Saturday, November 13, 2010

An end to Christian romanticism, please

Francis Schaeffer said that a Christian can allow himself to be worn out by Christians who turn Christianity into a romanticism. [HT: Trevin Wax]

I think I know what he meant.

I suspect that a disinterested observer (say, the proverbial alien visitor studying the earthlings) would probably explain American Christianity as an elaborate system for getting what we want from God. Here's where the "romanticism" comes in. The conversation in many churches is all about what God can and will do for us. Just pray for it and keep believing. God is faithful . . . to give you what you want. So faith is boiled down to an ongoing transactional relationship with God, in which we ask and He gives. Small groups in the church meet primarily to indulge in this romanticism.

And, yeah, it wore me out.

You think this is broad-brush generalization? Maybe. But then it's the kind of generalization that rings of truth.

The thing is, you can find all the right proof-texts in the Bible to justify this sort of practice, but at bottom it is not the burden of the New Testament. You don't see the disciples practicing this relationship with Jesus. It's not the gist of Paul's writing, nor is it the picture of the church we get from Revelation. It does describe, in some sense, an aspect of Kingdom reality, but an understanding of the Kingdom that is essentially "now" and almost never "not yet" (if we only believe) is sheer romanticism.

I've been out of the church loop all year, and I'm missing it a little. What will I be looking for? A persistent engagement with the sweeping story of God and His people, which is a lot more about hard realities than goodies from heaven.

"The kingdom of God is near," Jesus said, on the way to His cross. That phrase, then, must mean something more than "God is my servant, he gives me everything I want."


Glynn said...

A lot of churches have spent the last two generations trying to tell us it's all about us. And it's never been all about us. Good post, Bob.

Anonymous said...

Everybody knows the 23rd psalm, right? The good shepherd and all he does for us, etc. But how many people know that this is in it?

"He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake." (v. 3)

That verse alone is the difference between "follow me" discpleship and a largely self-directed and self-centered faith. I'm definitely with you on this one, Bob.

Anonymous said...

in my experience, growing up in the faith is more about wearing Love, clothing ourself in Love, carrying it on our backs, learning about Love and God from it being something that we choose to put on and wear. all the while we carry it we are changed. i am seeing, as you do, that love is many things, but it is not self seeking. and yes, that is a great struggle for us all.

just as it was for the chruch in corinth.

Jerry said...

Thanks for getting me to look a different way. This is challanging for I have found myself to be self centered a lot...and that translates into yanking on God's chains often...instead of being bound in chains to servant as it were.

Bob Spencer said...

Jerry, thanks for stopping by. I'm glad my post helped you some. I think this "romanticism" is so prevalent as to be the default position of much of our preaching. But the mission of God is so much bigger!