On a search for a better world, finding it in the most unlikely places
Core to our struggle to manifest the gospel in a 21st century, post-modern world is another battle: this conflict is for the very definition of Christianity itself. At stake is the lens through which we view the entire narrative of Christianity and, consequently, the way we view ourselves as participants in this divine intervention. We in Christianity have arrived at an identity crisis. This crisis is played out in many forms, but can be distilled into a single concept: the identity of Jesus Christ. I am not talking about the question of the deity of Christ, but rather a coming to terms with the practical teaching and practice of Jesus during His life. To put it simply, considering that it is accepted in (mainstream) Christianity that Jesus is God, what implications should his human life and practical teaching(s) have for the us (the Church) in our time?
The contemporary Church has dealt with this question in one of two ways. The first is the “Unapproachable Jesus”, in which the perfection, deity, and otherworldliness of Christ are emphasized beyond measure. Jesus has become an esoteric, incomprehensible, disconnected figure. In this context, Jesus is often worshiped, but seldom followed. Jesus is praised, but never imitated, Exalted but never emulated. He is venerated but ultimately consigned to the mystical realm of inaccessible and frigid holiness.
The second approach is the “Jesus is my homeboy” school of thought, in which Jesus becomes the ultimate incarnation of the 20th century scholar/revolutionary ideal. This Jesus is concerned with feeding the poor, but gives little thought to healing the brokenness of their souls. He starts a political revolution, but falls short of offering spiritual absolution. He might be King of the Jews, but his Kingdom is a mess of poorly-conceived governmental fixes and maudlin emotions. This Jesus cries for Jerusalem but then drowns his holy sorrow in a pint of Sam Adams. He looks more like Che Guevara than the Son of God.
So how can we reconcile these fatally flawed approaches to the life of Jesus? If so, where do we start? Can we tie together the millenia-old battle between orthodoxy and orthopraxy? I will be exploring these questions and their implications on our Christian practice over the next few blog posts, and I invite all of you in the internet world along for the journey. I will start our journey with a quote from one of the 20th century’s greatest theologians.
Grace and peace,
the suburban vagabond
“”In the same way the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose. It says in the Bible that the whole universe was made for Christ and that everything was to be gathered in Him.” – CS Lewis, “Mere Christianity”