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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

How it's NOT supposed to be

I came across this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together while reading Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave by Ed Welch.
The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are all sinners!
(Addictions, p. 94)
While perhaps not especially profound to many of us, Bonhoeffer's statement - and Welch's use of it - remind us that it is incredibly dangerous to not live in a community where we can be transparent with our struggles and, consequently, see the power of the Gospel at work in our lives and the lives of others.

By the way, Addictions is a powerful-yet-encouraging book that I would encourage everyone to read, whether you struggle with an overt addiction, or you know someone who struggles with an addiction; and if you think you don't struggle with addictions, reading this book will open your eyes to the ways that the desires of your heart are ruling you just as powerfully as heroine or alcohol!


At 7:10 AM, March 30, 2005, Blogger Mark Traphagen said...

I say that happen recently on an online Christian message board I participate in. Some struggling Christians were sometimes honest about their struggles and stumbles, and they were pounced upon by the holiness police. Eventually, the weak ones were driven away. Very sad.

At 8:10 AM, March 30, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Great, great, post Molly - very timely, thanks for sharing.

I concur w/ Foolish Sage as well - life is extremely hard (Phil 1:29), and that inevitably brings out the sin in us. Bonhoffer's quote illustrates the importance of being able to struggle with with both sin and life in the context of Xian community.

I know that Marilyn and I are both feeling the weight of that struggle daily right now.

On the one hand, this semester doesn't seem too bad (dull headache rather than a migraine like Winter Hebrew was); on the other hand, it seems like its the worst its been thus far (and I'm particularly frustrated w/ some of my class assignments right now, because I'm struggling to see the pastoral/ecclesiological relevance of some of the things we're being asked to do). Same thing with our marriage, life here in Philly, etc - on the one hand we are doing better than we've ever done, on the other hand it feels like things are coming unglued.

I think what it boils down to is a sonship diagram I've seen (I'll have to see if I can find a copy online somewhere... Molly knows which one I'm talking about). Basically, it illustrates how the Xian walk is not one where our sin simply diminishes to the point of non-existance. On the contrary, the more we grow in X, the more we see our sin: so our sin seems to get bigger and bigger and bigger (even though we actually are becoming less sinful).

I think both Marilyn and I are seeing our sin much more clearly than we have ever seen it, and that can be tremendously frustrating and discouraging; at the same time, we are also grasping the magnitude of God's grace in the gospel more than we have ever seen it before, and that's the only hope we have, and its very encouraging. Actually, that's just about the only thing that's encouraging.

So what I feel right now is this weird combination of utter despair and absolute confidence (sounds schizophrenic, right?), but I think its probably an ok place to be - I need to continue to despair of myself, and continue hope more and more in the gospel, to see that the gospel is the only thing worth hoping in. But this process of dying to self and living for X is both exhilerating and terrifying at the same time - like what I imagine it would feel like riding out a storm in the crows nest of a 17th c. schooner...the bigger the storm, the higher the swells, the deeper the troughs, and the more you realize everything depends on the ship.

At any rate, that's kind of what life feels like right now - batton down the hatches and try to make it through the storm.

So please pray for us. And if there are others reading this who feel the same way, know that you're in good company here...

At 5:06 AM, March 31, 2005, Blogger Mark Traphagen said...

Karyn pointed out something to me the other day when we were discussing your chapel talk, Christian. As frustrating and irrelevant as some of seminary can seem to be, perhaps we should also see even that as part of God's training ground for ministry. 40+ years in the church has told us that if you can't find a way to walk with God in the midst of what's happening now in seminary, it won't get any easier (and perhaps harder) once you're out into ministry.

At 5:25 AM, March 31, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Yep, I agree that both the hard -AND- the frustrating parts are involved in the sanctification process (again, cf. Phil 1:29).

My struggles w/ seminary right now are more along the lines of "are we actually achieving our stated goals" (and I'm not convinced that we are, in some areas). Now I can still learn from that, but I think the frustration lies in the fact that something which really ought to be a source of strength and encouragement is actually producing the opposite (and I'm partially to blame there, because of my own sin). Even worse, though, is that I'm not convinced this tough and difficult process is actually giving seminarians a clearer view of the gospel (and that's what concerns me).

Rambling answer, but no time for more - I'm later for class...

At 4:50 AM, April 01, 2005, Blogger Mark Traphagen said...


Oh, I agree that there is something very wrong with the process. So much of what we do has that "well, this is the way it has always been done" smell about it.

I've heard recently from a couple of faculty that WTS is right now in a battle for its future identity. I hope and pray that that battle isn't just over certain theological issues, but also over how we go about TRULY training men and women for Gospel ministry.


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