Third Way of the Gospel
I'm probably going to tick off some people on both sides of the isle with the comments that follow, but I think the point I want to make is important, so I'm going to go ahead and run the risk. So fasten your seatbelts and we'll give it a go...
I stumbled across two well written articles over the past several days, and after an initial "ooh I like that" reaction to both, I started reflect further on their content and tone. First, take a look at the 3 Minute Abortion Debate. Now, I will admit that as someone who is pro-life, I really like a lot of what this guy is saying. I think he makes some very good arguments. A lot of my conservative Xian friends will be pumping their fists and high fiving one another over this one.
Ok, now take a look at What Jesus Never Said. As someone who growing daily in my appreciation for the gospel, I really like a lot of what Mumcat is saying. I think she understands how the gospel skewers many of the socio-behavioral standards we erect to make ourselves feel better than others. A lot of my, non-conservative, non-Xian friends really like this Jesus; he is appealing, because he's actually willing to accept them.
And now, I'm going to take my shots at both (this is where I'll probably tick people off).
You see, while I agree with the content of the first article, I have this nagging suspicion that this type of approach will ultimately fail. Listen to what the author says in the final paragraph:
"I have given up all hope of ever getting the Insufferable Liberal to change his mind or admit he might be wrong, but if I can just rock him back on his heels once in a while, I consider it a win."Maybe it's just me, but has this man just revealed what really matters most in his heart?
Listen, its not about us being right and them being wrong, about shutting down their argument and getting the win. You see, that's what concerns me about this approach - its so easy to go away feeling justified in the soundness of our argument, in the inescabality of our conclusions.
But that's precisely the problem. People do not change their stance on the basis of a logical argument. People are not computers, they are not hyper-rational. We are religious. We are sinful human beings who all pursue the desires of our hearts. And Jesus calls us to reach out and connect with the hearts of all those "Insufferable Liberals". Frankly, we do a pretty crappy job of that.
We can have all the truth in the world, and if we do not present it in a way that touches people's heart, we will never reach them. That's why God didn't just send us a message - he sent us his son. That's why Paul tells the Thessalonians that "we gave you not only the gospel, but also ourselves" (1 Thess 2:8 - and if that statement does not rock your Reformed world, you need to read it again).
The gospel is not just about truth, facts. Its about presenting that truth to people in a way that they can hear it.
Now let's look more closely at the second article. This author concludes by saying:
"Of course, he didn't say any of this. That, I believe, is why we have the gospels, the "good news" not "the good news -- and the bad news."Maybe I'm misreading this (and if I am, I apologize profusely), but it sounds to me like this woman is saying that there is no bad news. And that's simply not true.
Good news is only good news when it is opposed and contrasted to something bad. Grace is getting something we don't deserve. But Scripture (and Jesus) is equally clear that we do deserve something, and it ain't a vacation on the beach in Jamaica.
Bavinck says that all of history tells us God has a quarrel with his creature - "there is no room for grace if the justice of God is not first established" (Our Reasonable Faith, 260). And this is the reason why all religions of the world are in some sense redemptive. Because they sense we really do need redemption. Jesus came "to seek and save, the lost...sinners."
Now Mumcat is correct in one sense: when Jesus speaks to the woman at the well in John 4, he DOESN'T say, "first you have to make a full confession of everything you've done and then we'll talk." But he doesn't say she is ok either (and her subsequent confession and repentance are implicit all through this passage).
Basically (and I'm compressing here), when Jesus says "go, get your husband and bring him here" (John 4:16), Jesus is looking at the sin behind the sin. He is saying this:
"Go get your husband and bring him back and compare him to me. Yes, I know you don't have a husband - you have had five husbands and the guy you are with now is not your husband. But that is not really your problem. Your real problem is that you are looking for fulfillment someplace other than man. You are crave something (or else you wouldn't keep going from one relationship to another) but you're not getting it. You thirst too, and I am here to quench your thirst."
You see, what I appreciate about this post is that it recognizes Jesus' compassion for the "untouchables," for the people religious types tend to reject. What concerns me is that people who like to say "God is love" and "Jesus was a great man/teacher/prophet" often don't bother reading any further - they often seem to lack an understanding of exactly what Jesus was about. The conveniently forget that Jesus' basic message was "repent and believe." (Mk 1:15)
Listen - at the end of the day, there are only two options: the Jesus of Scripture, or the Jesus of my imagination. And I don't trust my imagination (and neither should you; nor yours either - because I've never met a thief who wasn't biased in his own favor, and if Scripture is right both of us fall into that category).
So what am I calling for? I think we need the content of the first approach. But we also need the compassion of second approach. And unfortunately, I haven't found enough of either in the typical camps.
I don't want conservative religion. And I don't want liberal irreligion. I want a third way, the way of the gospel, because I think that's what Jesus came preaching...