Poor reception

A fascinating quote from Dr John Piper’s new book Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God:

[…] People receive Christ [but] they do not receive Him as supremely valuable. They receive Him simply as sin-forgiver, because they love being guilt-free; and as rescuer from hell, because they love being pain-free; and as healer, because they love being disease-free; and as protector, because they love being safe; and as prosperity-giver, because they love being wealthy; and as Creator because they want a personal universe; and as Lord of history because they want order and purpose; but they don’t receive Him as supremely and personaly valuable for who He is. They don’t receive Him the way Paul did when he spoke of “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”; they don’t receive Him as He really is, more glorious, more beautiful, more wonderful, more satisfying than everything else in the universe. They don’t prize Him or treasure Him or cherish Him or delight in Him.

Eggheads and babies

Reading from Matthew 14:14 today

When [Jesus] went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

it struck me how hard it is to find a balance between knowledge and application in teaching the Bible.

In contrast to other religions, Christianity is actually more news than system. What I mean by that is that there is more proclamation involved in the Christian faith than instruction. There is instruction (read any NT letter), but it comes after the proclamation/description/teaching of greater principles. First we learn the news, then we are to live by them.

That is consistent with the gospel. The gospel is not a self-help recipe; it is a diagnosis of a terminal disease and a prescription for the only cure available. People aren’t called to come to Christ in order to improve themselves (although that will happen inevitably). They are called to come to Christ because they are in desperate need for a radical change of their position before God. Christ Himself never implied anything different.

So in a sense, the Bible is mostly news – but news that must inevitably affect us in a profound and unprecedented way. I think that this ought to be consequently reflected in the teaching of the Bible.

There are teachers/churches that emphasise proclamation above application. This results in hypocrisy: Theological knowledge that is separated from the life and troubles of the individual believer. A God who only cares about His truth and can’t be bothered with “my silly little problems”.

Other teachers/churches emphasise application above proclamation. The result is what is called “seeker-sensitivism”. A constant me-me-me atmosphere, with me-centred worship and me-heavy teaching. If it doesn’t “speak to my situation”, I simply don’t care or don’t believe it’s relevant/important/true. How can God say anything that doesn’t apply to my current concerns right now?

Jesus balanced both perfectly. He combined his divine theological wisdom with an immense compassion for people. He proclaimed the news and lived them out. He showed us that theology must be “efficacious” – it must affect and change us. It must be broad and deep. Neither eggheads nor babies.

Atheism and 2 Peter 3:7

The world’s judgement is the flipside of the world’s creation. If God created the world, God will also destroy/judge the world. You can’t have the latter without the former.

I think that, to some extent, this connection lies at the heart of modern anti-theistic polemics. It’s not so much that people don’t believe that God exists. That may be so, but it’s hardly an emotional igniter. One can also argue that modern atheists are railing against the perceived “evils” of religion. But, in of itself, that’s neither an argument against the existence of God nor is it consistent with the atheistic worldview.

It’s that the existence of God is generally linked to moral absolutes and moral absolutes imply accountability. I think that accounts more for the onslaught of modern-day atheism rather than any watertight piece of logic or scientific evidence. We scream when we’re scared.

Jesus made that point in John 3:19: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”