10 April, 2008

Divine Generosity

Well, once in a while, I actually do think what might be considered as controversial thoughts, and against my normal posting habits (and my post from last week), I will share one such thought-provoking article with you all.

The article is titled "An Open-Handed Gospel." Do read it if you want to be challenged. The writer, Richard Mouw, mentions the trend in many of today's Christian young adults being frustrated and put off by our "stingy" or "judgmental" attitudes. In fact, I have had similar conversations about these very issues with our oldest son, who graduated last spring and has moved to begin college in another state. He and young people that he meets are put off by things such as "Jesus Awareness Week" and other campus-type events put on by well-meaning groups, that come across as harsh, judgmental, and uncompassionate.

Know ahead of time that it is not talking about ecumenicalism or universalism, and neither am I!

I have much frustration with judgmentalism that I have seen and heard often in the past ten or so years. In fact, I sometimes want to distance myself from groups that, no matter how good their intentions are, create such a protective bubble. We need, instead, to be providing messages like the one in this article ALONG WITH our various 'Worldviews' courses, for healthy transition for our teens to manage the important balance between humanitarian conviction and balance it with the love of Christ and his Gospel.

If we don't do that, we will continue to lose our young people in droves, or we will continue to create judgmental and hostile evangelicals.

Look, I know the Lord said that we will be hated in the world b/c of the message of the Gospel of Christ, but we sure go the extra mile to ensure that they hate us by our lack of compassion or action; the truly hypocritical things that I do not believe Jesus would condone. The world has hi-jacked the Biblical message of lovingly reaching out and taking care of widows and orphans in our midst, of being good stewards of our blessings and our land. When did that happen, and why?? But I digress from the article, which mainly talks about the importance working together with others in religions different from our own. His emphasis is on the balance of civility in balance with the Gospel.

Mouw mentions the phenomenon among young-people by quoting a recent Barna survey which states:

"...evidence that many young people in the larger society think of evangelicals primarily as "judgmental" types, hostile toward folks in other religions and mean-spirited in our attitudes about homosexuality. Even many young evangelicals share some of these assessments of the older generation. A leader at an evangelical college said it this way: "A lot of our students worry about typical evangelical attitudes toward people who have different belief systems and lifestyles. It's not that they don't take the Bible's teachings seriously. It's just that they have gotten to know Muslims and gays, and they are embarrassed by the harsh spirit toward such folks that they see in the older generation. If we don't do something about this negative image soon, we could easily lose them for the evangelical cause."

Mouw also quotes Martin Marty, who made this observation in one of his books:

"'People today who are civil, Marty observed, often don't have very strong convictions. And people who have strong convictions often are not very civil.'

What we need, he said, is convicted civility. He notes that it is very difficult to keep the balance and difficult not to slip into the comfort of doing just one or the other. But he believes that the struggle to do both is the EXACT antidote to relativism and universalism is not a retreat into a stingy spirit. We must be clear in telling others about the hope that lies within us, the apostle Peter teaches; but he quickly adds that we must always do so "with gentleness and respect" (1 Pet. 3:15–16)."

I encourage you all to go read this article, and let me know what you think!

It is important issues such as these which prompt me to ask myself and my Hubby, "Are we making sure that in our home (and homeschool), we are preparing our teens to face and communicate with the larger world outside [of our Christian bubble] in a way that they will not crumple, but confidently embrace the conversation and the people with love and compassion, not with a stingy, judgmental approach?" I don't want them to feel like the heritage they came from is stingy, elite, and fake, thus throwing the truth and religious practice out the window. I must be humble within the discussion and realize my own weaknesses, and implore with them to show the love and compassion of Christ to all they meet, that is so important, just as the need to share the gospel is important. We need to do both.

There is value in meeting regularly with the body of Christ, but what if those one meets with regularly show no compassion and civility if they even take action to reach the lost. Too many times I hear this thinking, "Only God knows who the lost are, and since he is in charge of who is saved and who is not saved, then I don't need to worry about trying to reach all those people who are hurting or lost." *I* know what that message is trying to communicate theological, but will hurting people who SEE or HEAR such attitudes understand the theological talk?? No, but they will most certainly see the lack of action/compassion.

I want to close my post with a final quote from the article. One caveat is that my upbringing was neither Calvinistic nor Lutheran, but I still believe that there are mysteries that the Lord does not reveal to us, so am mostly in agreement with this paragraph,

"I can't speak for others who look for common ground with Roman Catholics" [or I believe other denominations of Christians, emphasis mine*], "but he certainly has me right: I am passionate in my agreement with Martin Luther on justification by faith alone. But do I believe that a person can be confused about this doctrine and still be saved? Absolutely. I wish that many of my Catholic friends would subscribe unambiguously to the views about salvation by grace alone that I hold preciously. But is their failure to do so a reason for me to doubt their salvation?"
Here the author of this article side clearly with Charles Hodge, Calvinist theologian from the 19th century, "To whomever Christ is God … Christ is a Saviour."

Whew. I'm glad I got that off my chest.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These are things I have been thinking about lately. My family definately lives in a bubble. :(

There's a very judgemental lady in our church and she hurts the cause more than helps it. She is always going around saying things like. "They aren't really saved. Someone who is really saved wouldn't (fill in the blank)."

I will definately read the article.

Robin in New Jersey