Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
May 25th, 2017 by Joel Watts

Put Down the Lollipop (Guest Post)

Back when new bloggers were a common occurrence, I attempted to give a few some space for an introduction. Max deserves to be read far and wide. Rev. Hazell is… well… I’ll link to his blog at the end of this guest post.

I find postmodern Christianity offensive.

I don’t mean I find it offensive like I find people that order their steak well-done to be offensive, or the people that eat pizza crust first, or whomever invented the Tofurkey (I’m mostly offended by bad food choices).

I mean I find postmodern Christianity offensive to my status as a sentient, intelligent, adult human being.

I don’t just ‘dislike it.’ I don’t tell people it’s ‘not for me.’ I don’t think it should be for anyone.

Why so much vitriol, Max? Maybe going a bit far, eh? Why get so riled up?

Postmodern Christianity is offensive because it infantilizes Christians. It encourages you to take easy answers that make you happy, rather than wrestle with the God revealed in Scripture and come out a better person at the end.

Instead of boiling down the vastly complex issues of our faith into concentrated reductions of AWESOME, it goes the opposite way. Postmodern Christianity waters those issues down until they’re a big pot of meaningless… all so you, the believer, won’t feel yucky.

Take the Final Judgment, as one issue of many.

It’s a big concept – Christ on His throne, the nations before Him, separating sheep from goats – and it makes you feel uneasy. So you’re saying I’ll stand before God and account for my actions?

Yeesh. Sounds heavy. How about we just… don’t believe that, but still call ourselves Christians?

“This emphasis upon the graciousness of God in the message of Jesus often leads to questions about whether there is any element of judgment at all… the notion that our life on earth is primarily about meeting God’s requirements so that we may have a blessed next life is, it seems to me, foreign to Jesus. Though I think he probably ‘believed in an afterlife,’ I don’t think his message was about how to get there.” (Meeting Jesus Again For The First Time, Borg, 85) [Emphasis mine]

Whew, problem solved. Just string together a few sentences about how you don’t think it’s true, and ignore all the times Jesus talked about judgment and the next life, and you’re golden. Ignore the evidence in front of you, because it leads you to a conclusion that feels yucky.

There’s no time to hit every rest stop on this particular road, but suffice it to say, that sort of ‘analysis’ pops up all throughout a book like Borg’s, or Rohr’s, or McLaren’s… some of the scholarship seems like… well, scholarship… and some appears to have been pulled out of a magic hat of dreams and wishes and comfortable things.

Look, here’s the deal: following Christ is hard. He’s the one that gives us rest, that lets us lay our hardships at His feet, but following Him comes with its own burden. Taking up your cross and following Jesus means you’re going to have to wrestle with what it means to be a Christian in the modern world. You’re going to have to face hard questions, and answer them boldly.

“Is how I answer this question about my wants and my needs, or is it about what God desires of me?”

“Do I seek out a church and a pastor that give me upbeat sermons so I feel like I can take on Monday a little better? Or do I seek out a church and a pastor that give me sermons that make me see the God in Christ a little more clearly?”

“Am I a better American than I was yesterday? Or am I a better member of Jesus Christ’s Kingdom than I was yesterday?”

If you’re choosing the easy answers – the ones that are the most comfortable, the ones that don’t challenge you to be a better person every single day, to follow Jesus a little better every single day by following your own desires less – if you’re choosing those answers, then that’s not the Gospel you’re following. That’s not Christ you’re following.

If you don’t like what you read in the Scripture, wrestle with it. Try and find out more information about the context it was written in. Pray about it.

But don’t accept easy answers from ear-pleasing men and women that don’t encourage you to dig deeper or try harder or imagine more. They’re not treating you like intelligent adults. They’re treating you like children, and giving you a lollipop so you’ll like them and buy their books.

Put down the lollipop. Pick up your cross, and follow Jesus.

You can read Max whenever he blogs

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

One Response to “Put Down the Lollipop (Guest Post)”
  1. This is one of your more poetic works. Reminds me of Willimon who, in one of his better moments, decried those pastors who, “Tell us what Jesus would have said if he only had a proper seminary education.”

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