Three verses - two brief answers
Earlier today, Steve over at Ragamuffin Ramblings wrote on 3 verses - 2 challenging questions. Basically, he quoted Acts 7:56-58, where Stephen gets stoned (w/ rocks, not weed), and then he asked these questions:
So here, to me, is the first of two really challenging question:I want to respond to these (and I'm a little hesitant in doing so, because I like Steve's blog and I don't want to sound like I'm slamming him or anything). But there were several things he said that I think I would disagree with, or maybe look at from a different angle.
(1) Who are we, as a church, stoning today?
Who are the groups we (as a church or denomination or community) don't want to hear? What are the topics that make us clap our hands over our ears? Is it even slightly possible that the voices we don't want to hear today in the church are as valid and right as Stephen's were?
(2) How many people are going to have to die in order for us to have our spiritual awakening, like those for Saul-who-become-Paul?
Question 1 - I want to start by saying that I appreciate the issue Steve is raising here - as Christian's we are often very reluctant to consider views "outside the camp" (and often this is because the approval of those inside the camp hinges on it - if you start asking the wrong questions of considering the wrong answers, and all that unconditional, brotherly looooove just up and vanishes). We in the church are often very conditional in handing out our approval, and I think both Steve and I would agree completely on that.
So what rubs me wrong here? Well, when Steve raised the question, he framed it by saying this:
+ Stephen sees a vision, something no one else can see.Now, maybe (hopefully) I'm just reading him wrong, but it SOUNDS like he's drawing a parallel between Stephen in the midst of the Jews and "voices of dissent" in the modern "institutional church." And I don't think that is a right analogy.
+ The representatives of the institutional church, who have been listening to Stephen for the last 53 verses, cover their ears. They've had enough.
Stephen was not right because he saw a vision, or because he spoke against the institutional church of his day - what made the difference was the object of his vision (the risen, exalted Christ) and the fact that the people he was speaking to had rejected Christ.
If we want to draw a valid comparison with today's church, then everything hinges upon showing how the dissenting voices are speaking Christ's message, and the institutional leaders are rejecting that same Jesus. Show that, and you've got a case. But I don't see it in his article as it stands.
Question 2 - how many people are going to have to die in order for us to have our spiritual awakening?
That's easy, in my book. Precisely one. Christ. And he's already died (and risen, and is reigning in glory! Woo hoo! Now THAT wakes me up spiritually!)
Ok, that sounds a little trite, but it's true. And I say that on the basis of my theology - I believe very strongly that Jesus reigns now, that he is the prime mover in both my salvation -AND- and my sanctification, and that this eternal life is already breaking into the present, overcoming my sin and weakness. This is what Molly was getting at here.
I also say it on the basis of my experience - I find that the better I understand the reality my union with Christ, the more that moves my heart to change. I don't need examples of others; I need to know Christ better. This is what I was getting at when I talk about sanctification by faith, or the indicative driving the imperative.
So there you have it. Those are my thoughts. I wanted to share not only because I think Steve raised some very good questions, but because I think the answers come a whole lot more easily when we get our frame of reference right. I hope my answers are constructive and encouraging!