Friday, December 12, 2014

Incarnation -- Not Just for Messiahs

Here at onset of Christmas, let's get one thing straight: Christmas is fun. Songs are fun. Carols are a blast. Presents are fun. Remembering family and friends and spending time together is fun. The story of the birth of little baby Jesus is fun.

But that's not what Christmas celebrates.

Wait... What?!

I had you with me until that last part, didn't I? Well, I stand by my statement. Christmas isn't about the baby Jesus and no crying he makes and all of his visitors (some of whom may or may not be biblical, but that's an essay for another time).

"Okay, smarty-pants," I hear you saying. "If Christmas isn't about the birth of Christ, then what is it about?"

Challenge accepted.

Are you ready?

Christmas is about the incarnation of Christ into the world. It's about something way, way beyond mere humanity emptying itself ("it" because we only ascribe pronouns to something that cosmically powerful in order to help us keep it in a box we can open and shut and package and name) and putting what it could of itself in a tiny package of human flesh. Christmas is about incarnation, pure and simple.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, KJV)

Christ (somehow one of a triune God whose physical nature I can't even being to remotely comprehend) became human. The closest approximation I could make is that I might feel bad for cockroaches who are getting close to poison so I let my big, human body become so completely cockroach that I could help those vile creatures hope to avoid the poison. But even that pales in comparison to the bigness of the truth of what incarnation really is, and not just because Christ genuinely loves us and I couldn't care two figs about a bunch of gross cockroaches.

God loved us and loves us so much that he sent Christ as his son to become human and take on all our sins and then die in our place. If that sounds like mythology, it's because it is, but not just mere mythology. It's the best story that can be imagined. It's the greatest myth of all. It's Prometheus with redemption attached. But best of all, it's true. It's history. But that doesn't make it any less mythic.

(Having typed that, I do realize that to those outside my faith admitting something that sounds so ludicrous that can make me seem like a clueless idiot who would believe anything. After all, it's designed that way. The wisdom of God comes off as foolishness to men after all.)

Monday, December 8, 2014

[Link] Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids?

Several years ago I met with a woman distraught over her son’s rejection of Christianity.

She said, “I did everything I could to raise him right. I taught him to be like the ‘heroes of faith,’ with the faithfulness of Abraham, the goodness of Joseph, the pure heart of David, and the obedience of Esther.”

She wondered why he had rejected Christianity.

I wondered why it took him so long.

Here Is How We Destroy the Gospel Message

Look at almost any Sunday school curriculum and you’ll find the following:

  • Abraham was faithful, and God made him the father of a nation. So be faithful like Abraham.
  • Joseph was a good little boy (unlike his “bad” brothers), and God made him prime minister of Egypt. So be good like Joseph.
  • David had a pure heart (unlike his brothers), and God made him king of Israel. So have a pure heart like David.
  • Esther was an obedient girl. God made her queen of Persia, and she saved God’s people. So be obedient like Esther.
  • Finally, if we fail to be good, Jesus will forgive us. (This comes as a PS tacked onto the end.)
  • What’s so bad about these Sunday school lessons?

Nothing really. Except that they lie about God, they lie about these “heroes of the faith,” they lie about the Bible, and they lie about the gospel. Oh, and they create “younger brother” rebels and “older brother” Pharisees. Apart from that, they are pretty good.

Is the gospel our central theme, or is it a PS tacked onto the end?

The Gospel Is More Than Good Morals

We need moral people. In a world where darkness expresses itself in everything from petty theft to genocide, healthy morals enable us to peacefully coexist. And that is good. Essential, even. It just isn’t the gospel.

Continue reading:


Editor's Note: For me what this article gets right is that we focus too much on teaching children that God loves the good kids and is willing to forgive the bad ones, but don't be a bad one. Whereas, the truth of the gospel is that we're all bad, through and through. Filthy rags and all that.

It is also testament to the reigning maxim of cultural Christianity that we are far busier looking for outward signs of what we believe is morality rather than inward signs of true Christlike character. Just my thoughts though. Your mileage may differ.