Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A letter to Shane and Chris

Shane and Chris,

My wife and I are indebted to you guys for your bold, prophetic voices. In your words and walks, you are re-imagining what our faith looks like against the prevailing script of “technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism” (Brueggemann). As a family gearing up to do church-planting among the poorest neighborhoods in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, we resonate deeply with your call to the church to take seriously Christ's own words and walk amongst the desolate.

Huge swaths of the church still consider doctrine a list of truths to be affirmed rather than acted, conversion more decision than demonstration. It seems wherever we look to the right to put words to our faith, we must sacrifice hearing the things closest to God's heart for our lives. But wherever we look to the left to put action to our faith, doctrines get sheepish, scurrying into the shadows of a looming concern for the poor. Talk of sin gets befuddled, talk of hell squeamish, and in the end we're hard-pressed to find a problem worthy of the solution of the cross.

We fear Jesus for President dabbles in the latter. You guys borrow heavily from liberation theology to paint broad strokes of the biblical narrative - a tradition the church has much to glean from. But by reading the Scriptures exclusively through the lens of God's interaction with regimes, they are muffled. Likewise, in your book, the stories of triumph over wicked political powers are shouted while the Bible's most prominent theme of God reconciling sinful man to himself through Christ is whispered ambiguously. There is one mention of sin, to assure us it's not the yoke Jesus frees us from (111); more attention to the hell of poverty on earth and even doubts (?) of an eternal one (290ff); and more excitement about the "conversions" of car engines and renewable energy sources than the sheep Christ came to claim (308). No faith in a desperately needed Savior. No atonement. No justification. No reconciliation. No salvation.

I realize these are "buzz words" for Bible thumping (or Bible humping, as my co-worker says) fundamentalists. And there is a desperate flight in my generation of all things fundamentalist. But they are the words of Scripture - to whom else may we go? If others have embalmed them and decorated their narthexes with their death, that is a travesty. And yet we can still do nothing less than watch the Spirit breath life into these words through us, reattaching them to the cross-bearing lives they belong to.

Again, we sincerely applaud your audacity to defy the comforts of Christendom for the cost of the cross. But we are equally desperate to hear men and women boldly making sense of that cross in light of the Scriptures - "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us".

David and Julie


Paul-David Young said...

much needed. Did you send this to them? Let me know if you get a response. I does seem that the letters to the 7 churches in Revelation could help us out here. I too often am afraid to criticize someone's doctrine if they are putting themselves out there in ways in not, but if we all have blind spots, why not start pulling out of our eyes planks and toothpicks alike?

Jon Furst said...

A good word. Just today I was convicted that the opposite of faithfulness is not atheism, but unfaithfulness in all forms.

That being said, I have a lot of unanswered questions regarding the poor.

jim thompson said...

good stuff. did they write you back?

shane grew up methodist and pentecostal and then did college under Campolo. none of which i would consider butresses of theoretical orthodoxy. so, when he bashes systematic theology in his Revolution book, it is likely because no one ever properly explained to him the role and goal of systematics. it is not an end in itself. anywho.

the middle must hold - Jesus! He is full of grace AND truth!