Thoughts on Kingdom, Church, and Grace from an American living in Hong Kong

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Theology Without a Net

A few years back in grad school I took a class called The Politics of Ideas.  During the obligatory introduction you get during these types of classes the Professor warned us that we would be going down into a chasm of ideas that would challenge many of our notions and understandings.  He then promised though not to worry, that at the end of the class we would climb back out of the hole on a (metaphorical) rope and all would be well again.

It was an amazing class...

Well,I just finished Pete Rollins new book Insurrection; To Believe is Human, To Doubt Divine and I won't say so much that I have emerged from a deep hole (that would portray the wrong picture)  but I do feel as if I have returned to ground level after free climbing a sheer cliff.  This image of climbing was seconded when I saw the print version of the book (I read it on Kindle) and Rob Bell's quote on the cover reads:
In this book Pete takes you to the edge of a cliff.  And just when most writers would pull you back, he pushes you off.  But after your initial panic you realize your fall is a form of flying...and its thrilling!
Over the years my wife Tammy has sometimes been a little unnerved about the questions I ask concerning God, the church, and  Christianity.  I've told her one of the reasons I feel able to engage in those questions and conversations, essentially to scale very sheer "theological" cliffs is because of the absolute trust I have in my climbing gear (Jesus Christ).  He is my firm foundation and "belay" line... and with that I have a lot of freedom to climb and explore.

 While reading Rollins book I must admit though I was keeping my eye out for clues that he had a safety line rooted in Christ himself.

...and he does.

A couple times when I thought he must be in free fall, he instead found that piece of rock wall that was secure and then just dangled there by his finger tips looking down at me...was he smiling?

(Gotta love a church fellowship in a pub where the speaker has a pint of Guiness rather than water)

When Christians don't wish to explore their own faith , when they prefer to rely on watching a pastor climb the wall rather than engage the rock themselves, when they'd rather sit safely in a pew (or these days a folding chair) rather than endure the painful scrapes and jagged edges of a rock face, then I begin to wonder what their faith really is.

Do they have any trust in their equipment?  Or is their a fear when it really mattered their safety line in Christ would snap and they would find themselves in a free fall?

In Insurrection Rollins argues that many Christians in fact relate to God in the manner of Deus Ex Machina.  (God out of the Machine)  Essentially Deus Ex Machina is a writing convention used whenever the play or story needs to be moved along or something needs to happen to suddenly make sense of a plot.  In ancient Greek plays the "god" would be lowered in to perform some bit of magic to get the plot back on track, and then he would be lifted out again.  Its considered a cheap writing convention though it is still used often today...

Rollins argues that for many Christians their relationship with God takes the form of this convention.  God is not part of the natural flow of their life story but is lowered in on occasion to help makes sense of their lives and the world.  Rollins mentions that when ever he encounters a Christian that gets angry or defensive when their faith is challenged...when they feel a need to "defend the faith" so to speak, it's then most often that they are using God as really a "cosmic security blanket".  Its the Christian who can engage in serious questions on matters of the faith even with those who oppose who are more often those with a strong secure line wrapped around themselves and Christ.

As for me, you'll find me up on the wall and this blog will probably begin to more regularly report on my views while hanging there...I hope they'll both bless and challenge you!

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