Thursday, December 23, 2010

Theology and Perspective (Part 3...)

First check out Part 1, and Part 2.

So, returning to my original quote: love isn't a feeling, it's a decision.

And I said, there's some truth to it. However - I don't think that's the whole story.

We all long for love, and when we think of it, imagine the amazing soaring heights: long walks in the woods; laughter; passion; kisses in the moonlight; being held by someone who just wants to be with you; that secret, hidden spark; being known and knowing, intimately, deeply, unjudgingly; the look that's meant just for you...

And Josh Harris et al. are right in saying it's more than just the feeling we get from these things (incredible, inexplicable, wonderful and rewarding though it is...), and we must have something more, a decision, an act of the will, which keeps us going through the dark times. Though thick and thin, health and sickness, better or worse, richer or poorer. The thing which keeps us going though we're angry and tired, and the one we love drives us mad. When everything goes wrong and we want to give up - that "not-giving-up-ness", is also love. And without it, all of the first list are just a crashing cymbal, or breath of wind, cool, sweet, beautiful, but perishable, and of no lasting significance.

But the thing is, I don't think that just the decision is love.

And I think we can - by looking at it, or teaching it this way - miss the fact that 90% of the time*, life isn't passionate highlights, nor terrible lows, but plodding along in the day-to-day mundane boring normality.
[*Yes, I know. Fictional statistic for the sake of rhetorical prose. Forgive me.]

Does that sound bad?

If you get married, and have kids, then by the time they are old enough to leave home, you'll have spent two thousand HOURS ... doing the dishes.

Is that bad?

No. It's an integral part of love. Without the details, picking up the trash and the dishes, vacuuming the carpets, driving to work, none of the "perks" of love can exist - nor would they mean anything if they did.

What we need, I think, is not to say "I have decided to love", but "I am love". Following God's description of Himself in John's gospel as love. The famous passage in 1 Corinthians comes to mind, of course, as well. So instead of thinking, "I've decided to love Becky", or "I feel in love with Becky", I must say, "I am love Becky." (grammarians, have fun)

Then the things I do, the things I think, the things I say, will all come from that. The who I am.

And it must become part of the who.

So then, how does this all reflect back to theology, and the my thoughts about our perspective on God?

Well, I struggle to connect a lot of the bits and pieces of Christianity.

The theology, on one hand, with the practical out-working on the other, loving people on the third hand, loving God on the fourth, loving myself with the fifth hand, spiritual experience with the sixth, and by this stage, I've more than run out of arms.

The Christian life is for Octopuses.

But back to the point of this - I believe we all long for the excitement and adventure of faith. Of being part of something enormously bigger and more fantastic than ourselves; of knowing something (someone) deep inside of our hearts; fighting against evil; forgetting ourselves as we proclaim with great passion and joy the great truths, of sitting discussing until the wee hours about how fantastically beautiful each aspect of our Creator is, delving deeper and deeper into something incredibly vast and unending, and also of going out amongst the poor and needy, healing the sick, giving up luxuries with joy, being a useful part of a bigger kingdom.
[Note the '3 winds', btw]

Adrian Plass jokes of his fantasy walking through a church hall healing people in wheel-chairs.

But the biggest thing, I think, within this is the aspect of "forgetting ourselves".

We're SO self-obsessed, and when we finally forget ourselves, and reach in the reality outside of our own pettiness, we truly live.

I've been thinking about it a lot. Why books can be so absorbing; why I want to escape to Narnia, or Middle Earth, or Hogwarts; why it's so much easier to watch an episode of "Top Gear" than to write emails or invite the neighbours 'round for tea...

I think firstly, losing ourselves; Not having to "think about number 1", and get away. But then there's also the other bits of faith - being part of something enormously bigger, deep truths and fighting against evil, growing deeper...

To me, Narnia and all that is so very attractive, as fighting dragons and hunting in the forests seems so much easier than the battles I face. Peter grows up and becomes a man through slaying the wolf of Queen Jardis. I must grow up by memorising verses and remembering to take out the trash?

I'm convinced that this "escapism" is not wrong. It catches us, with the secret "joy" that C.S. Lewis talks of, and awakens our hearts to the calling of God. I cannot believe that God did not intend us to be adventurous. Just as it takes forever for Gandalf to convince Bilbo that hobbits are actually very good at adventuring, and that a safe happy small life in a hobbit-hole is actually a wasted life.

What we need is to be those adventurers, those bold warriors, those royal alive on-fire Lords and Ladies, as we do everything. As we wash the dishes. As we scrape ice off the car. As we pay our rent.

Just believing the right Christian theology - isn't enough. Just making a decision - isn't enough. Just discussing the right Christian concepts - isn't enough. Just doing the right Christian things - isn't enough.

We have to be christians.

Most of the time, I don't even know where to start.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Theology and Perspective (Part 2 of?)

Link to Part 1 (Read it First)

I played a bit with trying to make Venn diagrams in 3d. Using different shaped spheres, and so on. It's quite hard to make diagrams which actually help to make the subject clearer. Usually it actually becomes less comprehensible.

But here's the best I could come up with, showing 3 'winds' I believe are currently blowing through the Evangelical world:

Obviously, there's a heck of a lot more going on - just as in my previous post there are an awful awful lot of groups who don't fit into those gross generalisations. But I'm just focusing on a few areas - humour me. You can extrapolate the concepts out to whichever field of theological hooha you like.

So anyway. The 3 "winds":

Proclamation: A lot of people, especially amongst the Reformed Christians, but also amongst the Positive Christians are very 'preachy' – in that their primary effort seems to be going in to telling the rest of the world their position. All the traditional study aids go into this: exegesis, hermeneutics, preaching, everything goes into 'Tell the world the truth!'. And it's not just the Reformed groups, but all across the spectrum. There isn't a lot of open-minded-ness, because there IS an absolute truth, and our job is to tell everyone about it! One of the major shortfalls is that the people most influenced by this wind tend (I observe) to not be willing to challenge their own beliefs, but once they've "got it sorted" and have answers they're happy with, are happy to debate for the sake of convincing others, but aren't open to changing themselves. I met some Mormons a few months ago who told me, 'We'd like to tell you about what we believe, but if you want to just discuss and try to tell us about your beliefs, then we'll just go elsewhere. We're not going to be converted.'

Discussion: Especially in the so called 'Emerging Church', much effort seems to go into 'The Conversation'. In many ways, I suspect this is a reaction against the proclamation group - who were very much de regueur during the '80s, and are perceived to have built into almost a fortress of dogma. The Discussion seems to be reacting away from that, saying, 'Maybe Wayne Grudem didn't have everything right. Maybe the world is a bit more complex than a quick Systematic Theology can describe. It's certainly open for discussion. I don't know, but it's interesting – what do you think?' And in a sense, that's the big difference. What do you think? vs. This is the truth! And it's not just one group saying this – I think it's across the whole Church. Some people are becoming more open to uncertainty and relational discussion – which is positive, I think. And also, everything being open for discussion is also positive. It helps us to not become blinded.

It is a harder line to walk with integrity, though, I think, as if everything is open for discussion, how do you really know what you believe? And do you really believe it? It can also turn very easily into 'There is no absolute truth? Right? 'Cos, everyone has their own perspective, innit? Whaddya say?'

Doing: Many people have become disillusioned with much of this 'speaking not acting', and have just said "Stuff it, we're going to go and DO what Jesus said, never mind if we get it a bit wrong. He said He'd be with us, I'm sure He'll help us get it right along the way." Inspired by Mother Teresa, Saint Francis, etc. The so called "New Monastic Movement" may well lean this way. I lean this way myself, I think. It's partly why I chose to join Doulos, rather than go to a classroom based theology study. I wanted to DO, and not be spoon fed theory any more. The strength of this group is that it can become very much more loving and a real force for good, and earn the respect of non-Christians, and be a very visible light and salt in the world. Sitting in a parish centre talking about obscure theology over bad instant coffee - or hollering hellfire-n'-brimstone from a pulpit on the whole just get us ignored. The weakness is a tendency to become very "social gospel". 'Jesus told us to feed the hungry, care for the poor, etc, and it doesn't matter what we believe! If you're a Buddhist, but you're doing what Jesus said, then hey! That's pretty good too...'

Now one point / question. Do you need Right Beliefs (Orthodoxy) to live the Right Light (Orthopraxy), or can you only really develop the Right Beliefs when you're already living the Right Life - already following Jesus?

OK. So all of this is still very basic, very simple stuff. It is building there, And I will get back to my first post's beginning, very soon. This is definitely the sceneic route to where I think I'm actually going with this blog topic thing...

[on to Part 3]