Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bigger Faith

John read this to me in the car today.

As a Christian who is sending her kids to public schools, it was quite a refreshing "listen."

Excerpted from Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith by Rob Bell

Do you know anybody who grew up in a religious environment, maybe even a Christian one, and walked away from faith/ church/ God when they turned eighteen and went away to college?

Whenever I ask this question in a group of people, almost every hand goes up. Let me suggest why. Imagine what happens when a young woman is raised in a Christian setting but hasn't been taught that all things are hers and then goes to a university where she's exposed to all sorts of new ideas and views and perspectives. She takes classes in psychology and anthropology and biology and world history, and her professsors are people who have devoted themselves to their particular fields of study. Is it possible that in the course of lecturing on their particular fields of interest, her professors will from time to time say things that are true? Of course. Truth is available to everyone.

But let's say her professors aren't Christians, it is not a "Christian" university, and this young woman hasn't been taught that all things are hers. What if she has been taught that Christianity is the only thing that's true? What if she has been taught that there is no truth outside the bible? She's now faced with this dilemma: believe the truth she's learning or the Christian faith she was brought up with.

Or we could put her dilemma this way: intellectual honestly or Jesus?

How many times have you seen this? I can't tell you the number of people in their late teens or early twenties I know, or those I have been told about, who experience truth outside the boundaries of their religion and abandon the whole thing because they think it's a choice. They are experiencing truth in all sorts of new ways, and they need a faith that is big enough to handle it. Their box is getting blown apart, and the faith they were handed doesn't have room for what they are learning.

But it isn't a choice, because Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, the life." If you come across truth in any form, it isn't outside your faith as a Christian. Your faith just got bigger. To be a Christian is to claim truth wherever you find it.

(I haven't read the entire book, though I realize Bell has been called "a heretic" and other unpleasant things. Even a heretic espouses truth once and again, I imagine.)


Anonymous said...

Official Husband of Holly Goes Lightly Here...allow me to head off the complaints from our fundy friends and family. I was by no means advocating wholesale acceptance of Rob Bell and his view of the world. In fact, I viscerally distrust anyone with such a stupid haircut.

That particular quote, however, addresses an issue that I have thought about a great deal. I don't understand why some Christians hold to an absolutist/deontological worldview, but suddenly turn into post-modernists when it comes to truths that make them uncomfortable. It's all absolute truth, as long as it can be traced directly to a favorite scripture verse or approved theologian. If not, the discussion turns into an attack on the perspective, background, or worldview of the person making the truth claim.

For example, I recently got into a massive argument with a fellow believer about Mother Theresa. He posted something negative about her on Facebook, and because my boss was mean to me that day, I decided to pick a fight (I'm a work in progress here). I pointed out that almost everyone viewed her acts of compassion as a good and beautiful thing, and that it made Evangelicals look like jerks to rag on her in public. He responded by trying to prove to me that there was no way that she was saved, that she was likely burning in hell, and that because she was not saved, everything that she did and believed were valueless.

Suddenly, humility and service and grace were not universally good or true. Because of her particular perspective and worldview (Catholic), the things that she did had no value. Tell that to the orphans and the poor to whom she ministered.

I believe in the primacy of the Scriptures. However, God also gave us brains to use while living in the world that he created (Romans 1:19-20) Perhaps this gets to some of the difference between the sola scriptura and solo scriptura crowds.

If something is true, it should be true if it comes from John MacArthur's pulpit or if it comes from an article by Christopher Hitchens (who needs your prayers, by the way).

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

James 1:27

Anonymous said...

To Official Husband of Holly,

You silly Baptists with your eternal-security issues, find something better to vent about.

Re: Mother Theresa :
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. ISA 64:6

Holly said...

Dude. Get your own blog.

Anonymous: If you're going to call Mother Theresa's charitable acts filthy rags, you should at least leave your name.

Anonymous said...

I'm merely pushing John's buttons, because it is so easy to do.

Here's my name, in case you couldn't figure it out:



Holly said...

Oh. It's just you. I'm somewhat relieved!

Michelle said...

Hmmm...not really sure how to respond to this. Don't want my thoughts to come out wrong. First of all in regards to sending your kids to public schools...I have a friend that was just telling me about a friend who God has been very faithful to in holding on to her children since she didn't have another choice. Since you like to read, I do HIGHLY suggest you read Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham.

I would suppose I'm one of those fundies the the offical husband would be referring to. I believe that Mother Theresa's work glorified God because I believe ALL things glorify God. However, if she did not believe the gospel of Christ and His work paying the total price...I'm not sure she was a Christian. Works based faith just doesn't work biblically. And although it sounds horrible in our screwed up minds, the Bible teaches that all of our works...anyone's works even Mother Theresa's are filthy rags. No one is good...not one. Do we believe the Word of God? I've never read anything by Bell, but Truth to me lies within the pages of God's Word and nothing else. I believe it all lines up.

Holly said...

Hello my dear Michelle:

I'm very familiar with Baucham. Not a fan. I believe dominion theology goes against The Great Commission and is unbiblical.

I'm a huge fan of homeschooling, and would do it if I thought I could do a good job. However, the separatist ideology that Baucham, etc. promote is, again, antithetical to what the bible teaches. I don't think taking part in the public school system makes me a socialist.

Even worse- I'm definitely what the separatist bloggers would call a "whitewashed" feminist. I am leery of the Christian patriarchal movement, I really abhor how the Vision Forum strongly encourage daughters to forgo college and stay "under the protection of their father" (again- not a biblical tenet), and think the quiverfull movement is pretty insane. (One ladies against feminism blogger believes ending an ectopic pregnancy is a sin...)

That being said, I don't believe in works-based faith. I do believe that if my children are being taught something that is TRUE within their public schools, whether it is science or whatever, they can take comfort that it is God's truth, even if we cannot understand while still in our earthly bodies. (Especially in regards to science, etc.) But I don't think bashing Mother Theresa is a necessarily fruitful thing to do, either.

I appreciate your willingness to disagree! I'm always happy to discuss Christian thought- though we may disagree...

Michelle said...

I want to start by saying that all things said are said with the utmost respect for you as a sister in Christ...nothing I say is ever meant to be offensive but only as my own way of ensuring I have not believed a lie or been deceived. And let me add, I am not trying to sway you towards my way of thinking.

Since I ascribe to some of the views of the Vision Forum crew, I would want to ask what exactly about dominion theology is unbiblical? It is my understanding that dominion theology is merely the belief that God has set specific divisions of authority into place. i.e., God, man, nature. I had never actually heard of dominion theology until I become acquainted with Vision Forum. I may not have a full understanding. If you mean that dominion theology as a whole represents a seperatist idealogy and that is why it goes against the Great Commission, I can understand the confusion. I guess I would have a few thoughts on that.

1. Biblically, we are called to seperate from the unfruitful works of darkness. (Ephesians 5:8-14)

2. Now, that does not hinder the work of the Great Commission to go out and spread the gospel. I believe our lives of seperation from the evil of this world AND our acts of love to those in this world are our light for Christ to those who have not yet believed.

3. (Now please don't be offended by this because over 95% of my friends and family DO NOT there is no judgement. These are just my thoughts.) I do not believe that at 5 or 6 years old are children are equipped to be lights for Jesus Christ. I'm sure you have heard the comparison that sending your children to public school is like sending an untrained soldier into a battle zone. Our children are not prepared to be the light because they do not have the foundation. It is possible to raise up godly children in the school system, it is just harder because it is a battle against the world.

Now, as far as LAF, I do follow a small amount of their stuff. I find their information to be often self-righteous and not something I want to read. (It took me a few months to figure this out.) I believe I am offended by their teachings because I come from a major life of rebellion and MAJOR feminism. My mother was a single-parent and I never had aspirations of getting married, much less having children. I was completely career focused. However, God softened my heart and had different plans for me. We are still discovering what God has in store for us concerning our "quiver." I'm not familiar with the writer who is against ending ectopic pregnancies and I would agree that seems odd. I do find beauty in allowing God to be in control over the womb although it often scares the snot out of me.

The ideas held by those like Voddie Baucham I have seen in action in our home church. For 6 years my husband and I visited probably every kind of church you could think was very difficult to find believers burdened by their sin, humbled by God's grace, and desiring to live out the godly lives they proclaim. We found it in the family-integrated church we now attend. I continue to be absolutely amazed at the teens and young adults that are being "produced" by this line of thinking, which appears to me to be very biblical. I believe the proof lies in the godliness exemplified in their lives.

I suppose that is enough...thanks for the discussion. :)

Holly said...

I don't have a problem with family-integrated churches- unfortunately most family-integrated churches ascribe to the reconstructionist or dominion theology purported by those behind Vision Forum, No Greater Joy Ministries, etc. Theoretically, I think it's an interesting concept that has a lot of value. Our church (which is an independent Baptist church) has a separate service just for teens. I kind of hate that. When my kids get old enough, we’ll probably keep them in the service with us.

However, when family integrated churches begin insisting that their way is the ONLY and BEST way-I take a step back and say hmmmm. The concept is not supported or dismissed by scripture, and therefore falls under the umbrella of "Christian liberty."

As far as public schools being the equivalent of the lion’s den I am sending my kids out into- I have not found that to be the case. Of course, we live in a rather rural area with little poverty- but, then again, I went to an inner-city school for the first four grades of my schooling career and am no worse for it.

My kids have overwhelmed me. My son has already invited several of his classmates to attend VBS and Awana with him. When I read his school journal, he regales his teacher with stories he has learned in Sunday School. He prays before lunch. And all of this was done WITHOUT prompting- it is simply a manifestation of his faith. So I wouldn’t sell young Christians short. God uses them, too.

Here’s my major beef with separatist ideology. We ARE called to be separate in our beliefs and our thinking- yet God fellowshipped with adulterers and thieves. The battle isn’t against THEM- it is the battle within OURSELVES we should be fighting. We can’t renew the world, but we can renew our souls. The separatist mentality Baucham ascribes to he calls counter-cultural. But when counter-cultural becomes counter-PEOPLE (people God loves as much as he does you and I, well- that sounds like the makings of a cult.

Your background is interesting- and I suppose mine is telling, as well. My dad left my mom when I was fifteen. She had stayed home and raised us and had never focused on a career. She was left strapped for money, struggling for a way to make ends meet. I look at the Raising Homemakers website and think- ladies, making candles and soap ain’t gonna cut it. Please don’t sell your girls short.

Here are some good articles that give insight into dominion theology and the people behind Vision Forum: