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Have You Taken a Gospel Immunization Shot?
Why does being “Christian” in America make so little difference in so many people’s lives, when the kingdom movement revealed in the New Testament revolutionized people’s lives? This drastic difference is hardly surprising when you consider that the gospel that people are often given today is little more than a contract of acquittal that is signed by praying the sinner’s prayer or some such thing. Nor is it surprising that this powerless version of the gospel absorbs rather than confronts the culture of the people who sign this contract. Within this gospel, people give their mental assent to certain beliefs and are thereby ushered into a “kingdom” that looks almost identical to the earthly kingdom they were supposed to be called out of. They can keep all their cultural assumptions, and, apart from avoiding certain behaviors that are singled out as the deal-breaker sins, their lives can continue on just as before.
All who are invested in the kingdom Jesus inaugurated in this world must find all of this deeply disturbing. What is even more disturbing, however, is that this contract Christianity seems to function for many like an immunization shot. When a person is immunized against the flu, they receive just enough of the flu virus to trick their body into acting as if they had the real thing so that they build up a resistance to the real thing. So too, there is just enough truth in this certainty-seeking, contractual, belief-oriented, individualistic version of Christianity to trick people into thinking they have the real thing. They thus aren’t open to, or hungry for, true faith because they assume they already have it when they believe.
It’s as if they are a husband or wife who has security in their marital pledge rather than in the quality of the relationship he or she pledged to have. Many people today resist the need to cultivate an actual marriage-like relationship with Christ because they find their security in their past pledge. They prayed “the sinners prayer,” got baptized, affirmed the “doctrines essential to salvation,” or did whatever their church requires. So long as they retain a sufficiently strong faith—that is, a faith that is sufficiently free of doubt—they believe these things permanently guarantee they’re okay with God. When they did these things, they were told, the Judge accepted the sacrifice of his Son as the payment for their crimes, they were acquitted, and that is the end of the matter.
This perspective of the gospel preserves just enough of the kingdom exterior to pass for the real thing. But what is easily missed when matters are construed this way is that the kingdom is all about cultivating an actual life-giving relationship with God, and this can only be done moment by moment, for life can only be lived, and relationships can only be cultivated, in the present. Surface resemblances notwithstanding, the legal paradigm easily misses the life flowing out of the relationship with the King that defines the kingdom of God.
—Adapted from Benefit of the Doubt, pages 141-142.
Responding to Critics of a Pacifist View of the Syrian Crisis-Part 2
United Nations Photo via Compfight Yesterday I posted a response to Tyler Tully’s criticism of some of my thoughts on the Syrian crisis. The second blog I’d like to review is Two Friars and a Fool by Aric Clark. Like Tully, Aric approved of much of what I said, but also like Tully, he raised several…
Is Faith Inherently Irrational?
Is Faith Inherently Irrational? Many people seem to assume that faith is giving credence to things that don’t make much sense and for which there is little or no evidence. Take the doctrine of the Incarnation, for example. This is the traditional Christian teaching that Jesus is “fully God and fully human.” Now, to many…
Radical is in the Eye of the Beholder
Josias Hansen is a Brazilian-born, Charismatic Mennonite student at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN. Together with Third Way Church, Josias enjoys experimenting with what it looks like to take Jesus seriously as a jolly community of kingdom disciples. Was Jesus a radical? Did he do and teach radical things? What if I were to tell…
Why Bart Ehrman Doesn’t Have to Ruin Your Christmas (Or Your Faith) Part 5
This is the fifth of several videos Greg put together to refute Bart Ehrman’s claims published in the article What Do We Really Know About Jesus? In this segment, Greg points out that none of Bart’s material are new discoveries. Even the most conservative scholars in this field are aware of them, and yet, none of them…
Sermon Clip: Hunger Games
To begin the series on emotional intelligence and the roles this plays in our relationships, Greg Boyd introduces the foundational teaching of the entire series. Here’s a hint, it’s LOVE. In the full sermon, Greg takes a look at the role Jesus plays in our relationships and the importance of letting Christ be the source…
Sermon Clip: Mark Moore Israel Week 2
In this sermon clip, Mark Moore talks about how God interrupts Abrahams life by asking him to have huge faith. In week two of The Forest In The Trees, Woodland Hills takes a look at the early history of the Hebrew people and the formation of the nation of Israel. Throughout these stories, we see…