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Grand Rapids, MI

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

I'm encouraged, again...

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I'm encouraged again, because, as I've continued reading the UnChristian, I've discovered some people who are saying things that resonate with my heart.  In the book, each chapter concludes with some shorts written by current Christian leaders.  When I looked at the list of people who were going to respond, I was glad to see names of people I highly respect.  Here's a few quotes from the shorts after chapter that jumped out to me:

The good news is summarized in 1 Corinthians 15: "Christ died on the cross for our sins," so that we can be redeemed. That is the narrow definition that most evangelicals embrace.  I think we are wrong in limiting it to that...

So I'm one of those who believes that while the gospel is most accurately defined by evangelicals as the "good news," it goes beyond that...

One of the things I do when I meet people is ask them, "What is Christianity?"  Undoubtedly half will respond, "A relationship with Jesus."

That is wrong.  The gospel cannot be merely a private transaction.  God didn't break through history, through time and space, to come as a babe, be incarnated, and suffer on the cross just so you can some to him and say, "Oh, I accept Jesus and now I can live happily ever after."  That's not why he cxame... Jesus came as a radical to turn the world upside down.  When we believe it is just about Jesus yourself, we miss the whole point. 

I even dislike using the words "accept Christ" anymore - because it is so much more than that.  Christianity is a way of seeing all of life and reality through God's eyes.  That is what Christianity is:  a view, a system, a way of life.  I believe that when you truly see the gospel in its fullness, it's so much more.  It is the most exciting, radical, revolutionary story ever told.

Truth be told, when I first read this, I thought this was going to be some younger emergent church pastor.  Not so.  It's Chuck Colsen, of all people.  I was surprised, and a bit delighted.  Now, I'm not sure I like they way Chuck says it.  I still think a relationship with Jesus is the entry point.  I still think it's important to "accept Jesus," and I wouldn't say as strongly, "it's wrong" that Christianity is about a relationship with Jesus.  He overstates the case.  In fact, He does a little damage here in my view by tipping towards Christianity as a system.  I get what he's saying, but I don't like the language.  Sure, a Kingdom is a system, but that's a bad way of putting.  It's more like a revolution of one kingdom overthrowing another kingdom, and retaking its rightful thrown, and the kingdom depends upon the king.  So, as a Christian, I am committed to the king and to his ways of living in his world.  So, a relationship with Jesus is the answer, it's just a question of what exactly that means.  It's more about the breadth of meaning, so let's not throw out the baby with the proverbial bathwater. 

But we do have to understand more clearly that the life we are invited into when we accept Jesus is much bigger, wider, deeper, and more fabulous.  It requires much more, including sacrifice and potential death.  It's a kingdom reality.  Chuck talks about that in the short a bit.  He talks about the importance of being a part of the Kingdom come, as Jesus prayed.  Kingdom talk has been on the rise over the last 10 years.  Many people who are talking kingdom and the reign of Christ today, and I think that's right on.  A lot of it was fueled from the missiology of Leslie Newbigin, who has influenced many in the emergent church and beyond.  Again, we need to have something wider than a me-and-Jesus theology, something that takes into consideration what Jesus said that the kingdom has come in him, and that it breaks in, that it is growing like yeast in bread, and that it will consume the whole loaf.  How do we participate in that?  How do we help people to understand that this is what they are giving their lives to when they "accept Jesus" so that we don't just get a lot more people entering, and sitting?

One aside about Chuck Colsen.  I've always struggled with Chuck because he says such great things, then such confusing things, then things from a totally different vantage point.  I figured this out one day when I was at a conference in Seattle and had lunch with a guy I met there.  He was a writer for Chuck.  Literally.  He wrote stuff, and Chuck signed his name.  He said, "Sometimes, he doesn't even know what he's saying."  Interesting.  No wonder I've heard him speaking out of both sides of his mouth.  It makes me wonder if he wrote this piece or not, because it tips towards a more missiological, emergent, and less traditional conservative evangelical stance.  I wonder, because he did exactly the opposite when he subersively slammed Christians ministering to postmoderns awhile back (2003), when emergents got up in arms in response. (Read McLaren's Open Letter to Chuck here.) So, who is the real Chuck, anway?  Or - my cynical side asks, has he just created a really good business producing consumable products for Christians to read?  Ooh... that was cynical.  I'm sorry about that.  But I wonder sometimes.


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