Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Deep Church = Mere Christians = Those Supernaturalists?


One buzzword that the modern church likes to use is "relationship." Very often the meaning of the word tends to reflect human interaction and neglects the unique relationship of Christ and the individual. When misused, "relationship" is employed to obscure the particular issue of the day over which we might have a serious disagreement with our fellow churchgoers. Today's readings from Philippians 2:1-11 and a little C.S. Lewis help me to see more clearly the things that bind us together.
"If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross." Philippians 2:1-8
That which separates us from the present World should be this faith that God became man for us. This is not something that children will be taught in the secular classroom, nor is it something that we will hear in our day to day work or activities. How un-scientific an idea, "being born in human likeness." Who could possibly believe that? Yet, large numbers of otherwise reasonable modern people still identify themselves as "Christian." Doesn't this indicate that there is a deeply held view of the supernatural as something that is "real" and not the stuff of the imagination? In other words, in spite of all of its efforts, modernity has yet to extinguish the belief in things that it would label "supernatural" or "unbelievable." C.S. Lewis recognized this separateness not just from the modern worldview, but from what he calls the "non-miraculous version" of Christianity that continues to plague our minds, our pulpits, and our seminaries (as evidenced by the recent announcement that the Episcopal Divinity School is having John Shelby Spong, Episcopal Bishop of Newark (retired) as the 2011 lecturer for their annual Fall meeting of the Saint John’s Society).
"To a layman, it seems obvious that what unites the Evangelical and the Anglo-Catholic against the 'Liberal' or 'Modernist' is something very clear and momentous, namely, the fact that both are thoroughgoing supernaturalists, who believe in the Creation, the Fall, the Resurrection, the Second Coming, and the Four Last Things. This unites them not only with one another, but with the Christian relgion as understood ubique et ab omnibus.
The point of view from which this agreement seems less important than their divisions, or than the gulf which separates both from any non-miraculous version of Christianity, is to me unintelligible. Perhaps the trouble is that as supernaturalists, whether 'Low' or 'High' Church, thus taken together, they lack a name. May I suggest 'Deep Church'; or, if that fails in humility, Baxter's 'mere Christians'?" -C.S. Lewis "God in the Dock", 1970 Erdmans Publishing p 336.
The attempts to further a non-miraculous version of Christianity will continue to be something that we shall have to deal with, but I have confidence that as long as people of faith turn to the Gospel, as well as prayer and humility before God, then Christians, empowered by their Creator, will reject the false teachings of the Spongs of the present and the voices of his disciples who are to come.

4 comments:

  1. Well done, UP.

    And I believe you are correct that,

    "as long as people of faith turn to the Gospel, as well as prayer and humility before God, then Christians, empowered by their Creator, will reject the false teachings of the Spongs of the present and the voices of his disciples who are to come."

    But even moreso -- if I can put it that way without diminishing what you summarized, nor without diminishing Lewis' conclusion -- the empowered Christian, according to scripture, is one who is a supernaturalist not only because they believe in the miraculous works of God wrought by God apart from us, but also is a supernaturalist because of the works of God wrought THROUGH THEM, and they EXPECT to see through them. We see answers to prayer, healings, etc., every week exactly because we have not stopped believing (and thus not stopped praying in Jesus' name) in God acting supernaturally. "Deep Church" only stays "deep" when they not only believe in, but act out the supernatural of God. There is nothing that levels the playing field to modernism and liberalism as the news of a good healing brought unquestionably through prayer. Paul makes this clear when he talks about the proclamation of the Gospel presented hand in hand with signs and wonders.
    Thus, any "mere Christian" in TECUSA today should not be satisfied with finding a congregation where the Gospel is being faithfully proclaimed; satisfaction should only be achieved when such a congregation also exhibits in ministry the signs, wonders and miracles.

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  2. Rob+,

    Exactly. Keep on witnessing.

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  3. Rob+:

    You write,

    the empowered Christian . . . is a supernaturalist because of the works of God wrought THROUGH THEM, and they EXPECT to see through them.

    Absolutely spot-on.

    As to the balance of that paragraph, I would note our (Baptist) pastor is preaching a series on precisely that topic, i.e. avoiding complacency and praying for God to work through us as individuals and as a congregation in our community to win souls to Him.

    U.P., it is that "oneness" of which Paul writes which allows those of us of different denominations to set aside the minor doctrinal quibbles and work together. But it necessarily must proceed from Creation To Christ To Crucifixion to Resurrection and our Fallen State and need for Grace or it is all for naught.

    Cheers.

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  4. Randall,

    In order for Christianity to deal with the modern western worldview, it is crucial that we work together. The only way is the way of the cross.

    No cross, no crown!

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