Sunday, May 18, 2008

Shaping of the Church

"Over a two-thousand-year period, but especially in the last two hundred years, we have jerked and tugged the Christian faith out of its original soil, its life-giving source, which is an honest relationship with God through Jesus the Christ. After uprooting the faith, we have entombed it in a declaration of adherence to a set of beliefs. The shift has left us with casual doctrinal assent that exists independent of a changed life. We have made the Cross into a crossword puzzle, spending our time diagramming byzantine theories of atonement. How did the beauty of Jesus’ atoning work get isolated from the wonder of restoring an authentic relationship between God and humanity?"

Western Christianity is largely belief based and church focused. It is concerned with landing on the right theology and doctrine and making sure everyone else toes the line. The Jesus trimtab, in contrast, is relationship based and world focused. It is concerned not so much with what you believe as with whom you are following. It is less invested in maintaining and growing an institution and more invested in Jesus’ passion for saving the world. - Leonard Sweet

So what do you think about this quote? Is this a dangerous position or a good position that pushes Christianity forward?

btw- I do not know what trimtab is but it is in the quote so I left it there.

13 comments:

Sara said...

"The engineer Buckminster Fuller is often cited for his use of trim tabs as a metaphor for leadership and personal empowerment. In a February 1972 article he says...
"Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary -- the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there's a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab.
It's a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it's going right by you, that it's left you altogether. But if you're doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go.
So I said, call me Trim Tab."

So, maybe he means Christ's influence on the world?? (not that God become man could be considered small...)

Jon Chenot said...

I don't know if it is dangerous or good but it definitely pushes Christianity forward in its challenge. First of all I agree that we, the Church, have in a sense "tugged ourselves out of the soil." we have largely given up intimate fellowship with God while striving for more knowledge about God, and given up a deep passion for the lost in debating whether they are "elected." I also agree that we are largely belief based and Church focused.
I don't now what trimtab is either, but if i understand the qupte right I would ask, do we have to come away from doctrine in order to be world focused or relationship based? And if we are talking about Jesus here, I would say instead that "Jesus is relationship based and truth based, and he is God focussed and world focused. He is concerned about what you believe about Himself (or who you believe he is) as well as adamant that you follow Him."
does that make some kind of reachable balance?

Scott said...

I have now re-read the quotation at least 10 times. At first I understood where he was coming from. I think we have all been guilty at one point of knowing facts about God but not letting them penetrate our souls. The result is knowledge that build our egos but does little to glorify God. So in regard to that yes I agree. However, I think it can be dangerous. There are plenty of philosophies / religions that follow Jesus but what they believe about him is not truth. Now I realize that the point could be brought up that, they are not following the true Jesus then. Granted, but the only way we can know that is if we have processed our theology and doctrine. I agree with Jon's question... "do we have to come away from doctrine in order to be world focused or relationship based?" Here are some verses that I believe show us otherwise.

1 Tim. 1:3-5
"As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work—which is by faith. 5The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith."

Here Paul seemed to tie the importance of sound doctrine with a pure heart and a sincere faith.

1 Tim. 1:8-11
"Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted."

Here we get an idea that life, ethics, morality, practice, and behavior is all tied to doctrine.

Titus 1:1
"Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness"

Paul ties the knowledge of truth (doctrine) with godliness.

It is doctrine that teaches me about the deep love of Jesus, which in turns makes me want to be in a relationship with him.

XOXOXO
Scott

P.S. Sorry for the overly long comment.

derek said...

The WC is very concerned about having everyone fall in line wholistically with their right theology, however this is not possible. If this were true unity could not exist, there must be diversity to have unity. Secondly every "right" theology has holes and problems so everyone couldn't fall in line with each person's beliefs, even within the same church [this is good].

On that note I'm going to label myself as a orthodox-evangelical-protestant who votes republicrat and yes Scott and Jon I believe in free-will and election at the same time.

Scott said...

I suppose we would have to get to the root of what we mean by theology and doctrine. When I speak of it I do not mean non-essentials that are fun to talk about and debate but in regard to salvation have no concern. When I speak of doctrine or theology, at least in this context, I mean essentials of faith. Doctrine of sin, doctrine of Jesus', doctrine of the salvation, doctrine of the holy spirit. These are things I am referring to. Non-essentials I have my convictions and feelings but those are of much less importance. With that understanding I think we absolutely can have a right theology and wrong theology. Oprah Winfrey has a theology, but it is dead wrong. (Though without her Dr. Phil would never had made it to David Letterman and then where would I be?) I agree that we have been under the arm of western cultures concern to make everyone fall in line. However, I am not so sure we are currently in that situation. It seems to me that more and more very day the idea of absolute truth becomes less and less popular of a view.

P.S. I also believe in Free Will and Election. Free will in the fact that we are responsible for our choices within our options. However, I believe because of our sin we do not nor will we ever choose Christ on our own. It is only God who changes that will and gives us a desire to choose him. Ohh... yeah and I vote for Abraham Lincoln every 4 years!

Anonymous said...

I also agree with Jon's question. "Do we have to come away from doctrine in order to be world focused or relationship based?" I think they go hand in hand. If not for doctrine then why we be world focused at all. Often times being world focused is criticized as a social gospel lacking in truth and doctrine. But the gospels command social action. Jesus was very strict in his doctrine and because of that he was so outwardly focused. People often try to separate the two but I believe they are one. We must be able to teach doctrine in all of its entirety, including the social aspects that come with it. Ultimately we must glorify God in all we do, in social action and in teaching doctrine. So many people learn doctrine to glorify themselves rather than God and others try to help the world for themselves rather than for God. If we make God our focus and we try to glorify him in all our actions I think we are in a better place.
-Andrew

Ryan said...

Leave it to Sara to find the meaning of trimtab. I like the idea of being able to steer a culture that thinks it is passing by.

Jon- I really like the way you said, "Jesus is relationship based and truth based, and he is God focussed and world focused. He is concerned about what you believe about Himself (or who you believe he is) as well as adamant that you follow Him."

Scott- Also great reminders of the New Testament's emphasis on sound teaching.

Derek- I also agree that diversity of opinions on non-essentials spurs growth and is a good thing.

Andrew- Another good point about the related nature of action and truth.

Even with all of these great thoughts allow me to play "devil's advocate" a little. Can someone who does not have sound doctrine, or someone who never had access to sound doctrine have a meaningful and saving relationship with Jesus?

Scott said...

Can you give me a definition of what you mean by sound doctrine?

Ryan said...

Scott- What if a person is raised in an "Eastern" tradition where they believe in the full Deity of Christ and trust in His saving power, but do not have an "Orthodox" view of the humanity of Christ and in most cases do not accept the humanity of Christ. This is not "sound doctrine" to Western Evangelical Christians so can this person experience a saving faith?

Anonymous said...

Romans 10:9-10 "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."

If a person, no matter what tradition they are raised in, fully believes that Jesus Christ, Who is the Lord, actually died on the cross and God physically raised Him from the dead, then I believe they are saved, regardless of fallacies in the rest of their theological beliefs. There is a big difference between saying you believe and truely believing it, though. I see many people who profess to be Christians but don't really believe in their hearts.

I do not understand how someone can believe that "God raised Him from the dead" but not accept Christ's humanity. How could He have died if He wasn't human? God is immortal, meaning He can't die, so unless Jesus, who was God, was in a mortal, aka human, body, He could not have died, could He?

So maybe they are saved, but maybe they are not. It depends on the individual's beliefs in their own heart. In the New Testament, it is clear that since Jesus died and rose again, our salvation comes through Him alone. That is what saves us from death, and I believe all other theology is secondary.

I'm not saying sound theology and such is not important, just that it is not as vital as the belief in and confession of Jesus as the Lord Who was raised from death by God. After we are saved, then doctrine is important because knowing who God is and what He wants us to do affects how we live our lives.
-Bethany W.

Scott said...

"I'm not saying sound theology and such is not important, just that it is not as vital as the belief in and confession of Jesus as the Lord Who was raised from death by God."

Well said and I agree 100%. Though, even that is a form of Theology and Doctrine. Which by the way I think is sound.

Scott said...

So I keep thinking about the original post and it took me a while, but I think I know what is bothering me. Leonard Sweet is doing the very thing he is writing against. He says,

"Western Christianity is largely belief based and church focused. It is concerned with landing on the right theology and doctrine and making sure everyone else toes the line. The Jesus trimtab, in contrast, is relationship based and world focused. It is concerned not so much with what you believe as with whom you are following. It is less invested in maintaining and growing an institution and more invested in Jesus’ passion for saving the world."

Isn't this his theology and doctrine? Doesn't he in a sense want us to agree with him and "toe the line", otherwise why would he write it? He just slipped it under the door in a different package. OK now I will try and go to bed.

Ryan said...

Bethany- Well said. Your point about the resurrection requiring a physical body is solid but explained by these churches with a confusing metaphysical argument. The truth is, the dichotic nature of Christ is confusing and all human grasps at understanding fall short. I think the Eastern churches have done their best attempt (in their eyes) at reconciling the deity and humanity.

Scott- The problem with many theologians like Leonard Sweet and all of us is that anytime we call for openness and acceptance of ideas, we must also be open to ideas that are "closed" or we fall into the category that you correctly find L. Sweet in.
Have a good night sleep.