4/9/2015 Ryan about 30
God gave us the Bible, and He gives us the local church. We could have extensive knowledge of the Bible and the most biblically correct theology, but if we aren’t living out our faith within the context of a local church, we will very likely end up in a spiritual shipwreck. The reverse is also true. We could be involved in a dynamic and spirit-filled church family, but if our faith is only built on theological fluff and shallow truths when the storms of life hit our faith will very likely be shaken to the point of breaking even in the midst of the most solid church fellowship. I believe that was the case with Ryan, whom I spoke with in a Target coffeeshop. Ryan has “been there, done that” with Christianity, having married the daughter of a strongly evangelical couple in a non-denominational church and doing everything he could to fit into that evangelical world. But when his marriage fell apart due to his wife’s infidelity, and experiencing the condemnation of his once loving and Christlike in-laws, it was easy to turn against the church and the God it represented. Ryan now considers himself an agnostic, not being sure he even believes in God at all. It became easy to listen to the worldly accusations of the God of the Bible being too narrow, too exclusionary, that Christianity divides people between the in-group and the outgroups. The claim that God’s love is unconditional didn’t seem to hold water when his personal storms hit. So what kind of theology can prepare us for such accusations that become so easy to listen to in times of trouble? I believe it goes all the way back to Genesis, to the very foundation of our faith. Are we still “good” people, pleasing to God, made in His image, as described in Genesis 1? If so, what kind of God would allow anything but good to come into our lives? How does this explain the evil all around us and in our own hearts and lives? Or, as described in Genesis 3 and elsewhere, are we fallen from a right relationship with God, banished from the garden and from His blessings, deserving not of the rewards of heaven but the punishment of hell? This is very bad news, but the good news of salvation doesn’t make sense without it. If we are “saved”, what are we saved from? Since justice is good, ultimately we are saved from God’s goodness! I believe the fluffy idea that “God is love” leaves too many unanswerable questions. A more biblically solid understanding would say that “God is good”, and because He is good He is kind and He loves us, but because He is good He also loves justice. Because He is good He will punish sin and carry out justice. If we believe that God somehow “owes us” good things in life we will ultimately be disappointed, but when we have a true understanding of the punishment we deserve, we will be filled with awe and wonder at every tremendous mercy He shows us.