Jesus as Center


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There is a lot in the Bible that can derail a person's faith, especially if you've been taught that the only way to read the Bible is to take it at it's most literal meaning without regard for genre, cultural context or the fact that words change meaning over time. Compounding this problem is a doctrine in Evangelical Christianity that says the Bible itself is the foundation of faith for Christians. I talked in a previous post about why this doctrine came about.

But this still leaves the question: Is the Bible the problem, or are we the problem? My personal vote is for option 2. The Bible is fine just the way it is. Our approach to the Bible, however, can leave much to be desired.

Seeing Christians slamming anyone who disagrees with their political or social views is one symptom I've noticed of an impoverished approach to the Bible. Perhaps more than this, it's a symptom of unhealed pain that is part of what I call a "knowledge without transformation" approach to faith. 

In this approach, we use the Bible to gain a bunch of knowledge about God and the Law, we get puffed up with pride, and then we take it on ourselves to make sure we let everyone know how sinful they are. At the same time, the very things we accuse others of we eventually fall into, because while we have been busy defending the bible and arguing about God, we ignore our primary relationship with God. We put up walls that only let God in so far, because if he got all the way in we know there are things in our hearts that God would surely dissolve, and we don't really want it. We want to decide what stays and what goes. 

So we gossip and rumor about others, we condemn people who disagree with us, we "fight" on behalf of God for a way of life that exists only in first world countries, and we argue incessantly with one another.

So let me take this one step further. I want to challenge the core of Conservative Christianity with the suggestion that we got it wrong. Jesus, not the Bible, is our final authority in all matters. The Bible (not Jesus) is useful. What I'm getting at is in too many Evangelical circles, we tend to view the Bible as our authority and Jesus as a useful friend who gives and gets us stuff. As a result, much of evangelical Christianity has traded the Gospel for general morality. In the worst cases, the gospel and morality are packaged as "the gospel".

This is backwards. The Bible is useful (2 Timothy 3:16) but Jesus is our ultimate authority (Matthew 28:18). Further to this, we find that Jesus is the exact representation of God (Hebrews 1:3), and is therefore trustworthy.

Accepting this as an intellectual claim is one thing. Experiencing it is quite another. I accept the claim in part because I trust the scriptures, but also in part because I've experienced the trustworthiness of the reality of Jesus in my life, which makes me trust the scriptures more. 

Here is a giant piece of context for these claims
Galatians 1
Galatians 2
Galatians 3
Galatians 4
Galatians 5
Galatians 6

In light of Galatians, being theologically conservative should be tempered with a large measure of grace. In the chapters above, we have a prime example of theological conservatism. But, it is the Gospel on which the conservatism rests. That is the crux of everything for me. If I am to be conservative, I will be conservative regarding Christ, who died for the whole world that we all might be saved (1 Timothy 2:1-7).

Moving along ...

Do people's political views get you so mad that you want to scream? Do you lose your sensibilities when someone uses poor logic in defending views you think are barbaric? I know I do at times, and it scares me.

Why?

Because it underscores the fact that I don't cultivate my relationship with Jesus nearly enough. I am far too easily outraged by the things I see on social media, and the outrage has nowhere to go so I usually just internalize it. It would be better if I deleted all social media that to internalize any more outrage. I bet it takes years off our lives (both metaphorically in terms of contentment and literally) to live with this low grade anger toward what I see out there in the world.

But Isn't a little bit of righteous anger a good thing? Shouldn't we be upset at injustice? It's true, injustice (especially systemic injustice) should get some righteous blood boiling ... the problem is that we often just boil and stress instead of doing something to positively impact the world in the name of Jesus. Even then, if impacting the world means abortion marches, curriculum boycotts and borderline hateful sermons on Sunday, I think we need to take a good hard look at the foundation of our theology, for Christ's sake. Perhaps more to the point, we need to take a look at the middle layers between our theology and our actions because somewhere in there, we are shorting out.

If Jesus really is at the core of our faith, then the faith we profess to have and the systems that come out of it should look like Jesus! In fairness, expecting 'perfection' is a fool's errand, so we can expect any system of any faith to be flawed, messy and miss the point at times. However, a Jesus-looking faith will be gracious where religion is harsh, kind where religion is brutal, loving where religion is isolating and open where religion is closed off.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.(Romans 5:8)

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