Friday, April 6, 2012

Conversing "With" Skye Jethani pt 3

This is the third installment in a series titled, "Conversing 'With' Skye Jethani" where I discuss his book With and his four postures.  Having already discussed "Life under God" today we move on to "Life over God."

I want to start by restating the question that ended the last post.  What if your system is perfectly designed to get the results you are experiencing?  In other words what if the reason so many people are leaving the church is because we have not taught, preached, and thought about God well.  What if the models of Christianity we have presented to a generation of people have actually led them to believe the Church is useless.  What if it is not about music, cool coffee shops, and more relaxed attire for service.  What if young adults are not so shallow that a building remodel, a new praise band, and a cool tattoo are all one needs to attract them to Christ.  What if they have seen the theology and practice of Christians in the Church around them and found them wanting.

This leads us to "Life over God."  This posture can be traced back to the Enlightenment period in history.  A period when we began to scientifically reimagine the way we view our universe and our daily lives.  Make no mistake at how powerful this thinking still shapes our everyday world.  The universe is no longer a mysterious thing that we have to keep in delicate balance by appeasing a fickle God like "Life under God" but instead a law or machine that can be analyzed and actions predicted.  The extreme of this view is of course atheism.  There is no need for God or religion because we can figure it all out on our own.  Simply study the laws of nature, physics, and math and you can eventually figure out the world around you. Gain control over it and subdue it.

I am personally less concerned about atheism and more concerned with how this plays out in the hearts and minds of Christians and the Church.  Because while belief in God remains high globally how we relate to God has changed dramatically since the late 17th Century.  While atheism might be the extreme on one side within the world of those who at least acknowledge that God exists we have what has been called Deism.  Deism is the idea that God does exist but he is not intimately involved in his Creation.  He sort of created everything then stepped back and just sort of watches us fight it out to the death.  Christians may not openly hold this view or be aware of it but it certainly creeps into our thoughts.  This is the type of person who does not allow God to have a direct impact on their daily lives, but deeply desires "Godly principles" to rule the day.  Think to all the debates over displaying the Ten Commandments.  This type of person seeks to display them because they believe these laws should be a guide for civil authority however they may have no actual personal relationship with God on a daily basis.  Any popular culture issue from the past two decades; prayer in schools, abstinence vs. sexual education, definition of marriage or creation vs. evolution are all rooted in two very predictable camps...Life over God vs Life under God...basically two skewed views of God, neither being right.  Because whether it's deism, secular humanism, or even atheism, none of them leave much room for God.

For me this can be a very tempting view of God.  It would make my life a whole lot easier if I could just say, "Okay God you exist.  You left us some good principles to go by.  Now let me run my business, run your church, and run my family as I see fit.  Thanks for being the big man upstairs but please don't meddle in my daily life."  In reality we often do this, even if it's unintentional.  For others it's more intentional.  I would call it evangelical biblicism.  The idea that we dive deep into scriptures to find 6 principles on how to have a healthy family, 4 keys to dealing with money, 3 tips from the book of James on how to be a more inviting church, or the 8 things Moses did as a leader.  I don't want to down play scripture this blog is titled "Shaped by the Story" after all. But it is not the fourth person of the trinity either.  The problem comes when we have a better relationship with the Bible than we do with the God of the Bible.  We get more wrapped up in the Word than we do in the Word who was from the beginning and was made flesh to dwell among us.  We use the ten commandments, the creation stories, random OT verses, and some commentators insights into biblical leadership and raise them up as our model but have no relationship with the Author and Perfector of our faith. We are not called to love the Bible, we are called to love God with our hearts, mind, soul, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  To do the former and ignore to latter is to be a Pharisee. To do the latter without the former is to be a social worker only.  We must have a balance.  Life over God is not that balance.

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