Archiv für April 2008

Question: is the Christian religion a failed religion?

I am reading Brian McLarens book „everything must change“ now. To find out his opinion on what needs to change in the church. Also to not be dependent on somebody else’s opinion on this book. As he writes in the first chapter: „…you can Google my name and find websites and blogs from fundamentalist groups who consider me the son of Satan or on the wrong side of both the „culture war“ and „truth war“.

Now I personally wonder, why he doesn’t clearly give his standpoint on the „hot-button issues“ as he calls them (My guess is that this shows his frustration, that there are more important questions that are not being asked.) . In my eyes, there would be more evangelical Christians listening to him, if he would just – at least in a short sentence – put these things straight. Now a friend of mine had the chance to talk to Brian personally recently. So if you might have wondered: he did say that homosexuality is a sinful lifestyle and that salvation comes alone through faith in the propitiary death of Christ on the cross (he said that literally). Maybe that helps some people to listen in on his message to the church.

I think that he got too popular to pass off what he says on the basis of some well-intentioned criticism. Because maybe, after all, he has something to say that we might benefit from…so what is this book about?

To sum it up, the book deals with two questions. One: what are the world’s biggest problems, and two: how would (or does) Jesus adress these problems, or which solution does he give for them. These are good questions to ask, and they haven’t been asked enough among evangelical Christians. Can one be a Christian, and not care about issues as poverty and social injustice? Doesn’t God show – especially in the OT – that he does care about it? Do we (the church) then have a responsibility towards these things? Or is our mission confined to the spiritual realm?  Before anyone judges Brian Mclaren for asking these questions, I would be very interested to hear some of their answers!

In  this category, I want to just quote some of the things from „everything must change“ and comment on it. I don’t want to do deep analysis, but pick some things that might be of interest. After all, my desire is to promote thinking, learning and growing for myself and all who will read it.

In part 1, chapter 5, MacLaren writes: „More and more reflective Christian leaders are beginning to realize that for the millions of young adults who dropped out of their churches in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the Christian religion appears to be a failed religion. And for a reason not unlike the one expressed by the young healthcare worker from Khayelitsha: it has specialized in dealing with „spiritual needs“ to the exlusion of physical and social needs. [comment: That statement would be hard to prove/disprove. Is that really the reason why many young people leave the church? I doubt it – especially here in Germany.] It has specialized in people’s destination in the afterlife but has failed to adress significant social injustices in this life. It has focused on „me“ and „my soul“ and „my spiritual life“ and „my eternal destiny“, but it has failed to address the dominant societal and global realities of their lifetime: systemic injustice, systemic poverty, systemic ecological crisis, systemic dysfunctions of many kinds.“

Some statements: First, I agree that it would be wrong to disconnect the spiritual from the physical and social. Biblical Christianity does definitely know nothing of that kind of mindset. Second, the point that it is not only about ’spiritual‘ things, but that it is about ‚me and myself‘ is a very good one. Maybe someone has asked you this question before: if someone desires to be saved from sin, death and hell to a blessed life with God and eternal bliss in heaven – is that not very selfish? So the observation is very good. Someone said that one of the principles that young converts need to be taught is: „nothing that is selfish is Christian“. And it is true – the Jesus of the Bible will bring us salvation from selfishness and set us free to seek the welfare of others more than our own. The constant focus on self – even it is spiritual needs – is wrong and sinful.

As long as a Christian, or a church, just focuses on himself/itself, he is in a state of spiritual immaturity as were the Corinthian Christians, who were in need of Paul’s exhortation to seek the benefit of others, which is the essence of true love.

Thirdly, is he right when he says that the church failed to address the issues mentioned above? I disagree! The Bible emphasizes the spiritual realm (man’s relationship with God) as the basis of the physical realm (man’s relationship with man). So when I adress a spiritual issue in someones life, I am addressing his physical life as well. His spirituality is supposed to touch every area of his life. So all evangelizing and all teaching and disciple-making that equipped people to be faithful spouses, honest politicians, fair employers has been successful in dealing with systematic injustice etc. Because any evil system will be attacked through the Gospel message which will in turn destroy that system as individuals who make up that system and keep it running let the spiritual message penetrage their hearts.

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