
Aidan Kimel looks at Gregory’s Oration on the deity of the Holy Spirit.
Thomas Kidd looks at the influence of George Whitefield on Protestantism (and evangelicalism).
Scripture, Hermeneutics, Methodology:
Eleanor Pettus looks at Protestant reactions to the NAB (a Catholic translation of Scripture).
Michael Bird explores what is wrong with Queer Theology.
Mike Wittmer talks about Divine Mystery as Theological Method.
Kevin Vanhoozer on the Inerrancy of Scripture.
Life of a Student; Life of an Academic:
John Mark Reynolds’ offers advice on what Christians should look for in a college.
Brian LePort tells us about Candida Moss’ lecture on Resurrection.
Monica Coleman answers questions over at RHE’s Ask a Liberation Theologian.
Collin Hansen looks at the issue of infant baptism.
Suzanne McCarthy considers a theology of disability.
What is the greatest of all Protestant heresies?
There’s a new online collection of some of the great Christian theologians of the 20th century.
Peter Enns offers 5 reasons from the OT to reconsider the doctrine of original sin.
Ben Myers gave a lecture on theology in the public square.
A friend asked me on Facebook how Barth and I are making out. For the record, the only one I make out with is my husband.
That being said, my full thesis proposal is being submitted this week. Once it gets approved my life will be consumed by Barth, John 1:14, and more Barth.
Is there a difference between shame and guilt? Are both bad? How do we talk about sin and the consequences of sin in a way that is both preventative and grace-filled?
These are some of the questions I’ve been pondering in light of all the discussions about sexual purity and the evangelical culture.
To put it simply, shame is bad; guilt is good. (I’m working with June Price Tangney’s research here, which I highly recommend).
Shame is about loss of status; guilt is awareness that one has behaved badly.
Shame is inherently egocentric because the focus is not on the harm a person has done against another (or God) but about harm against their own personal self-concept or self-worth.
Thus, shame says “I am something bad;” guilt says “I did something bad.”
Shame leads to aggression, avoidance and even procrastination. On the other hand, guilt leads to acceptance of individual responsibility, a decrease in aggression, and a better ability to empathize.
The problem with much of the discussion that has been taking place is that there has been a conflation of shame and guilt, and the result is that the discussions about the shame/guilt that has been felt or inflicted have fed the egocentrism. In some cases the comments arising from the original posts spend little time on the consequences of sin but instead become nothing more than grandstanding: “woe is me, look at me, please stroke my ego and affirm me as a person.”
I would suggest that the collapse of shame and guilt into one concept, wherein both are equally bad and the person is told that they are worthless, broken or irredeemable, is the result of an insufficient theology and practice of confession.
By having space and time for regular confession and the verbal reassurance that God not only invites sinners to his table but also extends forgiveness, the church provides a way to deal with the guilt of sin, and creates space to talk about the very real fallout from the sin without embracing a “your life is over”, apocalyptic, over-exaggeration that leads to nothing more than fear-mongering and shaming.
But there also needs to be followup, a space to talk frankly and realistically about consequences. To embrace confession (and absolution) but exclude later discussion about the effects of sin leads to a cheap grace that downplays the seriousness of sin.
An example of this cheap grace is the attempts to mitigate the guilt by pointing to statistics that show that lots of Christians are committing the same sin. Commonality/regularity of sin does not lessen the gravity of sin, but simply demonstrates that this is obviously an area that needs to be dealt with in the broader Christian culture.
Calls for a new sexual ethic are premature. Instead, the problem is that evangelicalism has abandoned theology for pragmatism. That is, it has retained the “don’t do this” without retaining the “why.” The theological “why” gives nuance, depth, and grace, things that are lost in a straight-forward practical approach.
Re-opening or rediscovering the discussion around evangelical sexual ethics should be encouraged. In fact the discussion should never be closed or settled, but should be instead part of a renewed discussion of Christian anthropology and ecclesiology.
Baumeister, R. F., Stillwell, A. M., & Heatherton, T. F. (1994). “Guilt: An interpersonal approach.” Psychological Bulletin, 115, 243-267.
Tangney, J. P., & Dearing, R. L. Shame and guilt. New York: The Guilford Press.
Hackney, C.H. “Sanctification as a Source of Theological Guidance in the Construction of a Christian Positive Psychology.” Journal of Psychology and Christianity 2010, Vol. 29, 195-207.
Paul: In Fresh Perspective by N.T. Wright is based on a series of lectures delivered between 2004 and 2005. His aim, through these lectures, is “to let in some new shafts of light on Paul” (p. ix). He does this by dividing his lectures into two sections: themes found in Paul’s writing, and structures of Paul’s theology. While this book, in part, builds on his previous work on Paul, (notably, What St. Paul Really Said, Climax of the Covenant, and his commentary on Romans), it also points to Wright’s next project, namely the fourth volume in his series, Christian Origins and the Question of God.
In chapter one, Wright introduces the world, or more specifically the worlds, of Paul: Judaism, Hellinism, Rome, and the ekklesia. Wright argues that the narratives of these different worldviews all influenced Paul’s theology and thought, and that the focus in Pauline studies on narrative structures “is one of the most significant developments which the ‘new perspective’ revolution has precipitated” (p.8). Wright briefly outlines the shift from the “old perspective” to the “new perspective” and argues that many of the ideas in modern Pauline scholarship were/are born out of specific cultural and interpretative contexts that are now being evaluated and brought to light. (For example, he talks about how Ephesians and Colossians being seen as pseudo-Pauline arose out of a very specific context: German existentialism).
In chapter two, Wright explores the interconnectedness of the themes of creation and covenant. Building off of Psalms 19 and 74, Wright presents three Pauline texts (Colossians 1:15-20; 1 Cor 15; Romans 1-11) that display the same pattern of fusing creation and covenant together, even when the terms “creation” and “covenant” aren’t specifically referenced in the text. Wright’s thesis is that the Old Testament, and thus Paul in retelling the narrative in light of the work of Christ, portrays God as the creator God who is the covenanting God, and vice versa (p.24).
In chapter three, Wright focuses on the themes of Messiah and the Apocalyptic. He argues that this pairing of themes demonstrates that for Paul, the “apocalypse of the Messiah as Israel’s king and therefore the world’s true Lord challenges…the grand claims of the pagan empire” (p.40). Wright rightly challenges the modern misunderstandings of “Christ” that downplay the Jewishness of Jesus’ title. Wright then looks at the themes of Gospel and Empire in chapter four. Wright argues that not only was Paul discussing the Gospel as fulfillment of Israel’s narrative, but he was also subverting (implicitly and explicitly) the ideology of the Roman Empire (pg. 59).
Wright then shifts from themes in Paul’s writings to the structure or shape of Paul’s theology. Wright critiques previous attempts to structure Paul’s theology, because they ended up emphasizing certain doctrines at the expense (or outright dismissal) of other doctrines. Wright suggests the adoption of a three-fold Jewish framework that would categorize Paul’s theology under “one God,” “one people of God,” and “one future for God’s world”, and then tweaking it to focus on the Messiah and the Holy Spirit (p.84). Chapters five, six and seven look at each of the three aspects in turn, and these chapters form the beginning sketches of Paul’s exploration of the Christological and pneumatological foci of each category.
In his concluding chapter, Wright looks at some of the corollary questions that arise from his proposed restructuring of Paul’s theology. First, Wright examines the supposed dichotomy or polarization between Jesus’ message and Paul’s message. Wright argues that both Jesus and Paul saw the world through the same set of themes (as explored in chapters two through four), but their functions were different. Paul was not attempting to modify or better Jesus’ theology, instead Paul saw his role as being the conductor who simply conducts the music written by the composer, that is, Jesus (p.155). But, if this is the case, Wright asks, what should be done about the apparent discrepancies between Jesus and Paul, in areas like teachings on the Kingdom of God, justification by faith, and Christian ethics? Wright, briefly explores each of the issues and concludes that the solution lies in understanding that Jesus and Paul had two different vocations that served the same over-arching vision (p.161).
While this book has a very conversational tone, and is aimed at more of a general rather than an academic audience, Wright would have been better to have offered more endnotes with references and clarifications to help the reader along. As well, the endnotes that merely reference Scripture should have been changed to parenthetical references to make it easier for the reader who has to continuously flip from the chapter to the endnotes at the back of the book. In terms of Wright’s overall presentation of his perspective on Paul, a reader who is familiar with Wright’s more academic works would understand the summaries and overviews that he gives, but for the reader who is unfamiliar with Wright, the summary nature of Wright’s arguments may actually be overwhelming and disorienting. As someone who has read Wright, I found his chapter on messiahship to be a good review of his fuller discussions of messiahship as found in Jesus and the Victory of God. On the other hand, his chapter on Paul and Empire was actually confusing instead of clarifying, and as such readers would be better off reading his essay “Paul’s Gospel and Caesar’s Empire.” That being said, this book serves as a way for evangelicals to re-read Paul with new insights, and to understand the narratives that Paul is using and retelling in his presentation of the Gospel.
Given the introductory nature of these “shafts of light,” and given that the book is written to a general, rather than academic audience, I would suggest that judgment and evaluation of Wright’s re-thinking of Paul be held in reserve until the more complete volume is released. The danger in critiquing Wright at this stage is that, because Wright does not set out to “prove” his re-thinking but rather to gather people together to begin to re-think with him, the reader is in danger of attributing issues or implications to Wright that may or not actually be indicative of Wright’s thought.
As a theologian, I find Wright’s suggested structure for exploring Paul’s theology to be both intriguing and useful, especially in a post-modern context that has moved, and is moving, away from the modernistic structures of systematic (particularly Reformed) theologies. I would suggest that Wright’s proposal could be the beginning of a bridge between biblical studies and theology, and specifically between the fields of biblical theology and systematic theology, especially if there was a way to subsume the systematic categories under the broader structure that Wright proposes.
No working on my final thesis proposal.
Lots of time to read for fun.
Even some time to play a bit of World of Warcraft (which I actually found to be very, very boring. How weird is that?)
Other than my internship, I didn’t do a lick of school work. While it wasn’t in the original plan, even my blogging took a bit of a sabbatical. A few “hot topics” were buzzing in the blogosphere, and I didn’t blog about them even though I had ideas for posts.
Nope. I rested.
And yet, about halfway through my sabbatical, I was tempted more than once to pick up my thesis proposal.
I have ideas! I am refreshed! I should start this!
No Amanda, you said you were taking the month off, I would tell myself, as I put the thesis notes back on the shelf.
I made it through the sabbatical and kept the original boundaries the entire time and for a student-aholic that is a huge exercise in self-control.
I’m glad that I didn’t pick up my thesis proposal early. I enjoyed the quiet. And now that the quiet is over, I know that the next year will be anything but quiet. Between my internship, thesi,s and life in general, this year will be busy-busy. But when things get chaotic I can look back at my sabbatical and remember how restful it was, and that whether I’m in a season of busyness or rest I have so much to be thankful for.
It helped that I wrote a paper last semester on the theology of rest. It allowed me to think through why we rest, and because of that, I was able to enjoy my rest deeply. On Valentines’ Day I will be giving a lecture in a college class on the practice of rest. I hope to share with them this idea: Rest can and should be seen sacramentally – we rest not primarily because we are commanded to rest, or because it is good for us; instead we rest because God rested first and he invites us to join with Him in the rest that only He can offer.
There’s lots of exciting stuff coming up on the blog this month: stay tuned for a post on theological reflections on the move towards MOOCs in online education, a review of a book by NT Wright, some thoughts on the difference between guilt and shame, and a essay on Paul’s embrace of OT Law for the Church regarding sexual ethics.
No matter how my calling eventually gets worked out, whether I end up continuing in my academic studies and going on to be a teacher of theology (either in a college or in the church), or whether I end up pursuing my theological passions through creative writing (either fiction or non-fiction), I know that my vocation is oriented towards a life of scholarship and research. I value, affirm and encourage Christians to pursue a “life of the mind”, wherein we are called to think and meditate deeply on the Gospel of Christ and its power to transform not only individuals, but also communities, nations and cultures.
Christianity is smart, and it is mysterious, and serious theological reflection and scholarship allows a Christian, to paraphrase from Gregory of Nyssa, to participate in the never-ending ascent to God. And so, I want to suggest that scholarship, especially theological scholarship, is inherently cross-shaped; it has both vertical components, those aspects that orient towards God, and horizontal components, those aspects that orient towards other people, both scholars and non-scholars alike. The three vertical components are scholarship as a response to God’s action, scholarship as a gift of grace, and scholarship as an act of worship. The horizontal component is scholarship as service to and within the community of faith.
In Evangelical Theology, Karl Barth writes that theology, and by extension, the theologian and Christian, respond to the work and event of the Divine Word. This response is not the same as the Word itself, for the human response of theology is always in light of the event of the self-revelation of God. As such, theology is totally dependent on God’s living Word. The theologian, scholar, or teacher, cannot reveal or uncover God through the human striving of academic inquiry. It is because God has chosen to reveal Himself first that the theologian is able to even pursue contemplating the nature and existence of God. All theology, no matter which discipline (Christology, soteriology, ecclesiology, etc), responds to the object of theology, which is God. This relationship between God and the theologian is inherently Chalcedonian. Both God and the theologian are bound together, united-but-distinct, each with their own task, wherein, God “commits, frees and summons the theologian to notice, consider, and speak of Him.” This relationship is irreversible; the theologian cannot do what God does, and vice versa.
Second, the work and call of the theologian is a gift of grace. Barth writes, “To become and be a theologian is not a natural process but an incomparably concrete fact of grace.” And while some may say that this idea lends itself to a sort of arrogance, as if the theologian has been endowed, Barth is quick to point out that this gift of grace is a mystery, for “if anyone supposed he could understand himself as such a receiver of grace, he would do better to bid theology farewell.” The response to this gift of grace is a response of gratitude. With this comes the need for humility. All of our theological presuppositions are grounded, not in the logical consistency of the theologian’s argument, but in the “reality of God’s self-communication to us in Jesus Christ.” As such, theological statements “are true only in so far as they direct us away from themselves to the one Truth in God” and that Truth is Jesus.
Third, theological scholarship can be, and is for many scholars, an act of worship. Research becomes not only a way to learn more about God, but also a way to delight in and praise the work of God. A life of scholarship is not a tedious choice, nor is it merely “busy work.” Instead, it is a way to marvel at the person and work of Christ, as well as to get “lost” in the amazing depths of Christian thought throughout the centuries. The act of research and scholarship not only shapes the mind of the theologian, but also orients and shapes the character, spirit and whole person to a position of humble worship in the presence of the Almighty. It is for this reason that the liturgy, that is, the rhythms and routines associated with scholarship and study, from the initial research, to painstaking formulation of a thesis, to publication, is important. Of course, if the adage is true that “we worship what we love”, there is a danger for Christian scholars to begin to worship the act of scholarship itself, rather than the object of said scholarship. Scholarship is the liturgical tool that assists in worshipping God and not the god that is to be worshipped.
On the horizontal axis, scholarship must be done in and for the church. As T.F. Torrance notes, “The church constitutes the social coefficient of our knowledge of God” and as such theology “cannot but be a church-conditioned and church-oriented theology.” It is impossible to do Christian theology apart from the community. The theologian must participate in the messiness and beauty of the church. As Barth notes, the theologian, as a member of the community of faith writing from within and for the church, “participates in its schisms and in its longing for unity, in its obedience as well as in its indifference.”
It is this emphasis on the role of the community of faith on the life and work of the theologian that I am currently wrestling with as I contemplate future academic studies. There are few confessional schools within Canada that offer doctoral programs in theology. So the question becomes, can theological scholarship be done in a secular university? And even if I can study theology under the guise of “Western Religious Thought” at a secular school, there is still the realization that theology cannot be abstracted from the life and service of the church. Torrance emphasizes this reality when he writes: “the matrix of Eucharistic worship and meditation upon the Holy Scriptures and evangelical experience in the fellowship and mission of the church” are where the “empirical and theoretical components in our knowledge of God are fused together.”
Ultimately, the question becomes, what is a Christian scholar, or what does Christian scholarship look like? Christian scholarship is a life and a body of work that is grounded in, finds its identity in, responds to, and submits itself to the self-Revelation of God through the event and person of Jesus Christ.
 See for example, Richard Hughes, The Vocation of a Christian Scholar: How Christian Faith Can Sustain the Life of the Mind (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005).
 Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses, trans. Abraham Malherbe and Everett Ferguson (New York: Paulist Press, 1978).
 Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction, trans. Grover Foley (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1963), 49.
 Ibid., 90.
 Ibid. This fits with Barth’s overall Chalcedonian pattern, for in the Church Dogmatics Barth emphasizes that the relationship between the Divine and human is one that cannot be reversed. That is, we can, and rightly do say “The Word became Flesh”, but we cannot say “The flesh became the Word.” See Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics. Translated by Geoffrey Bromiley. Vol. I/2 (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010), 136.
 Ibid., 73.
 Thomas F. Torrance, Reality and Evangelical Theology: The Realism of Christian Revelation (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 1982), 23.
 Ibid., 123.
 See, for example, James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), chap. 2.
 Torrance, 46.
 Barth, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction, 80.
 Space is limited, but with this question comes the question of the inherent difference and conflict between Christian virtues and the virtues prized by the secular academic culture. See, for example, George Marsden, The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 107.
 Torrance, 49.
Barth, Barth and More Barth:
Marc Cortez reminds us that theology is not a leisure activity, by pointing us to the wise words of Karl Barth.
Roger Olson’s quest to find out if Barth summed up the Gospel with “Jesus loves me this I know…” has possibly found fulfillment.
And check out the great posts this month over at Barthian Pentecostal.
Kevin Davis is doing a series on gender and theology:
Brian points us to a couple of podcast series regarding homosexuality and Christian sexual ethics, including a series being done through Dallas Theological Seminary.
Owen Strachan has been named the new executive director of CBMW.
Sarah Moon looks at equality and gender roles.
Leslie asks if men and women approach apologetics differently.
The Heretic Husband takes on John Piper’s understanding of complementarianism.
Kristen Rosser ponders the idea of marriage being an illustration of Christ and the Church in Ephesians 5.
Nick Phillips reviews Phyllis Tickle’s Emergence Christianity.
Paul Miller reviews Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling, by James W. Sire.
Kait Dugan asks several critical questions of George Lindbeck’s The Nature of Doctrine.
Laura reviews The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung.
Ecclesiology, Life of the Church, Evangelism, and Culture:
Scot McKnight continues his series looking whether or not evangelicalism is coming to an end.
Michael Halcomb did a series on a Christian theology of guns.
Calvinism and Arminianism:
Roger Olson is frustrated with Calvinist theologians who a) misrepresent Arminianism, and b) don’t engage with Arminian literature in their critique of Arminianism. In this post, he takes a look at A. T. B. McGowan’s treatment of Arminianism.
Life of a Grad Student; Life of an Academic:
Can evangelical colleges and seminaries be truly academic institutions?
John Hawthorne, professor of Sociology, has started a blog to look at Christian higher education. In his first post he suggests that Christian schools “run the risk of making Christian Higher Ed increasingly irrelevant to larger and larger numbers of young people.”
Darren offers his thoughts, based on his experience this semester teaching intro to theology, on teaching about the doctrine of Scripture.
What makes a scholar?
Advice on writing seminary papers.
John Stackhouse’s top 10 rules for reading course evaluations.
How blogging helped me write my dissertation by Maxime Larivé.
Conferences, Call For Papers and Announcements:
The first annual LA Theology Conference was a success. They have announced the themes for the next four years’ worth of conferences.
Registration for the April 2013 Open Theology conference is now open.
Call for papers for the Relational Theologies/Emerging Church section of the AAR meeting.
Calvin College is hosting a conference on Virtues, Vices, and Teaching. The call for papers is out, and abstracts are due in May.
Paul Copan talks about cultural emotivism, or the tendency to prize “I feel” over “I think”.
Eric Ortlund spends some time thinking about sanctification.
Sam Storm talks about how and why he moved from pre-millenialism to amillenialism.
Rod has a roundup of posts looking at African Americans Christians and Calvinism, and Jemar Tisby looks at 5 factors in the rise of Reformed theology among African Americans. Anthony Bradley argues that it is a myth that there is only one type of Reformed African American Christian, and that there are broadly three types.
Bo Sanders examines Radical Orthodoxy’s fatal flaw.
Was Jesus omniscient?
Kevin writes about the self-imposed suffering of God.
Steve DeWitt looks at the meaning of propitiation.
I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date. No time to say “Hello, Goodbye”. I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!
We live in a world that has a hurried sense of time.
It’s always a rush to get out the door.
There are always looming deadlines.
There are always too few hours in the day to get everything done.
I think that is one of the reasons I find myself attracted the use of liturgy, the Christian calendar, and of structured prayer times as found in the Anglican Prayer book (BAS), for example. For just a brief time, I am transported away from a view of time that is pressed, hurried, and haggard. I enter into a space, where I am reminded that God’s time is so infinitely different from our sense of time.
In fact, liturgy wastes time on purpose. It is repetitive and reflective and does not just “cut to the chase.” It builds, slowly and patiently, to the goal of bringing us into the throne room of grace, even if only for 20 minutes, or an hour. It allows space for meditation and reflection. It pushes away the noisy calls for “relevance” and “pragmatism” and “purposefulness”.
Paul Griffiths says it this way:
Wasting time is, in ordinary English, a bad thing: want, we think, to make the best use possible of it. But in liturgical terms, time, considered as linear time that can be scheduled, divided into minutes and hours, filled up, deployed, and measured by chronometers, is exactly what should be laid waste, and effectively is….To enter into the repetitive patterns of the liturgy is to lay waste linear time with the radiance of eternity, and in that way to provide a foretaste of heaven.
And yet, even though I am being shaped by this “otherness” of time, it’s a constant battle to ignore the drum of our culture’s sense of “hurry up.” James K.A. Smith writes of his attempt to incorporate Christian practices into his pedagogy, and tells of his experience in his 200-level philosophy class. Because the class met twice a week during the lunch hour timeslot, he decided to start each class off with “Mid-day Prayer.”
A noble endeavour. I said to myself, thinking about how that would be such a powerful practice to include in a theology class one day. And then the pragmatist (given that I’m reading this book in order to think through educational pedagogy, pragmatic thinking is obviously going to occur) in me said, “but how much time does that take away from the allotted 75 minutes of lecture time?”
There it was: the pressure of our culture’s sense of time. That time devoted to mid-day prayer would take away precious time from lecturing on the actual course content. It didn’t matter that the students reacted positively to this practice of starting the class with the Divine Hours. My brain automatically began calculating how much time was lost; how much time was wasted by starting the class with the liturgy of prayer.
I stepped back from the book, realizing the conflict I was having over the sense of time. I opened my prayer book, and spent some time praying through the Mid-day prayer. And then, in the quiet, in the stillness, I thought about a possible bridge. What if built into Christian educational institutions class time was 10-15 minutes added specifically for prayer? That way instructional time wasn’t “lost” and at the same time the formative Christian practice was kept.
Until the new heavens and new earth, there will probably always be a battle between our culture’s sense of time and the eternity of time.
I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date. No time to say “Hello, Goodbye”. I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!
That’s okay, White Rabbit, this time, you can run ahead without me.
Sometimes I miss the pentecostal tradition. I miss the fire and enthusiasm. But most importantly I miss the theology that God changes us. I miss the belief and practice that when we encounter the Holy Trinity through the power of the Holy Spirit we are not the same person we were when we walked in the door. I miss the testimonies of lives being radically changed. I miss worshipping and celebrating the God who heals.
I say this because I’m finding myself growing frustrated with the theology I am seeing in North American Christianity. It’s the “Just As I Am” theology. Yes it is true that we can come to God just as we are, but “Just As I Am” theology goes a step farther and advocates that we stay just the way we are.
This theology makes us dictate what God can and can’t do.
It makes us the boss over God. “Here I am God, just as I am, I like it, you can’t change me, you just have to accept me as I am, because I am fine the way I am, and You love me just the way I am.”
We not only tell the Church (pastors, elders, official church teaching) that they can’t tell us that we’re wrong, that we’re broken, (who are you to judge? we tell them), but we also tell God that He can’t tell us we’re wrong, we’re broken.
Where does this come from? Does it come from our doctrine of making a decision for Christ? Do you believe? Say this prayer, say these words. Now you’re in. That’s all that matters. It’s a head thing, and an emotional heart thing. But it’s not a life-changing thing.
Does it come from an overemphasis on justification by faith? We are justified by faith, Jesus’ blood covers over us but doesn’t change us, because what matters is that his blood just covers. We are sinners, we always will be sinners, now we’re just justified sinners.
Where is our doctrine of sanctification? Where are our celebrations of how God has changed us, how he is still changing us, and how he will change us? Where is our proclamation that the Holy Spirit indwells us, that the new is come, the old has passed away? Where is our robust doctrine of baptism, that proclaims that through the waters of baptism we have died to our old selves, died to sin, and are raised to new life through Christ?
What happens when we say to God, come in and do what you need to do? Will it hurt? Probably. Will it be a struggle? Sure. But by not opening ourselves to God’s cleansing fire we’re also missing out on the incredible blessing, the incredible intimacy that comes from the Holy Spirit washing us through and through.
I remember who I was and what I was like before Jesus got a hold of my life. I don’t want that. If I had said “Just as I am and you can’t change me” to him 16 years ago, two things are certain: One, I’d be a very different person today. And two, I probably wouldn’t have stayed in the Church, I wouldn’t have stayed a Christian. I am a Christian because I am a new creation. I am a Christian because the God of the Universe loved me so much to not leave me “just as I am.” And he continues to love me and not leave me “just as I am.”
I don’t want to be just as I am.
This post was originally written March 21, 2012.