Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Complaint or Compliant

"It is a curious fact that the church has, by and large, continued to sing songs of orientation in a world increasingly experienced as disoriented…It is my judgment that this action of the church is less an evangelical defiance guided by faith, and much more a frightened, numb denial and deception that does not want to acknowledge or experience the disorientation of life. The reason for such relentless affirmation of orientation seems to me, not from faith, but from the wishful optimism of our culture. Such a denial and cover-up, which I take it to be, is an odd inclination for passionate Bible users, given the larger number of psalms that are songs of lament, protest, and complaint about an incoherence that is experienced in the world … we have believed that faith does not mean to acknowledge and embrace negativity. We have thought that acknowledgement of negativity was somehow an act of unfaith, as though the very speech about it conceded too much about God’s “loss of control”…

Complaint is viewed as negativity, and is considered to be an act of unfaith and a failure to appropriate faith or to be compliant to the view held by a majority, but, for the trusting community and that community extending to the 'fringe' people who call Jesus their Saviour, their use of complaint is an act of bold faith.

Job 13:15, "Though He slay (lament) me, yet will I trust (communion) Him. Even so, I will defend (complaint) my own ways before Him."

The point here is that complaint is a legitimate experience of faith. Complaint can be a regular feature of faith. In fact, complaint can be an act of bold faith. The tone of life is one in which complaint can predominate, though this view is, or should be, weighed in light of God's promises and His abiding faithfulness and is exchanged for that of confidence and hope. This is not a dichotomy, a view to life as having conditions perceived as polar extremes or opposites, an either-or perspective or seeing things as two-sided and nothing more, this belief exists in the realm of life lived with complaint; compliant to an understanding of life in the control of a sovereign and omnipotent God. We judge that the vacillation between the two seemingly polarized positions, one of complaint versus one of compliant, to be antithetical, in that, the complaint should not exist in the persons nature because the aspect of faith should be the pervading and predominant characteristic of the mature and grounded Christian and should promote a compliant attitude towards the disorientated life. Any view to life which allows for complaint via grievance, problem, difficulty, or concern is seen as a question of faith and not as a viable and healthy expression of a communion relationship with God. The question is brought forward that faith does not exist where doubt lives. Complaint cannot exist with faith. This is wrong, it alienates and promotes a view which sees certain Christians as diseased and leprous inhabitants of our Churches. We can not run around proclaiming 'unclean, unclean' and silence those who have and face legitimate challenges to their faith. Specifically, it ostracizes or marginalizes those people who struggle with the randomness of this world and the activities that occur by failing to give due consideration to doubts that they have. To clarify further, by doubt I do not mean to question the validity of God or belief in Him and His actions as being right; nor do I mean to say that God's actions and purposes are contrary or suspect in terms of purpose; but there lies a question in the heart of man that craves an answer; it is a question which cannot be answered except by faith, "...for without faith it is impossible to please God."; it is a question of the soul and requires an answer which speaks to the spirit of the man; it is a question which is linked to that which God has placed in a man's being and the answer must resound through all eternity; it is simply the 'yes' or 'no'... of the validity of our existence in light of the working of a sovereign God. And it is so much more ...

This does not imply that I believe we should give free licence to critics of Christianity and the Church. Certain levels of negativity are detrimental to the fellowship of believers and are indicative of a more serious faith issues, specifically that of a believing communion with God and they need to be addressed. The inclusion of these negative complaints would be contradictory to the intent of the Church to be a community that exists to encourage, edify and enhance communion with God through the receiving of Jesus Christ as a personal Saviour and the belief that He is the Son of God.

This may create a dilemma for certain Christians, however, it allows them, those who do not have rose-colored glasses, to own their struggles as a part of their faith experience. Further, it gives them permission to be different, to walk the walk as a believer trusting and communing with God attuned to their nature, in alliance with the circumstances of their life and up-bringing and accepting and being accepted that their view on life, God, the Scriptures are in accordance with their belief that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for their sins and they have received that forgiveness, but, they want in the deeper realm of their spiritual experience to understand their fears and doubts.

This is legitimate belief, healthy and normal. Believe this, that they (those with complaint) view 'blind' faith (compliant) that which normalized the lack of complaint as being 'true' faith, as an offence to the intelligent examination of life. Conventional wisdom tends to quiet and remove those who question and examine the parameters of the Christian life and their desire to give an answer or at least involve people in discussion about what the Christian life is to look like in the changing culture in which we live. In saying this it must be affirmed that the only true way of relationship with God is through Jesus Christ, God's Son ... Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through Me."

This is where the confusion begins (and ends), in that the questioning is predominantly about the experience of God as a real and vibrant reality within the context of a personal existence. God is a personal Saviour and that view gives (not that he requires permission or authority)latitude to His working in each individuals life. A lot of people struggle with the mindset of the Church that God can only be approached in certain circumstances or venues; that God can only work in lives in certain places and situations; that my personal experience with God does not have validity unless it conforms to a predetermined set of variables which by there appearance validates the experience as the 'true'. This is in my view another form of legalism and this is what flies in the face of a religion (Christianity) that has as its mantra "Freedom in Christ'. Galatians 5:1, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." 2 Cor. 3:17, " Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." This liberty is freedom from the institution that was the 'Law' or the "Church' at that time and has through the centuries continued to be represented by the Church and in these times this has become more pronounced. What must be never undone is the "...forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25) Gathering together does not refute the liberty held in Christ, the freedom of expression of the working of God in an individual' s life but instead allows for the fellowship and the communing of the Saints, "As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. (Proverbs 27:17) It's design was for that exhortation, edification and accountability; it's design was for teaching under the leadership of men who were taught by Christ Himself and passed on that teaching to others through those 'Church' services. Gathering together is the mark of our love and faith and hope, "...concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, ... and will be our future and I have thought many times at how surprised and amazed I may be with who I will meet in Heaven.

In that regard, we may be in error by judging other's faith based on complaint or compliant: in the questioning of the liberty that they have 'in Christ'; however,... If you truly read the Old Testament accounts of God manifesting Himself to the people of Israel and you really look at the people He used to that end, I believe you will realize that every psychosis and dysfunction is represented in the people God chose to work with and through to reach His purpose. The New Testament is no different.

The question seems to be not that there are questions. The question is in the desire by our culture for a greater spiritual experience. The question lies with the knowledge held by people of a greater spiritual experience which exists for them to know. The question lies in the absence of that experience within the confines of a 'legalistic' and 'suffocating' Church mentality and an environment which promotes a theistically sound doctrine but disables people from expressing and worshipping God. We are in a conundrum, for how can we give an answer? We must remain true to the fact of salvation in that "...you must be born again...", while allowing for different views on that experience to infiltrate our belief system about God and the Church as His vehicle of evangelization. There seems to be no plausible solution and although I give credit to those on the edge of 'sound' theological interpretation of Church and Christianity (Emerging, etc.) and the profound way in which many of its proponents have approached this dilemma there still seems to be a presiding disjunction with much of the undercurrents of emerging thought. This may be valid , or, ...
Many years ago in a Three Stooges comic book there was a Reader's Letters Page, in it a child had asked the Stooges what to do about a friend who buttered his bread on the wrong side?
The Stooges responded, "I eat both sides of the bread, doesn't your friend eat both sides of the bread, too?"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey John you'd think you were listening in on the ladies Bible study on Thursday nites. What is believing God? We all seem to be stretching our concept of faith in God these days - and what it means as we walk in our world. Lots of questions and doubts at times- but growing faith. Has God got something big in store for us? Jill