Friday, October 3

Only Born to Die?


“As corpses the meant to live; in black they decked out their corpses; out of their speech, too, I still smell the bad odor of death chambers. And whoever lives near them lives near black ponds out of which an ominous frog sings its song with sweet melancholy. They would have to sing better songs for me to learn to have faith in their Redeemer: and his disciples would have to look more redeemed!”

Friedrich Nietzche
Thus Spoke Zarathustra

One of my beefs with contemporary Western Christianity is the way it often reduces the Gospel to only one domain, fire insurance. The Good News is apparently only applicable to something totally unfalsifiable, the afterlife. To quote Dr. John Macarthur, Jesus "didn't come to fix life here. He didn't come to eliminate poverty. He didn't come to eliminate slavery." I remember hearing some of my pastors saying that Jesus was “born to die” and that his only purpose was to die for our sins that we might be saved. In short, apparently Jesus didn't come to change anything that can actually be seen, heard, tasted, touched, or felt. He only came to save us from Hell, which none of us has ever seen, and send us to Heaven, which none of us has ever seen.

Here's where my skeptical brain kicks in. How do we know we're not just being sold a bill of goods? Snake Oil? Do we just trust those that tell us we can be “saved” while life, our life, their life, goes on otherwise unchanged? We still go to the same job, eat the same things, dress the same way, spend our leisure time on the same activities, but now we've got a really killer retirement package that we “receive by grace through faith”?

If this is only thing that the “Gospel” is about, doesn't that kind of make a good deal of Jesus' teaching kind of pointless filler? If the Gospel, in it's totality, is about going to Heaven by appropriating God's grace by belief in Jesus' death and resurrection what the heck is the point of the parable of the Sheep and Goats (Matt 25:31-46)? Why worry about most of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7) if I've already got all the Gospel has to offer? Apparently, being a peacemaker (Matt 5:9) doesn't actually make you a child of God. (To be fair, the text does say “Shall be called” not “Shall be”. I guess you can be called one and not be one. I wish Jesus was less confusing on this issue). Are all the interpersonal, social, and moral aspects of the New Testament like optional equipment on a new car, nice to have but not necessary to get you from point A to point B?

I'm thinking this is where I kick platonic assumptions about the nature of reality to the curb. I do believe that Jesus saves us from our sins, but I think He intends to do so in the here and now as well as the sweet by and by. I believe he intends for us to be free from the bondage and consequences of our addiction to consumerism, noise, drugs, lust, the mindless consumption of electronic media, the economic ease and privilege of living at the center of the Empire, etc. now, as well as later.

I refuse to serve a neutered Jesus that has been made in our image and is safe for mass consumption. I don't need a smarmy platitude-spewing Lord that is simply there to give me an eternal pass on all my instances of wrath, greed, apathy, or elitism. I want Him to be fierce in my life. Like Aslan in Narnia, I pray that Jesus is good, but not "safe" for me to spend time with. I want Him to destroy my apathy and self-deception to reveal what His Kingdom, what His Gospel is truly about. I want to see the Gospel, the declaration of the ascendancy of a new King, turn the world upside down again, to save people here and now. I want to see Jesus set addicts free, mend broken families, reconcile communities, and bring peace to nations. I just pray that I have the courage to walk into that new land when I'm given a glimpse of it. Then, after a long hard fight, I'll take that retirement plan.


(Shamelessly stolen from a recent page at The Ooze!)

10 comments:

  1. Robert, I hope your articles can get some more readers. Jeff suggested this to me, and I joined and pass this info on to you.

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    Join the BlogBurst network and start getting picked up by some of the world’s most popular media sites. Keep in mind that they only accept full text feeds. No partial RSS feeds are allowed.

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  2. I like the Z at the top of the post.

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  3. Thanks, Russ.

    I'm checking into that blogburst thing. As for the "z," I have no clue. On the main page the post has a picture!

    Peace,

    r.

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  4. Only Born to Die, GREAT stuff. The only problem with it is that I didn’t write it.

    http://his-living-word.blogspot.com/

    You might want to check out http://cboblogroll.org/ Christian Bloggers online as well.

    Have a Great day in the Kingdom
    http://his-living-word.blogspot.com/2008/09/kingdom-of-god-here-and-now.html

    Bill

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  5. I refuse to serve a neutered Jesus that has been made in our image and is safe for mass consumption.

    Nor should you. We should serve the Christ of Scripture, but many in the Church seemingly are not that interested in Scripture.

    I have two newbies, one on each blog that may interest.

    Thanks my friend.

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  6. Good classic pic once again, Robert.

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  7. The post made me think back to my reactions to the "Have you been saved?" question we often hear in my neck of the woods.
    1. Yes, and what do I do now?
    2. I'll find out eventually.
    3. I hope so.
    4. Yes, but have you been baptised by a priest in Apostolic succession?

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  8. Thanks, TUPper! But then the question still remains, have you been saved? :-) I try to re-route the conversation to the present- too many presume that they can leave "their" salvation behind them and expect it to show back up at the right time like the hero dog in the movies.

    Joel, thanks for stopping by! How's the family, (and how are things looking now up in Orissa?)

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  9. I think it's fair to say that how attractive people think "fire insurance" is depends upon what they think of the present life and how conscious they are of their mortality.

    If they think that this life is brutish and short (as Hobbes put it) fire insurance looks awfully good. Part of the problem churches are having these days is that, with longer lives and better living conditions, it's harder to convice people that eternity is important.

    Changes in our economy and government may well shift this balance.

    My own reflections on this subject, which date back a couple of years, are here.

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So what's your take?