Wednesday, February 21, 2007

what a world we live in

I've been reading "Searching for God knows What" by Donald Miller, who has imparted some wonderful insights into today's Christian-American culture. Here's one of his thoughts on the church-culture's idea of Jesus that struck me as especially incisive:

"To a culture that believes they 'go to heaven' based on whether or not they are morally pure, or that they understand some theological ideas, or that they are very spiritual, Jesus is completely unnecessary. At best, He is an afterthought, a technicality by which we become morally pure, or a subject of which we know, or a founding father or our woo-woo spirituality."

Instead our minds and hearts should see Jesus as God-incarnate, the lover and savior of our souls who has personally called us into a living relationship with Him! How awesome! (And I mean this in the full essence of this horribly mis-used and over-stated word of which I am far too guilty of abusing.)

As I read Miller's words I was reminded of how God has had relationships with the beings He has created over the millenia (these are just a sampling of known examples). He breathed life into Man and walked with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden; He spoke to Cain; He appeared to Abraham in the form of a man; He wrestled Jacob; He spoke to Moses from a burning bush and revealed His glory to Moses on a mountain top; He spoke and revealed Himself to many of Israel's prophets.

And then He, Jesus - God Himself, came and dwelt amongst us and in the ultimate act of sacrifice and love. He allowed Himself to be crucified, like a criminal, by His own created beings; put to death and then crushed by God in place of all of us! And not only that, but He sent His own spirit, the essence of His very self, to dwell within those He calls to be His disciples!

How great, how awesome, how wonderful and amazing is our God! By God's own grace and mercy may I never lose sight of the truth that God is not ultimately interested in practices and services but in establishing and growing a true and right relationship with me that I might reflect his perfect and awesome glory! What a world we live in!


  1. Mike, help me see what is so appealing about that quote. The Bible is clear that IT IS based on one's moral purity whether or not they get into heaven. This damns us all. Therefore, whether or not "we understand some theological ideas" is of utmost importance, for if we don't understand the theological idea that we are undeserving sinners, if we don't understand the theological idea that our own righteousness won't get us to heave if we don't understand the theological idea that Christ died the death of sinners so that sinner could have his righteousness, if we don't understand the theological idea that it is only by faith that we obtain access to God ('go to heaven'), then all we will get is hell.

    Donald Miller, in response to abuses of orthodox Christianity, is treading dangerously close to a false gospel, removing holiness as a necessity and faith as the means of the remedy (because he removes the problem as inherently sin separating us from God.) If this wasn't so, how could he possibly say that an understanding of theology and a recognition of the need for holiness would render Jesus an afterthought. If this is the result, then those make Jesus an afterthought have the wrong theological ideas and a misunderstanding of moral purity. Donald Miller, rather than helping to correct those misunderstandings, just gets minimizes their necessity.

    Now with the 1st paragraph critiqued...the 2nd. If we minimize the need for moral purity and the understanding of theological ideas, then we absolutely minimize what was accomplished in this "relationship" making of God. "Christ died once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18). Without theologial ideas and an understanding of the need for moral purity then 1 Peter 3:18 doesn't make sense and the relationship that Jesus brings is much less than what it actually is.

    Now what you wrote is great! It is doctrinally informed and recognizes the need for moral purity. But to the reader of Donald Miller who isn't grounded like you, what he writes may actually discourage them from plumbing the depths of glories of calvary, for this is the dreaded doctrine and holiness that are consistently minimized in Miller's writing and among many of his readers. Read with caution.

  2. Jacob, I'll honestly tell you that I don't claim Don Miller as some great spiritual thinker, or as the best today's Christian writing and thinking has to offer. There are many, many other writers and thinkers I would suggest over him. This post was merely a response to what I was reading at the time.

    I'll also honestly tell you that I don't remember all of the reasons behind my post - it was well over a year ago that I wrote it! :)

    I think what I was most struck by in Donald Miller's book, at that time, was his emphasis on the relationship we have with Christ versus the surface mental knowledge we can sometimes fall into when we merely read the Word rather than live it out and own it.

    I by no means say that theology is irrelevant to the Christian life - in fact I believe whole heartedly that true meditation on the Word of God can only lead to a deeper understanding of God and His character and amazing grace and power. And I realize Donald Miller often does not stress this in his writings which is a shame.

    However, I would hope that mere theological head-knowledge would not replace true love for Christ and love and service to the many millions of people lost and dying all around us. I have too often in my life found myself nodding my head to a great truth about God read in a book or heard in a sermon and seen in God's Word and then never let that truth affect my heart and my actions. That is truly a shame and I would hope that my love for Christ that he has planted in me would instead use such knowledge to only further my relationship with Him - a relationship that does call for obedience, purity of mind and actions, sacrifice to my own will, and a deep love and service to the spiritual and material needs of others all around me.

    I'm not sure I totally answered your questions and critiques in your response but I hope I at least clarified somewhat on my thinking. Thank you for actually reading and responding to my post! I sometimes feel that I write stuff and no one even reads them, let along think about it and respond. It is encouraging to be able to hear what others think and how I might need to change or re-think what I first thought and wrote down. Thank you!

  3. Perfect response! I think you have a good and helpful grasp of the two tensions we have to hang onto when we think of truth & love; knowledge & obedience; mental assent & relationship. And it helps me to think through them "out loud" with you here. I know the frustration of blogging with no responses. But then, I guess that is even sanctifying, because it helps free us (or reveal in us) from the man-pleasing, audience-seeking, self-exalting temptation that a public stage can lure us with.

    I just discovered your blog today. You're on my blog reader now.