Nov 14, 2007

A Complex Christ: Letter to One, whom hath expressed distaste for Contentions; All Things

“A Complex Christ: Letter to One, whom hath expressed a distaste for Contentions; ‘All Things, All Along;’ A mediation on the Simplicity of a Multi-dimensional Jesus.”

– The following is a reply to an email interchange I had from a friend who stated that any and all expressions of Contention are not really necessary. –

wow – thanks for the thoughtful reply. If I may – I would like to “contend” with you regarding your reply; though, should I fail in my thesis – I run afoul of a certain potential towards inferred hypocrisy, by nature of the shortcoming thereof.

The church is guilty of a gross misrepresentation of the Gospel, not by virtue of being contentious, but rather by being reductionist in their treatment of the Word and what it says: while there is certain truth in saying ‘the simplest is often the truest’ great care must be made when applying such a method to spiritual matters; a dimension wherein, we must remind ourselves, our own logic and presuppositions may not always apply.

Much focus and advancement has been afforded the “social gospel” which can be traced back through the German Liberal tradition – the grandfather of which being the great Schliermacher himself. Sometimes referred to as a gospel of social help or love – it is not entirely devoid of truth; but merely represents a potentially ignored side of the fabric of theology woven between God and Man using the thread of the scriptures provided us. It’s polar opposite – Fundamentalism – is the exact opposite in that it’s practitioners will do everything to save your soul and then lock you away in a room all by yourself, culturally speaking – which is nonetheless strictly for your own good; as they understand authentic piety as avoidance and not responsibility.

The truth is: the Gospel is one that has both a Soteriological Imperative (salvation of the soul-emphasis) and a Social Ethic (salvation of the society wherein one abodes) and these two must necessarily co-exist and co-affirm one another; and failure to do so is not theology as we know it – but rather a human itinernation thereof; euphemistically speaking; it is a meology and not a theology: a endeavor of isogesis (man speaking to the scripture) and not exegesis (the Word speaking to man).

The urge to simplify is a natural reaction; the call to work and invest oneself in the task of hiding the Word in your heart and being wise with your talents; one which takes considerably more work then we are readily willing to accept the cost thereof. But work we must – and a Gospel of Simplicity at the cost of truth is not really a Gospel at all – rather it is a false-liberty that purports to offer safety – but in the end provides only bondage and death.

The complexity of seeming opposites abounds within a scriptural view of life. We are free to drink alcohol – but we cannot be drunk. We are free to enjoy sex – but adultery and fornication are strictly forbidden. For every freedom that we have – we have a constraint. And that constraint – ultimately is Christ. It is therefore no small mystery that within the character of Christ we find so many dimensions that seem so opposite – and yet are also true; for in nothing else can we die to find life, surrender everything to receive everything back again, and to be servants to servants to be Lords of Creation. When we emphasize “love” and seek to base it purely on an apprehension of our Christ – we create an inherently disingenuous theology built upon a molested Christ. We forget that our Christ is the same God who in the Old Testament, mercilessly ordered a father, his wife, and all their children to be dispassionately stoned to death. And for all that horror; we must be reminded that it was an act of honoring absolute truth and an unforgiving, unflinching observation of obedience to a fearful and holy God. In the act of his own Crucification, Christ reveals to man not a single dimension of Grace wherein we may live and breath and have our being alone – but an added dimension: we understand Christ as both the Law Giver and the Redeemer, Judge and Advocate, Justice and Love, Fear and Peace. To forget about either of these two dimensional components is to follow something that is ultimately our own invention. Many want to be successful leaders – but they forget that the mark of true Priest is that he has been encompassed by infirmity – they want to be wise and learned, but they forget that the Wisdom of God is foolishness to man.

Ultimately – in terms of our arguments for Christ – we alone cannot give contention for Him; for it is the ultimate opposite of them all. For in learning all about Him – we surrender ourselves to His own masterful self-authentication within our lives. There is nothihng we can ultimately do to prove Him to anybody – in the end; all theology comes down to faith.

This truth is born out when Paul in one verse says that he will eat no meat as long as the world shall stand, lest his weaker brother he offend, and yet in another verse he speaks to those who came while he was preaching the word and argued against him in regards to the Liberty that he had – and he said regarding them “these we did not countenance for an hour – that the Gospel may go out for you.” How then can we not contend with our weaker brother – and yet be also called to essentially tell them; “get the heck out of Dodge”? The premise of Contention is that it is based, as are all, opposites and balances, in the character and identity of Christ. When we, ourselves, live before men – an offense thereof must always defer to our own selves. But there is never any deferment of offense when that which is offensive is the Word – and make no mistake – Christ is the Word Incarnate. And so while I may not go to an Assemblies of God/Southern Baptist potluck dinner and bring a bottle of Yellow Tail Merlot – but if you ask me what I think about alcohol, I will tell you what the Word of God says and I will not apologize or seek to mitigate the offense that you will potentially take – for it is not against me – but against Christ himself. Walking out this don’t offend/offend, be at peace/contend truth is a hard thing for most Christians, and, indeed, is something that most Christians fail at miserably. But we cannot be all about being innocuous and peaceable – nor can we be the opposite, instigative and contentious. Rather as it says in Hebrews 5:14, we have strengthened the muscle of our spiritual wisdom in the application of life so that we might know the good and the evil; which essentially means – knowing when to be be peaceable and when to fight, when to speak justice and when to speak mercy, when to speak restraint and when to speak liberty. Conforming ourselves to the image of Christ is the process of taking on His mind and his dimensions of opposites and being able to be multiple things without destroying or disqualifying the need for the other. It has been said that love without the truth is too soft, and the truth without love is too hard; but I say that Christianity without Christ is too hard, and Christ without complexity is too easy.

May we all find ourselves and our own identities in the process of getting lost in these truths of our Christ – not just as an ethic – as He is also a person – and not just Him as a solemn prophet but Him also a Sovereign fearful God. So let us be less fearful of contention – and more fearful of lacking a fullness of the Character of Christ and may we then find our ourselves being more fully those things that Christ has always been – all things, all along.