Friday, September 28, 2007

Belief and Being: The Net Worth of Man, and Our Communication of the Gospel of Becoming

That's right. I am a serial blogger. I tend to get stuck on certain topics, and blog them to death. Other times I reiterate ideas periodically, and create less connected series. I've got my Christian Sexuality series, and my stories entitled "Beyond the Pall," now I am in a second part of what is minimally a trilogy about "Belief and Being." So, if you like being bored to tears by someone investigating all the wrinkles of some specific thought - read on! And thanks for hanging out with me.

In the previous post I wrote about the tendency of Evangelical Christianity to proclaim a "Gospel of Becoming" to those outside the boundaries of the Evangelical faith system. We speak of Hell and judgment, Heaven and happiness, sin and death, and forgiveness and eternal life. These eschatalogical elements of the Christian faith become our heraldic call to those who are not yet part of our tribe.

It would seem that under the assumption that "the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God," we only communicate those things which have to do with a person's eternal destiny. (Perhaps not realizing that the topic of Heaven may be one of those subjects which are the "things of Spirit of God," which even a perusal of 1 Corinthians 2:9-16 would suggest.) This potentially exaggerated assumption leaves us with nothing to discuss with those who do not carry our theological positions, except to warn them of impending doom, or offer them a hope of eternal life - and this we call the Gospel.

Heaven is indeed a topic of Good News, but it relates to our future only. Heaven and Hell speak to us of a need for becoming something other than what we are now, and of turning toward a future of promise instead of one of certain doom. This has no reference to the present reality of daily of living, or to the hopes and dreams which reside in the human heart now. It does not speak to my need for significance, or even of realized love in this life. The messages of Heaven and Hell tend to reverberate with subtle hints of intrinsic worthlessness. The message tells some people that without acceptance to Heaven they are merely refuse for the dung heap of eternity.

This at least is how a Gospel of Becoming is received by many people who have heard it. Is it any wonder that the message has been rejected? The idea that humanity is intrinsically worthless is counterintuitive to life itself, and certainly not found in scripture.

Check out just a few passages which say otherwise:

"When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour."

"And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it."

This passage from Matthew 7:26-27 speaks of a man's life as a house built on a poor foundation, which falls. The fall is "great." This simple reference identifies the intrinisic greatness of humanity.

"But the tongue can no man tame; [it is] an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God."

Here in James 3 we are reminded of the imago dei (the image of God), which every person is created in. Our treatment of one another should be dictated by an understanding of this point.

If the people we communicate Gospel truths to walk away with a sense of worthlessness, could it be that we have communicated a Gospel of 'becoming something other,' and have fallen short of communicating a Gospel of Being?

I am certain that we are working hard to live our faith, and therefore merge our belief with our being, but I am not certain we have learned well to communicate a Gospel of Being. The Gospel of Becoming is a critical message, and one not to be forgotten, but in order to identify with those living with Postmodern, and/or Neo-Pagan reference points, we must communicate a Gospel of present reality, and of being, in order to identify ourselves as part of a caring community working at merging belief and being.

Now what that Gospel of Being looks like is something for other posts. Do you have any thoughts on what a Gospel of Being might look like?


Bruce said...

Surely the gospel of becoming is central to our experience. Honestly, I have to go back to read the blogs, but from what I've seen, you're really onto something here. We know God experientially in our sanctification--God keeping us in the cooker, and saying nice things to us while we are healing up.

The gospel of being is probably all about God. Parmenides the pagan Greek philosopher had a saying for which he is famous, and it really honors God in his eternal unchangable being: "Whatever is, is." God is uncreated, unchanging, unmoved and unmoveable, needs nothing, and complete in Himself. Yet He reveals Himself in Christ as not being emotionally distant, for all that. We can take great comfort in knowing God through considering Him in His Being.

cern said...

Yep, I think you've hit the nail on the head for one of the things that preached Christianity seems to seriously lack.... a sense of the present. The message preached seems to be focused almost entirely on some future eternity, with the present referenced only in terms of how it might influence what happens in that future eternity. Comments about an indwelling of the Holy spirit seem meaningless when coupled with an exhibition of hatred towards people who don't follow the Christian faith or are living with some kind of 'hot topic' sin in their lives.

If you think about those comments you sometimes hear from ex-christians about how they love Jesus, but hate 'christianity' (interchange for 'church' and 'church-goers'), I think the indication is that the relevance of Christianity for peoples every day lives just isn't apparent.

A Gospel of Being should talk about every day life without it needing to be a lead in to talk of an either/or future eternity. I've commented before that a living witness often comes across as the best witness. Honest personal testimony about what accepting Christ has done for someone’s life is also pretty powerful. When I say 'honest' personal testimony, I mean the kind that doesn't come across as an attempt to score points about how much of a sinner and how eeeeeeeevil someone was before their conversion. Stuff about how someone’s faith in Christ helped them through a difficult time is good too. Although, all of this stuff comes across as a prelude to 'Convert or you burn in hell' at the moment, because it has been over used in that way too many times. :)



Anonymous said...

Being instead of doing is at the heart of the New Testament. Being in God, who has revealed Himself as Emmanuel, God with us.

A sense of being in Him is the answer to stress, angst, alienation, and s host of other psychological "needs." He is all in all.

Pastor Phil said...


Perhaps it comes from our training as evangelicals, but it is far more difficult to preach a Gospel of being, than one of becoming. Yet, it seems strange if I think about from a practical standpoint - talking about God in the now should be easier. Perhaps Parmenides could teach us to live in the now.

Pastor Phil said...


For those of us in Christianity, it somethimes seems that the Gospel of now is all that is preached - with seriously selfish motivations at times, and of course this is a pendulum swing too far, and perhaps off line as well.

You are correct however seeing from your position outside our faith. Christians must seem top target you with only distant future perspectives, and bring closer to now by sadly offering questions about dying today.

Pastor Phil said...

Yep - you are "ded on." ;-)

Thanks ded