Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Actions Speak

The other week I woke up with this obsessive thought running through my head (yea, my wife gets to put up with my obsessive thoughts all day - have pity on her). All I could think about was how focused we are in this society on hearing the right words - how actions really don't matter - how people are just listening for the right “code words” to be spoken so they can feel good about the person they are dealing with.

Christians are particularly bad about this.

A friend of mine who is involved with politics in another state told me about a seminar for candidates where they were being taught which phrases to use to get the “church” vote - I'm not making this up. Just look at all the article and books out about the faith of each of the presidential candidates. What these people DO doesn't matter, just as long as they use the right WORDS.

I think Jesus pretty much nailed where the priorities should be in this passage:

There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, “Son, go and work today in the vineyard.”

“I will not,” he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing.

He answered, “I will, sir,” but he did not go.

Which of the two did what his father wanted?

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”

Matthew 21: 28-31

So, the same day that I woke up with this obsession (which led me to looking up the above) I read the following (emphasis mine):

Under the influence of modernity, the Church became obsessed by definitions and seamless doctrine. Modernity was based on a scientific and rational reasoning that everything could be proven by human experimentation and that this exploration of the scientific field could come up with a superior world and a greatly improved human being. In many ways, this worldview was seen as a huge threat to the mystery of faith. Modernism was driving out the mysteries and belief in a supernatural unseen world, one that was being replaced by a world that could be explained in clear scientific terms. That Christianity should be taken captive by such a system of thought seems a little incongruous, but it led to a couple of centuries of clear systematic theology, apologetics, and an overemphasis on the word spoken and written in the communication of Christian truth. Most of these things in themselves are great aids to Christianity's case in the world, but the loss of mystery, experience and any artistic representation of the Gospel was detrimental.

The Bible uses a wide array of creative ways to communicate truth: law, history, poems, songs, literature, lament, prophesy, proverbs, dreams, angels, miracles, parables, preaching, epistles, and visions. When the evangelicals of the world decided that the Word preached was God's most efficient way of communicating, they overlooked the fact that when Jesus was born, God was saying, among other things, that those ways were not sufficient and that the Word had to become flesh (John 1:1, 14). God's Word is much more than words. Modernity coerced Christianity into taking the flesh and making it into words again. Art suffered. It was not a clearly defined and conclusive kind of rationalism. It left feelings hanging. Stories or songs might stress some points of theological truth and fail to cover other aspects of the Gospel. They missed the fact that Jesus left the crucial doctrine of atonement out of the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). Jesus, in fact, was much more an artist than a preacher, preferring stories to open the truth and in sometimes oblique ways promising the disciples that those with ears to hear would hear. It could be said that the only writer in the Bible with any interest in theological definition is the apostle Paul, and though we thank God for him and the theological explanation of his letters, we must never lose the balance between this and art.

Steve Stockman
“Walk On”

So, what do you think? Are we more concerned with words than we should be?

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