New post: Why Do People Die?
New post: Why Do People Die?
New Post: On the Outside Looking In
New post on 412 Teens: If I was created for God’s own glory, does He even care about me?
I. Am no master at the quick reaction. I am however excellent at thinking over a scenario weeks later and coming to a conclusion of what would have been a good answer to a question.
How my work/life scenario is right now there are conversations constantly about theology. I work in a secular office, but virtually everyone is a believer, and many are elders and pastors. Countless times I’ve walked into my office and been stopped with “I was reading in the old testament today…” I go from this to discussing the worldview and character development in Krampus with the midget, to answering a theology question for 412teens.
So when I was at a party shortly before Christmas and I heard quite frustrated. This person was upset with their theology class and posed this question: “Why do we study theology?” I had come to respect this person so I pushed past my initial reaction (“Why do we breath?) and listened more. This person was frustrated because why spend all this time diving into pretrib/posttrib, Calvinism, limited atonement, free will vs predestination,etc, when there are people who don’t know the love of Christ *at all*. Shouldn’t we be focusing on people and not arguments that have literally been made for thousands of years?
He has a point.
This last year I’ve been doing a lot of reading outside of my niche of faith tradition and I see two extremes of the argument. There is the one side (which I would say falls under “seeker-sensitive”) which entirely focuses on boiling down the Gospel to it’s bare bones and blasting it out to as many people as possible. This side will reach people that would never step foot in a traditional church, but they can fall short when people do want to grow and learn in their faith. And there’s the other side, who will spend a month of Sundays on the first word in Romans. This can create a culture that is so focused on learning more and more that they can forget there is a world out there who has not even heard the good news. While they’re parsing Greek in Sunday school, there are those who are wondering if there is any hope at all.
So what do we do? It seems to be you can either be in a church community who is ready to reach everyone, even those who don’t quite fit in, in their community OR you can be in a church that wants to dig deep into Scriptures and find all the treasure that is there.
I repeat myself, so what do we do? I’m still working on figuring out that answer. In my life this has visualized in attending a community focused church while listening to podcasts of more traditional churches/self study. To swing back around to the original question: why study theology when there are lives who haven’t heard the good news? My answer is if we are basing our hope and salvation on something shouldn’t we learn as much as humanly possible about it? In Acts (17:11) the Bereans are praised for listening to teaching and then going back and making sure what Paul is teaching them is correct. I love this because they are praised for researching, and not just expected to receive teaching passively.
Study, learn, understand Scripture, but we cannot become so insulated that we forget to share what we know or that we forget at one time we were also searching for the truth.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
I am going to take this space to disagree with my pastor. it’s not the first time I’ve disagreed with him, but this time I want to say something. Sunday he finished his sermon with this:
“You may be asking yourself is God safe? I’m here to tell you yes, God is safe!”
I understand the purpose behind that statement. It is an angry world, people are angry at God, or fear God is angry with them, or just want to know what this God thing is. Will they get hurt? Is it worth it? Why should they come back next week? If they enter these doors will that gnawing emptiness be filled? Will they be lied to? Will they be accepted? Will their kids be accepted? I understand the desire to wrap it all up and say ‘it’s safe here, come on in.” And leave it at that. But that is selling God short. And that is selling a God that is not accurate.
When we preach a God that is incomplete we are essentially saying that the God of the Bible, the “Lion of Judah” is too much to swallow, so we need to give a little bite sized version that people can handle.
Part of what makes Narnia so powerful is here is a children’s book with no watering down of the power of God. You cannot read those books without getting a sense of the deep power of Aslan and also the deep love. For something to be good, it does not need to be safe. It does not need to be controllable.
God is trustworthy. God is a holy fire that cannot stand evil and He is also a God who chooses to adopt us as children. He will not break His promises and He values us down to the number of hairs on our head. God is completely outside of our control, we cannot manipulate Him. Which is both terrifying and comforting, but most of the time comforting.
Instead of saying God is safe, tell about how God is good. He values you. And I think that’s where the desire for hearing “is it safe” comes from. Really what people are asking is “will I be valued?” And yes, you have value woven into your core and that is what God sees. That is what God died for and bore our punishment. Because He values you.
Don’t settle for a God who is safe.
When I was in college, a local Christian bookstore had an inventory of books that they couldn’t sell due to water damage. And they gave those books to my college. Fortunately for me, the day they were giving them away was at a chapel that like no one showed up to. I could barely carry the stack of books I brought home that day. And among them was a thin pamphlet containing Jonathan Edward’s ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’.
I have heard this sermon referenced many times over the years, but this was the first time I had read it. It’s an exceptional treatise and I would add it to my list of books that I think every believer should read at some time in their lives.
Reading Jesus Feminist was one of the first things that made it onto my 30 before 30 list. (To balance things out I also have on the list to read Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards, which I have had on my shelf since college and never gotten around to reading it.)
Ordering this book felt rebellious. When I had first heard of it I had thought ‘can you do say? Say that? Is that ok?’ Having read the book I do wonder if the author purposefully picked that title to weed out people who would dismiss the book regardless of the content. And if the title didn’t scare those people away, the introduction would. The introduction sets the tone for the book. And with that, I want to say what this book is not.
Jesus Feminist is not angry. It is not defensive. It is not a theology book. It is not a debate. The author calls herself a rabble rouser near the end, but she is the quietest rabble rouser I have ever encountered. If you’re anything like me the biggest thing in my list of ‘nots’ that would have jumped out at you is that I stated it’s not a theology book. The least amount of time spent in this book is addressing the passages in Scripture used in the submission debates, or whether or not women can preach. Sarah Bessey is egalitarian and does believe that women can be pastors, and she dives into the Scriptures and explains why she believes the traditional interpretation is inaccurate. And then she moves on. I found her argument thought provoking for why women can be pastors, but felt that her argument for why the complementarian view of submission is inaccurate to be weak.
But this book isn’t about arguments. Or sides.
“Neither one of us – woman or man – is secondary or backup; we are all key parts of Kingdom building, intrinsic to the story of God, right now.” Jesus Feminist pg. 79
I believe that’s the point of the book. Men, women, single, married, widowed, none of us are backup, secondary Christians. We are all equally loved and equally important in the Kingdom of God.
The author spends a good amount of ink writing about her love and respect for her husband, and painted a beautiful portrayal of marriage. Reading those parts of the book I found the cynicism regarding marriage that I hadn’t really known had been building in my heart being scrapped away. For that alone the book was worth the read.
There are many more quotes I marked that I could share, but I’ll leave it at that one. My conclusion for this book is that overall it points back to Christ. She encourages her readers to pray, to keep Christ at the center of your life, and listen to the Holy Spirit. At the end of my studies, will I agree with her 100%? Probably not. But I also don’t agree 100% with the theology in my C.S. Lewis books, doesn’t mean I’m going to stop reading C.S. Lewis. But isn’t that the amazing thing? We can read and study and compare to Scripture on our own. There aren’t gate keepers who are keepers of The Knowledge, and when we encounter something that we don’t understand? I pray that everyone who reads this has an older believer they can go to to help explain a tough issue, or have that older believer work through it with them.