Posted by: worinld | November 12, 2007

the annoying thoughts that come from too much edumication

Or maybe it’s just the screwed up way my head hurts. So last night, I was at a DCB concert. It was good music, good fun, and so on and so forth, but never really did have that moment with God (religious experience if you will) that comes every now and then with these Christian gatherings (which is not to say that I didn’t have fun). In the end, I loved and appreciated David’s comment (paraphrasing) ‘if we lived like we sing in here, I’m sure this world would look different’.
Great statement right?

Then he followed it up with a song “surely we can change”. The chorus goes:
And surely we can change
Surely we can change
Oh surely we can change
Something

And that bugged me. Cuz my Christian learning taught me that there’s nothing we can really do to change people. It’s God doing the changing. We do what we do not to change people but to worship God. Do we affect people? Sure we do. But that shouldn’t be our motivation.
And as those thoughts were going through my head, the song finished and David said goodbye.

I was then reminded of another song David wrote, ‘wholly yours’ which also caused me theological turmoil. The first vs goes like:
I am full of earth
You are heaven’s worth
I am stained with dirt,
prone to depravity
You are everything that is bright and clean
The antonym of me
You are divinity

And as I heard that song, it brought me to the question, are we inherently good stained by sin or are we inherently bad that has no possibility for good?
I think there are plenty of verses that would agree with David(Rom 3:10). And yes. I can totally see where the lyrics are coming from. Many times, I feel the lyrics of the song applying to my personal life. But then, I think about the biblical story and think about how we were created. And we were created in the image of God. And sin stained who we were created to be. But we are not defined as sinners. Rather, we are defined as God’s perfect creation (but thusly stained by sin… then thusly redeemed by God). In other words, the story doesn’t start with our sinful state, but rather, the story starts with God’s perfect creation.
Does Paul’s words contradict that?

Anyways, it’s all probably just in my head….

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Responses

  1. But if Jesus commanded us to do “greater things” than he did… do we not do them because “God does them?”

    I think that kind of reasoning is dangerous. Not to say that humanity is the answer to humanity’s problems. The Gospel is that, although not just an answer-all.

    I’m inclined to think it’s OK for me to say that I want to change something, or at least want to be a part of changing something. I think that’s the function of a Christian in a broken world. Participation in restoration and redemption.

  2. not sure how doing greater than Jesus did equates to doing because Jesus did them. I think we do a lot of things out of obedience – which is worship/devotion to God. and we do things that are impossible for us, because it requires us to trust God – so then it’s again worship by giving God more control. but is it us to do it for … anything but God’s sake?

    also… So you’re saying the Gospel isn’t the final answer to humanity’s problems?

    and finally… could be ok to say you want to change something, but where’s the line that’s drawn between being a part of restoration/redemption, and having a messiah complex? (i know, i live in a world of extremes).
    it’s just, if it’s rooted in something outside of a god thing, I begin to think I’m the answer to the problems of the world, or more commonly, the answers to my friend’s problems….

  3. There’s a huge mix of concepts here, I think. I’ll start theologically (from my own concoctions, I guess), and then move more personally.

    1. Saying that God does everything does not preclude our cooperative work with Him. To say that He is ultimately responsible and deserves all the glory in any circumstance does not remove the fact that He has chosen to use us to accomplish things. Therefore, to say that God always does everything is absolutely correct, but to long to DO SOMETHING is not necessarily a desire to receive credit.

    2. Our depravity does not disqualify us from “doing something”. We can be inherently bad but not be therefore destined to do only bad things. As jadanazzy notes above, our participation in redemptive history is the way it has been approached since the beginning of time.

    I believe that sinful nature is NOT sin. Depravity doesn’t mean being soaked and steeped in sin itself. It is merely the compulsion inside of us that attracts us to sin, a compulsion from which we cannot escape apart from God’s grace. But once armed with that grace (and note, that grace can sometimes be “common” and not “saving” grace; I don’t think that non-believers are utterly unable to be used by God), I believe we can absolutely co-exist in our sinful nature and still “do something”.

    For me personally, this has been an important concept. That even in the midst of sin, God can use me for His purposes. That is the very definition of grace, no?

    Does purity matter? Yes. Fasting and prayer and consecration… does that make for more usable vessels? Yes, God honors that. There is a biblical concept of faithfulness and perseverance; we don’t want to be caught with no oil in our lamps or without having cared for the master’s vineyard. But does grace trump that entire system sometimes? Surely, it is in that very circumstance that gives rise to grace.

    So worinld, you describe a mystery that is delightful, but one that is familiar: God uses the weak to shame the strong.

  4. I’d refer you to Grudem’s chapters on sanctification. I believe it’s there that he talks about our cooperative work with the Spirit. Salvation itself is an alien righteousness, I believe, and totally a work of grace: we were dead even to the CONCEPT of salvation when Christ accomplished the saving work. That’s why ministry in the body of Christ is “grace upon grace”.

    Well actually, I think the original context of that passage in John 1 is different, but it’s a similar idea.

  5. In faith, I have to believe that my impulse to be the answer to my neighbor’s problems is at least somewhat a God thing while believing that it will never be a 100% a God thing.

    Otherwise I won’t ever do anything at all.

    In fact this reminds me of my personal resolution on the predestination vs. free will thing. In that for now, I believe that predestination is true, but I have no choice but to live like a free will Christian.

    But such patness is probably why I don’t currently see myself becoming a serious theologian.

  6. When I say the Gospel isn’t an answer-all, I mean to show that too much in our modern time, we’ve made the Gospel a “save me from hell” solution. It’s way too finite of a definition of a gospel, and I think it’s unbiblical and incorrect because of its incompleteness. I think that stems from a reformed position over-emphasizing our “total depravity” issue while neglecting, yea, our very identity as heirs and heiresses. And only God saves in a metaphysical way.

    If the Gospel is more than “safe from hell”, in that it’s “peace and hope for all mankind” then yes, we CAN take part in that because there is tangible fruit that can be born from our actions as participators with God.

    And yes, like Ana, but maybe even moreso, I think God’s work is not exclusive to Christians. A Christian is not a lover of God. A Christian can be. This isn’t to say that a “non-Christian” can partake in salvific work of God, but “saving from hell,” in my humble opinion, is not the only form of salvation. But I have to defend any potential attacks by saying that a new-ager cannot see a fully realized hope and peace as that was only manifested in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

  7. My question is this: If we were perfect — and I’m not saying humanity was not initially created perfectly; I don’t know — then would we have ever fallen to begin with?

    I think perhaps God knew our “perfection,” so to speak, would come through Christ’s sacrifice and by believing in him, we become, as C.S. Lewis puts it, New Men.

  8. thanks ana for that response (btw, I’ve read that sanctification stuff on grudem (cuz i had to) but didn’t do much… prolly cuz of my blahness to grudem before even reading it). I think what kills me personally (and yes, i concede to the fact that not everyone is like me….though they should be…) is that, yes. wanting to do something != wanting credit for it, but… it’s a slipery slope, and you get to the point where if nobody recognizes you… it’s hard to keep on going.

    and yeah, in our ‘badness’, the fact that we can still be a part of God’s redemptive plan is all the more reason that our works should be works that are motivated by worship. what a great priviledge. and the fact that God uses those who are not Christ-followers to lead others to God? what an even bigger testimony that we have nothing to offer, but it is ultimately God who is in control.

    maybe that’s just all a faith/works question…

    jad- you mean i can’t ‘just pray about it’, and just ‘bring it to the cross’ and all my problems would be solved? oh gosh. what do i do now?

    bird- i like that definition of perfection, but then…. think about the implications of that. What kind of God creates humanity so that he HAS to kill his Son? pretty much, God’s purpose was to kill his Son. can we as Christians be ok with that?

  9. I need to clarify one thing, and I’m assuming this is what Ray might be bothered by, if he is…

    A Christian DOES NOT have a monopoly of God’s favor. We must not assume that we do. Christianity is not the way of Jesus. Christianity is a religion born out of the way of Jesus.

  10. worinld (how do you PRONOUNCE that?) –

    If the line that bothers you from “Wholly Yours” is the part about the antonym, I think even Crowder struggled with it. On his “B Collision” EP, he changed the words to “An antonym for me” which I don’t quite understand, except to see that he obviously was less than 100% on that line.

    Anyway, here’s a thought that might seem strange, but it’s the lens I’ve been using for a while now. Perhaps we were created without the ability to choose good, so that in the event that we have to choose good over evil, we inevitably fail? Maybe God’s design was for us to be cared for by him, say, in a garden, where we would be without the knowledge of good and evil. And maybe something in us wanted to be more like God, and wanted to choose and be responsible for our choice and so we grabbed this knowledge of good and evil and now we’re stuck with choosing and failing and trying and sinning?

    And God finally had enough and said “Here is Grace in human form, stop trying to choose for yourself and accept my perfect Grace and pardon” and we said “Go to hell with your damn grace we can figure it out ourselves” and we killed God’s Grace on a cross? And God said, “Too bad, my children, I don’t accept your rejection, Grace lives and is available to all regardless of your rebellion.”

    Okay, so that’s a realllllly quick synopsis of another way of looking at the gospel story and maybe a comment wasn’t the appropriate place to start it, but oh well.

    At any rate, I think we pour our love of Christ and God and Good out into our love of other people. Is our motivation to help those people and change their world or to worship God? I don’t know if it matters as much as we think. If loving others is an act of worship than love others. But I do appreciate the tension between loving others and thinking we can change this world — maybe we can’t but God help us if we don’t try.

  11. What kind of God creates humanity so that he HAS to kill his Son?

    That speaks to supralapsarianism and to whether or not God actually planned the fall, or simply allowed it. It’s tough stuff to consider.

    Christianity is not the way of Jesus. Christianity is a religion born out of the way of Jesus.

    I think that’s sort of splitting hairs. The Way — as it was called in the NT, e.g. Acts — is, I think, tantamount to Christianity, which was also mentioned in Acts (i.e. “it was at Antioch that they were first called Christians”).

    Now if you’re thinking of religion as something lifeless and mundane, then yes there’s a version of “Christianity” that came out of The Way too, and it’s not all good.

    But religion, per se, isn’t bad, IMO.

  12. I’m not at all negating the traditions established by Christianity as a “religion” born out of the way of Jesus. The traditions that arose from Christianity, I believe, are a work of the Holy Spirit in that particular time and place. It is necessary for us in this post-modern age to embrace and look back on the history of our ecclesiology.

    So when I say Christianity is not the way of Jesus, I’m not at all denying its truthfulness. I’m recognizing that Christianity, as I stated earlier, has no monopoly of God’s favor.

  13. Jason,

    I pronouce worinld like reginald (except the implied ‘a’ :-P)
    I never did get b collision. thanks for that pointer.

    When I think about your description of how God’s design originally looked like… I have some other hangups (i’m convinced that there will ALWAYS be hangups, … it’s just which hangups am I most comfortable with)… like, so God set us up to fail? and if we required constant relationship, then why did God leave A&E alone in the garden to talk with the serpent? And if A&E, still sinless in Eden couldn’t always walk with God… how are we expected to?
    (oh stupid brain).
    I do love your last sentence…

    jadanzzy-
    having a rough time with your last sentence. lol. I’ll be with you and say not a monopoly, but i guess I would wonder what do you mean by favor? Is church central to God’s plans? is church really His bride? if so… would there be a special… annointing? (perhaps not the same as favor)…


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