What if… its a cold- hearted betrayal?
Sorry for that shock, but if you think your distractions and complacency, your endless pursuit of wealth, stability, and comfort are no big deal… well, if Christianity is the story we are in, then you might want to think again.
But maybe you feel there’s no way out of this minimalist corner you’ve migrated into — that the “golden handcuffs” are impossible to shed.
Maybe you feel a little like Richard Greer in your famous film An Officer and a Gentleman?
But it all depends on what you want. If you did decide to make an exodus out of that minimalist corner, your God says he awaits you with open arms.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
Knocking…knocking…wanting to share a meal, talk together.
But, if you’re tempted to turn a deaf ear to that knocking, you might want to take this to heart…
For his eyes are on the ways of a man, and he sees all his steps.Job 34:21
And look at this…
The attitude of Jerusalem was like an invisible, numbing fog. People in the once-devout City of David were “settled in complacency” and had convinced themselves that the Lord would not intervene regardless of how they acted (1:12). Little did they know that only a generation later, they would suffer disaster for failing to change their ways.
The dictionary defines complacency as “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger or defect; a smug satisfaction with an existing condition.” If we have placed our security in any source other than our relationship with Christ, then we are living a lie — and we are not secure at all.Dr. David Jeremiah, The Jeremiah Study Bible
Is your security in any other source? And look how that fascinatingly fits with this from your former President Obama…
The Cold War is over, but its history holds lessons for us today. In the face of cynicism and stifled opportunity, the world saw daring individuals who held fast to the idea that the world can change and walls could come down. Their courageous struggles and ultimate success and the enduring conviction of all who keep the light of freedom alive remind us that human destiny will be what we make of it.Presidential Proclamation–Captive Nations Week, July 16, 2010
Really? Human destiny will be what we make of it? That sounds a lot like this…
Francis Crick, who won the Nobel Prize for his work in unraveling the DNA code, speaks for many when he says:
You must realize that much of the political thinking of this country is very difficult to justify biologically. It was valid to say in the period of the American Revolution, when people were oppressed by priests and kings, that all men were created equal. But it doesn’t have biological validity. It may have some mystic validity in a religious context, but . . . it’s not only biologically not true, it’s also biologically undesirable . . . We all know, I think, or are beginning to realize, that the future is in our hands, that we can, to some extent do what we want.15Erwin Lutzer, When a Nation Forgets God
So, if Christianity is the story we are in, then Obama might want to begin to look at the story in the Bible in a far less minimalist manner.
But, so might you.
Since we came to see that the binary core value in the story in the Bible is loyal love/betrayal, we also began to realize that as you Christians in America migrated into that minimalist corner and lived in the fog, you were betraying both yourselves and your country.
Because minimalism results in bits and pieces…
This idea that the Bible’s primary purpose is to communicate to us this great redemption story is not original with us. It was the primary way of understanding the Bible for most of the Christian era. That may be why missionary Lesslie Newbigin repeated words that were said to him during an encounter in India, an encounter that helped him see his own Bible with fresh eyes:
I can’t understand why you missionaries present the Bible to us in India as a book of religion. It is not a book of religion – and anyway we have plenty of books of religion in India. We don’t need any more! I find in your Bible a unique interpretation of universal history, the history of the whole creation and the history of the human race. And therefore a unique interpretation of the human person as a responsible actor in history. That is unique. There is nothing else in the whole religious literature of the world to put alongside it.
Those words, from the mouth of a Hindu scholar, sum up one of the most crippling problems in the church today: failing to grasp the biblical narrative as the true story of the world. As a result, Christians feel lost in the world, seeing both it and Scripture in “bits and pieces.”Restoring All Things, by John Stonestreet and Warren Cole Smith
Do you feel lost? Even though your biblical narrative is the true story of the world? IF Christianity is the story we are in, that is.
Not so long ago, Americans didn’t seem to feel lost at all. Things were different once upon a time in America…
[T]here is sufficient evidence (mostly drawn from signatures) that between 1640 and 1700, the literacy rate for men in Massachusetts and Connecticut was somewhere between 89 percent and 95 percent, quite probably the highest concentration of literate males to be found anywhere in the world at that time. …. It is to be understood that the Bible was the central reading matter in all households, for these people were Protestants who shared Luther’s belief that printing was “God’s highest and extremest act of Grace, whereby the business of the Gospel is driven forward.”Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death
But we think Stonestreet and Smith are right about your “bits and pieces” problem. Look what else we found…
Many of our people are dying of spiritual starvation because they do not know the Bible’s whole story, and thus do not find themselves in the story. True, they know many little stories. They have bag[s] of facts. But a little bit of knowledge is not a big picture. As we preach, we need to bring every text into accountability with the big story of Scripture.Albert Mohler, Jr., He is Not Silent
Al says you don’t know your story, and thus don’t see yourselves in that story. That makes sense to us.
And this Don Hudson guys agrees…
What terrifies me about my generation is that we have lost the importance of seeing the Bible as it was written – a story. We have reduced the Bible to a few significant prooftexts, a few commandments, a few steps to secure the good life. We see the Bible just as we see the average self-help book in the bookstore – not a mysterious, intriguing, beguiling story to be caught up in, but a list of principles that will remove the mystery and suffering of our lives.Come, Bring Your Story, by Don Hudson (1994 Mars Hill Review)
Wow. Is it all about securing a “good life” for you? Are you reducing the greatest story ever told in an “average self-help book”?
We’ve accustomed ourselves to reading mostly in small fragments, often presented as though they were propositional statements addressing various concerns of ours. We’ve isolated Bible verses. We’ve perfected the art of topical searches and word studies—often separating the words and ideas of Scripture from their original context.
This approach to the Bible has a host of unintended consequences. For starters, it leads us to ignore those parts of Scripture that don’t fit the “reference book” model. We like Paul’s letters well enough, for example, but what about the poetry of the Bible? We end up cherry picking our favorite bits and avoiding the rest. We fail to ask the really big questions: What is the Bible? and What are we supposed to do with it?How to Save the Bible, by Glenn Paauw, QIdeas
What are you supposed to do with the Bible? Can you hear your God knocking now?
But the trouble isn’t confined to the personal lives of Christians in America.
It has also impacted your ability to see the bigger picture of what is taking place in your society…
The basic problem of the Christians in this country in the last eighty years or so, in regard to society and in regard to government, is that they have seen things in bits and pieces instead of totals.Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto
And your failure to see your Bible through the lens of story from the inside out has made it so much easier for our story allies to take the commanding heights in American society.
Look at this…
We have fragmented the Bible into bits—moral bits, systematic-theological bits, devotional bits, historical-critical bits, narrative bits, and homiletical bits. When the Bible is broken up in this way, there is no comprehensive grand narrative to withstand the power of the comprehensive humanist narrative that shapes our culture. The Bible bits are accommodated to the more all-embracing cultural story, and it becomes that story—i.e. the humanist story—that shapes our lives.The Urgency of Reading the Bible as One Story in the 21st Century, By Michael W. Goheen, Public Lecture Given at Regent College, Vancouver, B.C., 2 November 2, 2006
So, if you grab your Bibles for five minutes a day, what kind of a meal is it you are sharing with your God? I know you Americans are into fast food, but what kind of “supping with your Savior” is that?
Look at this…
I want, in this book, to argue that we need both religion and science; that they are compatible and more than compatible. They are the two essential perspectives that allow us to see the universe in its three-dimensional depth. The creative tension between the two is what keeps us sane, grounded in physical reality without losing our spiritual sensibility. It keeps us human and humane.
The story I am about to tell is about the human mind and its ability to do two quite different things. One is the ability to break things down into their constituent parts and see how they mesh and interact. The other is the ability to join things together so that they tell a story, and to join people together so that they form relationships. The best example of the first is science, of the second, religion.
Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean.
The Bible is about truth as story. Systems are theoretical constructs, but stories are about people and the time it takes for them to change.Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning
Maybe you have inadvertently paid too much attention to the human “ability to break things down into their constituent parts and see how they mesh and interact.”
Part of the cultural turn to modernity was a new emphasis on study, dissection, and close analysis of the smaller parts of things. This model of investigation was held up as the path to a truer kind of knowledge. The church followed this new model of truth-finding and applied it to the Bible. We moved away from reading the Bible holistically and focused more and more on dividing the Bible into pieces and examining them in isolation. We kind of lost track of the literature of the Bible, and of its story. Whether in devotional use or serious study, we embraced this microscopic and piecemeal approach.INTERVIEW WITH GLENN PAAUW, By Randy A Brown, Bible Buying Guide, June 20, 2017
It appears that your migration into the minimalist corner has brought about a massive change among Christians.
In the old days, it looks like Christians saw God as the Active Protagonist in the ongoing, unfolding story of humanity…
To understand the precritical world, it is important to recall its dependence on the belief in divine providence. In the precritical world, it went without saying that God was active in human affairs. The world of things does not play itself out alone. All things are providentially ordered and governed by a sovereign God. In the Bible, God is at work in many, if not all, ordinary events. What gave a meaningful cohesion to God’s many acts in the Bible and in history was the basic similarity of the two activities. God’s acts, as recorded in the Bible, were like his actions in historical events. The Bible and the events of the real world were the same. By learning to see God at work in biblical events, one came to see God’s work also in the world outside the Bible.John H. Sailhamer, The Meaning of the Pentateuch
But now, of course, your love crisis shows that you keep him at a safe distance. And this shift among so many of you Christians seems to parallel this massive change which has happened in your society…
God has never been more cast out from the Western mind than he is today.Charles J. Chaput, Strangers in a Strange Land
What a striking observation! That’s about change.
So, you might want to connect these…
A story is simply one huge master event. When you look at the value-charged situation in the life of the character at the beginning of the story, then compare it to the value-charge at the end of the story, you should see the arc of the film, the great sweep of change that takes life from one condition at the opening to a changed condition at the end. This final condition, this end change, must be absolute and irreversible.Robert McKee, Story
The bottom line with change (and change is the substance of Story) is that it requires loss.Shawn Coyne, The Story Grid
Here are a couple of more insights we’d like for you to consider – and let us know if you push them away…
If this apprehension of the facts be correct, and the documentary evidence would appear to verify it, then certain conclusions are bound to follow. A spring will cease to flow if its source be dried up; a tree will wither if it roots be destroyed. In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man – these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We can not continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.President Calvin Coolidge, Address at the Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia, Pa., July 5, 1926
Then what might happen, Bryce asked, if religion were to crumble away in America? That is what startled him. For “America is the country in which the loss of faith in the invisible might produce the completest revolution, because it is the country where men have been least wont to revere anything in the visible world.” “Completest revolution?” His insight was radical. American society was so free, so mobile and so fast and ever-changing that the only thing holding America together was religion, and if religion were to lose its inner vitality and its social influence, there would be unimaginable consequences.Os Guinness, Impossible People
By migrating into the minimalist corner and keeping God at a comfortable distance, did you end up making it possible for our story allies in America to gain the commanding heights of your society?
In sum, secularization has not meant that religion has disappeared in the modern world. Far from it. But it has meant that for many believers the supernatural has disappeared for all practical purposes from their day-to-day awareness. The unseen has become unreal. Many churches have been lobotomized but carry on as if nothing has changed.Os Guinness, Impossible People
And… is what you wanted, here in the story, ultimately then one of the key reasons underlying why Samuel Huntington’s sense of how your story could unfold in the next few years may really come to pass?
The greatest surprise might be if the United States in 2025 were still much the same country it was in 2000 rather than a very different country (or countries) with very different conceptions of itself and its identity than it had a quarter century earlier.”Samuel Huntington, Who Are We? Challenges To America’s National Identity
Impossible, right? Is it possible your migration into the minimalist corner will hasten the death of your country?
But America’s suicide, as big a deal as that is, won’t be your biggest concern. For, it’s frightening for a secularist like myself to say this….but it all comes down to your relationship with your God in the end.
Is It a Betrayal of Your God to Occupy the Minimalist Corner?
That question has our attention because, if Christianity is the story we are in, then, contrary to what many Christians believe, the binary core value is loyal love/betrayal.
So, while there are a number of reasons why the minimalist corner of the story triangle is so dangerous for you Christians to occupy, we’d like to suggest those things may largely flow from what appears to be the main problem with Christians occupying that corner…
The heart of the matter concerns your relationship with the Active Protagonist in the story in the Bible.
So, let’s explore this a bit.
Are Christians in America interested in changing and making an exodus from the minimalist corner?
It doesn’t look like it.
Because if you did, you would begin to start working through the obvious implications which flow from the reality that, if Christianity is the story we are in, then your God really is the Great Storyteller.
And your lack of interest in the story you have been given makes our team wonder if something is blocking you.
We wonder if it has something to do with your failure to take seriously enough your greatest commandment…
All too often we have disobeyed the great command to love the Lord our God with our hearts, souls, strength, and minds, and have fallen into an unbecoming anti-intellectualism that is a dire cultural handicap as well as a sin.Os Guinness, Renaissance
This is all fascinating to us, because it is irrational to ignore the possibility that if Christianity is the story we are in, then your God is the Great Storyteller.
Shouldn’t you be willing to think more broadly?
May we all be open to discovering in our sacred book things we had not seen, had not known, had not expected. May we, in other words, love the Scriptures as something bigger than and other than ourselves. We need a love that is truly and fully open to something coming to us from outside the imaginings of our own minds and hearts, something than can illumine our world and our stories. This is the kind of love we must bring to the Bible.Glenn Paauw, Saving the Bible From Ourselves
Bring love to the Bible, he says. It sounds so strange to us, but that’s the deal if your Christian story is all about relationship.
And we wondered if you would even be concerned with this, from the Guinness guy…
The apostle Peter betrayed Jesus and was restored, but Judas stands as the warning for all who betray Jesus for their personal, sexual or political interests and condemn themselves for their disloyalty.Os Guinness, Impossible People
And to help you see all this more clearly, Paula helped us begin to see something.
You Christians talk all the time about glorifying your God, but have you considered what you do when you migrate to the minimalist corner?
In the minimalist corner you treat your God, the Dynamically Active Protagonist, as though he is “relatively reactive and passive.”
But are you sure you want to do that? Look at these passages…
At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill.’ Their goods shall be plundered, and their houses laid waste. Though they build houses, they shall not inhabit them; though they plant vineyards, they shall not drink wine from them.”
For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have been utterly treacherous to me, declares the Lord. They have spoken falsely of the Lord and have said, ‘He will do nothing; no disaster will come upon us, nor shall we see sword or famine.
Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.
And look what Paula Wong found from Paul Moser which is so relevant…
Questions about knowledge of God always hinge on questions about what kind of God we have in mind. The kind of God pertinent to a theistic epistemology makes all the difference in the world. Are we talking about the tenuous, domesticated God of deism, philosophical theism, or liberal Christianity? Or are we talking about the convicting, righteously loving God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus? The latter is the gracious but elusive personal God who is a consuming fire against evil. This is also the God whose love for all requires divine suffering for us, even in the cross of God’s Son, in order to remake us thoroughly in the divine image of holiness and self-giving love. In shying away from the latter robust conception of God, for the sake of a mere theism, philosophers and theologians neglect the distinctive epistemological resources of Jewish-Christian theism. They thereby miss the real point of knowledge of God. The result is an epistemology of theism that fails to challenge knowers in the way most needed: namely, in connection with human idolatry.COGNITIVE IDOLATRY AND DIVINE HIDING, Paul K. Moser, in Divine Hiddenness, eds. D. Howard-Snyder & P.K. Moser
Human talk of God is often cheap and easy, and self-serving too. It thus leaves us with a god unworthy of the morally perfect title “God.” This book takes a different route, in order to move away from counterfeits and toward the real article. Our expectations for God, if God exists, often get in the way of our receiving salient evidence of God. We assume that God would have certain obligations to us, even by way of giving us clear evidence, and when those obligations are not met we discredit God, including God’s existence. This is a fast track to atheism or at least agnosticism. We need, however, to take stock of which expectations for God are fitting and which are not, given what would be God’s perfect moral character and will.Paul Moser, The Severity of God
Reducing your Dynamically Active Protagonist, to a “relatively reactive and passive” God seems a pretty big deal.
And look at what else one of our team found from your C.S. Lewis…
Men are reluctant to pass over from the notion of an abstract and negative deity to the living God. I do not wonder. Here lies the deepest taproot of Pantheism and of the objection to traditional imagery. It was hated not, at bottom, because it pictured Him as man but because it pictured Him as king, or even as warrior. The Pantheist’s God does nothing, demands nothing. He is there if you wish for Him, like a book on a shelf. He will not pursue you. There is no danger that at any time heaven and earth should flee away at His glance. If He were the truth, then we could really say that all the Christian images of kingship were a historical accident of which our religion ought to be cleansed. It is with a shock that we discover them to be indispensable. You have had a shock like that before, in connection with smaller matters – when the line pulls at your hand, when something breathes beside you in the darkness. So here; the shock comes at the precise moment when the thrill of life is communicated to us along the clue we have been following. It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. “Look out!” we cry, “it’s alive.” And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back – I would have done so myself if I could – and proceed no further with Christianity. An “impersonal God” — well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads — better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap — best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband – that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (“Man’s search for God”!) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?
So it is a sort of Rubicon. One goes across; or not.C.S. Lewis, Miracles
The Rubicon! A breathing, living God, your husband, in fierce loyal pursuit of YOU.
Wow. And then Paula showed us this…
The Death of God movement was part of a tradition of liberal Protestantism that sought to turn critics of Christianity into allies who could help midwife a fuller realization of the essence of faith. In this respect, van Buren, Altizer, and Hamilton were heirs of the German biblical scholar Rudolf Bultmann, whose project of “demythologization” sought to separate the “mythical” content of the Bible from its message of authentic spiritual freedom. Bultmann turned the skepticism of modern atheism into a Christian hermeneutic. By clearing faith of its archaic supernaturalism, Bultmann argued in Jesus Christ and Mythology, “demythologization will eliminate a false stumbling block and bring into sharp focus the real stumbling block, the word of the cross.”
As descendants of this theological tradition, the Death of God theologians believed that Protestantism was being led to understand, perhaps for the first time, what Christian faith really means. Christianity is not about possessing knowledge of God or salvation in a world to come; it is about the inauguration of a new way of life that breaks down every barrier to inclusion. Inspired by the New Testament’s vision of human community, they argued that Christianity is a fundamentally social movement, and the job of theology is to purify the Christian tradition of its interest in heaven above.DEATH OF GOD FIFTY YEARS ON, by Matthew Rose, First Things, August 2016
Minimalism to the max.
So… if Christianity is the story we are in, can you really say camping out in the minimalist corner of the story triangle is a wonderful expression of loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength?
Isn’t it more like this?
Defining idolatry as “fashioning God after what we want Him to be, so that He is no longer the God of the Bible,” Blackaby said an incredible amount of idolatry runs across the evangelical Christian community.As judgment looms, God’s people hold the future, by Henry T. Blackaby
So, are you going to take your Chan man seriously?
We are going to look at how the Bible calls us to live our lives. It is important that we not measure our spiritual health by the people around us, who are pretty much like us. To begin this journey, we’ll first address our inaccurate view of God and, consequently, of ourselves.Francis Chan, Crazy Love
But before we look at what is wrong and address it, we need to understand something. The core problem isn’t the fact that we’re lukewarm, halfhearted, or stagnant Christians. The crux of it all is why we are this way, and it is because we have an inaccurate view of God. We see Him as a benevolent Being who is satisfied when people manage to fit Him into their lives in some small way. We forget that God never had an identity crisis. He knows that He’s great and deserves to be the center of our lives. Jesus came humbly as a servant, but He never begs us to give Him some small part of ourselves. He commands everything from His followers.
And we’re curious about something. Are you aware that he is watching you? Look at these passages we found…
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.
Will it be well with you when he searches you out? Or can you deceive him, as one deceives a man?
The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts.
“Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.
The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.
If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart.
The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.
Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord; how much more the hearts of the children of man!
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.
For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths.
O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke? He who teaches man knowledge —the Lord — knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath.
His eyes are on you. Can you hear him knocking yet?
So, this guy gets it that someday it won’t be shrouded, hidden in mystery…
The truth that there is a God actively sifting my thoughts, acts and motives now is about as sobering as the truth that he will one day render a verdict. It avoids self-righteous finger pointing: he sifts all now, even if the curtain now drops only on a few.Steven J. Keillor, God’s Judgments
And look at this…
Just as the Lord paid careful attention to how His people treated His temple, so He takes note of the choices we make, our priorities, and the directions we pursue. They are no longer “our own” because we no longer belong to ourselves but wholly and completely to God. This is the single most important truth about our lives.Dr. David Jeremiah, The Jeremiah Study Bible
And what if this passage from your book of Revelation shines some light on what he is seeing in relation to your love crisis?
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
And Paula Wong showed us these passages, which are very disturbing for us, because it means that, if Christianity is the story we are in, your God is the Active Protagonist…
God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
And we understand that you generally push all that away…
We begin with the idea that divine severity involves “strictness or sternness in dealing with others; stern or rigorous disposition or behaviour; rigour in treatment, discipline, punishment, or the like.” We need to clarify this talk of severity to capture a fruitful conception of God often ignored by philosophers, theologians, and other reflective people. This neglected conception prevents us from thinking of God as akin to a doting grandparent or a celestial Santa Claus figure.Paul Moser, The Severity of God
But, you may want to look at this as you hang out in that minimalist corner…
“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”
So, we would really like to know if you intend to continue to show him such disrespect by continuing to ignore the reality that, if Christianity is the story we are in, he is the Great Storyteller – and the Active Protagonist in the story.
Because, well, maybe this McGee guy is on to something…
After almost a century of insipid preaching from America’s pulpits, the average man believes that God is all sweetness and light and would not discipline or punish anyone. Well, this Book of Revelation tells a different story!J. Vernon McGee, in Notes on Revelation, By Dr. Thomas L. Constable, 2017 Edition
And that Keillor guy helped us see how your migration into the minimalist corner impacts your belief about the possibility that your God is judging America…
We should not read back into the Old Testament our American idea of judgment. We picture a passive, impartial, professional jurist independent of executive and legislative branches, who decides cases that others bring into court according to laws the legislature has passed (the verdict vindicates the law and maintains order more than it redresses wrongs against victims), relies on the executive to enforce the verdict, and corrects the other two branches’ errors. We picture the state prosecuting a defendant, except in civil cases. We may regard the state as overbearing and sympathize with the underdog on trial or the John Dillinger who avoids capture and trial. In general, we tend to be reductionistic: we exclude entire realms such as foreign policy from the realm of justice; “justice” may mean only procedural fairness; verdicts may be based on narrow individual rights, with the broader social outcome and others’ interests ignored.Steven J. Keillor, God’s Judgments
These notions carry over into our idea of divine judgment. We picture a distant, passive God who suddenly acts where he had never acted before when we did such and such. Our surprise means he is unfair.
You are giving us hope. Your occupation of the dangerous minimalist corner is beginning to help us see how we may finally begin to stifle the growth of Christianity in China.
So please, continue to let us know…