Sunday, May 28, 2006

Under Grace or Conscience?

Romans 6:14 "For sin shall not lord it over you, for ye are not under the Law, but under grace."

When we hear this verse in interpretation within the Evangelical movement, it often comes out sounding something like, "…for ye are no longer under any obligation." The general thrust is that nothing is required for our salvation, we need only "believe," giving mental assent to the doctrine of "faith alone" - a tautology for sure. Now, I’m aware of the standard canard to this apparent disconnect between reward and the moral life of the disciple: ‘You are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone’. But innocuous aphorisms such as this never seem to satisfy the New Testament language of obedience, which is critical to Jesus, Paul, Peter and John, your key New Testament voices. After such an interpretation, what's left? Obey what? Whom?

Part of the problem lies in the modern (Lutheran/Calvinist) understanding of ‘grace’ as a status or position as opposed to the biblical understanding of a sphere of personal influence and activity - it is never static. In Protestantism, grace is ‘declared’, in the New Testament, grace happens.

To begin, a person ‘under grace’ is first and foremost a recipient. Being under grace means that God Himself has marshaled all His infinite resources to recreate the one who trusts in Him. To this effect, grace is presence, power, privilege and pain. When Mary came under grace, she did not relax, she bore a son.

While the miracle that brought the Christ is just that, a miracle, it came with an obligation: "Let it be according to your word." This attitude (Faith!) marks the beginning of the Christian life and defines its entire existence thereafter. In grace, the disciple bows the knee to a greater power. As Paul says, "Work out your salvation in fear and trembling, for it is God who is working among you (Pl.) both the ‘willing’ and the ‘doing’ for His good pleasure."

What went wrong?

The modern emphasis on ‘personal salvation’ has obscured the fact that all this is for God, not us.

The general force of this originates in Luther’s reorientation of the Faith away from salvation history – a group focus - and toward the conscience of the individual believer. The process involved the re-thinking of all the biblical words and ideas used for the salvation process in a way that radically individualized them. The Call of repentance to the world proclaimed in the Gospel became the call I hear in my heart to come to Jesus. Election was no longer God’s decision choose a people, Israel, and then by way of Christ to include all people, the Gentiles. It is now the selection of my person from all eternity. Even grace is no longer the power, presence, privilege and pain of God’s plan for recreation, but is my personal experience of being free to be myself, etc.

When the individual conscience becomes of supreme importance, truth is the first casualty. Truth becomes what you feel to be true for you, all of reality comes down to you. Thus the endless growth of Protestantism by fission. "Since my conscience is different than (opposed to?) yours, we cannot fellowship. I need to start my own church." Since this type of individual confuses his conscience with God, he never has a problem with calling his new endeavor ‘Christ’s Church’ or something to that effect.

This also has a lot do with why Protestants have so much trouble being others-oriented. (Notice how much of the Evangelical publishing industry is devoted to trying to get them to care about each other!!!) When the conscience is supreme, others exist to be used and manipulated - for ‘conscientious’ purposes, of course! Perhaps this is why the historic Catholic Church, with its emphasis on the obedience characterized by the life of Jesus, had so much early success in producing movements that reached out to others. (At least up until Vatican II, which marked a watershed of change away from the church as a obedience-oriented body toward the protestant idea of the primacy of the individual. Today, the type of disciple produced by either group is hardly distinguishable.)

Radical individualism was the hallmark of Gnosticism. That is why it splintered off into a thousand different sects. Gnosis is private, grace is public. Grace can’t be meddled with, it is what it is. It is conditioned in history in the acts of God and as such can never be reduced to my private experience.

If Martin Luther had really discovered anything critical to our understanding of truth, he would have died for it. Martyrdom, not dissension, is the New Testament impetus for change. When one perishes for Christ, that one becomes as salt, changing the whole complexion of the mix. Luther’s protest was the true sign of an imperialist conscience. Today, all of Europe is atheist as a result of this one man’s selfish stand. The power of his "discovery" is made evident in its utter inability to bring about the faith that he proclaimed. His doctrine dethroned Christ, and crowned every individual.

Only the relocation of grace in history can mend this tragedy.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Beware of the New Evangelical Eco-Leaders

I have recently come across an article about a new movement among evangelicals which promotes a concern for the environment under a new "global warming initiative"- called, Climate Change They use much the same language as the political Left, with all its self-promotional ‘selflessness’ and ‘concern’, coupled with a shameless ability to load piles of guilt upon the Christian reader - all based upon a spurious exegesis of Scripture, and all a sham, of course.

One only need look at who is signed on, a collection of preening suck-ups to the secular god of success; one of them a leader in the Watered Down Message Movement, AKA: "Seeker Services."

I am not at all shocked by the activity. After all, the evangelicals never met a secular cause or practice that they could not assimilate as their own if they thought for one moment that the glitterati and the literati would think well of them. Evangelicals are starved for the recognition and acceptance of the "powers of the air."

That the whole thing is politically motivated can be seen by the remarks of the Rev. Jim Ball, executive director of the Evangelical Environmental Network:

"It’s a very centrist evangelical list, and that was intentional (!!!). When people look at the names, they’re going to say, this is a real solid group here. These leaders are not flighty, going after the latest cause."

My first response was, "Oh, really?" The hubris drips. But note also the psychological projection. He knows, in fact, that the opposite is true. This group, as with evangelicals in general, is quickly becoming famous for its flighty and assimilationist tendencies. They represent the new age Christian leadership: they are hip, concerned, totally "together", hobnobbers with the government elite, and most of all, continually positioning themselves to be envied as deep and in the know. But tragically: They are oblivious to the fact that they world enjoys using them while not taking them or their message seriously, except in so far as their dissimulation succeeds in ameliorating the power of the real Message. In this last case, the world is more than happy to facilitate them.

His use of the term ‘centrist’ is the giveaway: a purely political term meant to denigrate as extremists anyone not in their corner. The carefully calculated remarks tell us volumes about the type of person Ball is, a purely political animal who appears to suffer from an inferiority complex which he assuages through a coercive political piety. And "intentional"??? Are we to assume that exclusivity is commended by his ‘gospel’???

Let’s look at it. His ‘exclusivity’ is interesting: Out of a list of 86 signatories to this divisive statement, not one of these "evangelical leaders" was in the business world, or ‘real’ world, as I prefer to phrase it. A great majority are school presidents or point men for evangelical ministries. This is quite revealing. Once again, the ivory tower dictates from on high. Here its important for us to remember that Harvard and Princeton were once Christian schools that finally fell sway to the allure of respectability. "He who is of the world hears them." But I Digress.

Another member of this "solid group", the Rev. "Kyoto" Joel Hunter extols, "The good news is that with God’s help, we can stop global warming, for our kids, our world and for the Lord."

Now, the fact that Joel seems to think that God is in need of the help of evangelicals in order to save the planet is really just the end of a long slide which began when ol’ Joel appears to have forgotten what news was actually good.

And the cosmic ego! – "stop global warming"??? Well then, how about raise the dead, walk on water, or maybe a whole new creation? What’s to stop us from building our right up into heaven, to the very door of G-d?!!! Maybe, perhaps, the fact that we are not the demi-gods that we think we are?

More interesting, if their assertions are true, how do they know that God Himself is not behind it? Maybe its part of His judgment on the secular world and its false assumption that man can walk a path without God? After all, it is Jesus who releases the four horsemen. Perhaps their war is with G-d Himself.

But just how are they going to save the planet for "our Lord?" What could this mean? Whatever it means, you can be sure it doesn’t include dying for it. That onus will remain on others. This is how government works, the use of a subtle but terrible force to make others walk in lockstep. The Left has learned this secret well – to the misery of all those who are victimized by them.

But like I said, they won’t be dying for their cause. These folks get their emotional fix from the presence of "limousine" environmentalists, not from the possibility of perishing. On a side note, didn’t Jesus, in His sacrifice, release the world from "its bondage"? Perhaps a correction to the Epistle of Romans is in order if one is to continue with this new global initiative.

To really get the feel of where these folks are going, one needs to read the actual document: Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action.
Even a casual read lets one know that these "leaders" are full of themselves. Despite that fact that not one of them is a practicing scientist (assuming the list is accurate in its bios.), they have "seen and heard enough" to be absolutely cocksure that global warming is actually happening and that humans are at fault. Sound familiar?

Of course, they have their authorities. But when you check out their pedigrees, you find that they are all bought and paid for by their respective government sponsors. (Question: Does anyone actually remember a time when government assessed anything correctly?)
What should scare us most about these guys is the mindset which assumes that evangelicals need ‘leaders’ to do their thinking for them. They warn their constituency that they "must engage this issue without any further lingering over the basic reality of the problem…" That THEY have looked into it and found it worthy of blind following is sufficient. The herd mentality is actively encouraged.

But it is not the "evidence" that they focus on, it is the Leftist logic whereby the poor are evoked, catastrophes of biblical proportion are threatened, and that, in this light, Christians "must care."
They even go so far as to advocate specific legislation – approved by God Himself I must assume – and even tell us what cars to drive!!! (Perhaps this shall become their new catch-phrase: What Would Jesus Drive? They would not even have to change the acronym!)

Final observations: When folks feel the need to bring their personal moral obligations into the political arena, they are likely suffering from the Pharisee Syndrome: The confused belief that assumes that if you are considered righteous before men then God must be in agreement also.

"How can you have faith when you receive glory from one another?"

Jesus saw this attitude as antithetical to true faith, worthy of Gehenna : "They have their reward in full." Paul simply referred to it as being enslaved to the "elements of the world", the equivalent of trusting in one’s own works. In either case, they agree that these types have yet to acquire the faith that saves.

This is a frightening bunch. That evangelicalism would take such a severe downward turn so soon in their short history has surprised even me – one who has argued that they are really nothing but a modern incarnation of second century Gnosticism. To evangelicals everywhere, I would say, FLEE! "Come out from among them and be ye separate."

Evangelicalism has no future, in the same way that it has no power – thus its recourse to government. If Christianity is to survive, it will require a return to the all sufficiency of God’s actions in history and His supply of the Spirit in the present. Period.

As it stands, it appears there will be Hell to pay…now and later.