In the Wilderness of Religion

The Race Track

 Eric Bryan via Compfight

There are an awful lot of us in the Church today who are no longer feeling at home in Evangelicalism. Regardless of how you feel about World Vision’s hiring policy decisions, the spectacle of thousands of people discontinuing their child sponsorships (relationships with flesh and blood children in need) because of a theological disagreement left many of us aghast. Is this what American consumerism has done to our faith?

Ed Cyzewski wrote a blog entitled We Know Where to Find Jesus, But What If We Don’t Want to Go There?  If you’re feeling like you’re wandering in the wilderness of religion, it might comfort you to know that the wilderness can be a holy place.

From Ed’s blog post:

The riddle of Jesus was as confounding to John as it would be for us today. There’s no doubt that many Christians today would struggle to believe in and follow a religious “leader” like Jesus who wasn’t married, didn’t have a large following, and never assumed any kind of official office or put together an organization/denomination.

Jesus wasn’t organized, systematized, or influential according to our own terms. While he had a certain amount of authority and clout because of his powerful teachings and miracles, he never took on a formal position. That latter point made no sense to John.

I was reminded of these lessons about John from my book Unfollowers when I read a post by Sarah Bessey over the weekend. Sarah gives evangelicals “permission” to step away from labels, traditions, and positions for a season in order to grieve and to rediscover what following Jesus may look like for them. Everything in her post resonates with my own experiences in evangelicalism: the need to grieve its worst parts, the desire for distance and space, and the reassembling of my faith out in the wilderness apart from religious structures.

We don’t get to remake faith according to our own terms. We can only seek out Jesus wherever he may be found, and as the story of John the Baptist teaches us, Jesus spent a lot of time in the wilderness.

Related Reading

The Starting Point for “Knowing God”

While it makes sense that Hellenistic philosophers embraced knowledge of God as the simple, necessary and immutable One in an attempt to explain the ever-changing, composite, contingent world (see post here for what this means), it is misguided for Christian theology to do so. By defining knowledge of God’s essence over-and-against creation, we are defining God’s essence…

Jesus is the Center of the Story

The previous post addressed how the revelation of Christ is the surprising twist that reframes how we must read all that precedes it. Today we’ll look briefly at five supports to this claim. Jesus said, “I have a testimony greater than that of John” (John 5:36). Jesus elsewhere claims that “among those born of women…

Can You Believe It?

The origin of human sin and the world’s oppression goes back to a deceptive, untruthful picture of God given to Eve by Satan. Jesus came, in part, to finally reveal the absolute truth about God. He is the way and the truth (alethia) and the life (Jn 14:6). The word “truth,” literally means “uncovered.” And…

Why Did Jesus Curse The Poor Fig Tree?

 Why Did Jesus Curse The Fig Tree?  One of the strangest episodes recorded in the Gospels is Jesus cursing a fig tree because he was hungry and it didn’t have any figs (Mk 11:12-14; Mt 21:18-19).  It’s the only destructive miracle found in the New Testament. What’s particularly puzzling is that Mark tells us the…

Quotes to Chew On: Confronting Non-Christians

“When Christians confront people on the basis of presuppositions not shared by the people they confront, they come across as rude (hence unloving, I Cor. 13:4-5) and usually render the gospel less credible to the people they confront. What is not generally communicated to the people being evangelized is the one thing we are called…

Would God Kill a Baby To Teach Parents a Lesson?

Question: We have a group of guys that are going through your book “Is God to Blame” and a question came up that I would be curious how you would look at it. In the beginning of the book you ask the question “do you really think that God kills babies to teach parents a lesson?”…