Today I responded reflexively and harshly to a post by one of my FaceBook friends. I have sent an apology and asked to delete my response (and may in fact do that myself anyway). I know they’d simply reposted this as a nicety from within a Christian world(view) to suddenly experience me barreling in like a bull on a china shop (Adam Savage’s experiment aside). Yet it is something I want to explore a bit further as this kind of post is symptomatic of the paradigm I’m critiquing and urging others to reflect on.
Many Christians are raised to believe in a God they don’t experience where the evidence for God, to themselves and others, becomes their belief in God despite all evidence and simple logic to the contrary. And this is considered faith!? And though this God proves both silent and absent it is further believed that such behavior, such a proving of faith, such a ridiculous and dysfunctional hide and seek, is faith? Here it is often quoted that “faith is the evidence of the unseen” as though an address in a book may be quoted with enough authority to override Jesus’ clear example of what a relationship with God looks like.
Let’s consider a rebuttal and I’m going to stoop low with recourse to the same textual legalism:
- “So Jesus explained, ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.’” There was no absence of relationship in any of Jesus works of service and even his sense of loss and agony at his Father turning from him at the crucifixion is a deeply felt relational abandonment. These works of service are full of emotion and constitute life-changing relational experience. A blind and deaf faith is no faith at all, for faith is seeing what the Father is doing and joining in the activity to include others and hearing what the Father is saying and joining in the conversation to include others. Ever wonder why we’re not seeing the kinds of things Jesus was talking about? Or doing them? It’s because our faith is blind and deaf and and dumb with what it says and in need of being dumb as in not capable of saying anything. It is, therefore, not a faith at all. The good news is that Jesus brings recovery of sight to the blind and opens the ears of the deaf. But a blind and deaf faith argues that you stay blind and deaf to prove your faith. A greater faith than a blind and deaf faith saying dumb things would be shutting up and coming into the relational presence of a God. For even as no sane parent wants their children to live as blind and deaf or emotionally stunted or as spewing dumb shite neither do the Father, Son nor Spirit want that for us.
- “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.’” We call God abba, meaning more ‘daddy’ than ‘father’, a statement of intimacy between a child and their parent. I’ve seen grown men and women using terms of endearment for their aged parents and abused children using the same terms. Both are full of emotion and there’s a ton of memories shifting the tone completely. They each use the same word but there’s a quality and timber to them that’s a distillation of a lifelong relationship full of emotion, feeling and experience. Yet both those enabled and disabled in and through their relationship with their parents discover in God some-One entirely different who rewrites and renews what a Father and Mother means and renews them as fathers and mothers in relation to their and other children and as men and women in relation to each other as strangers, friends and lovers.
- “And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit.” Have you noticed all the investment in the spit and polish of capitalism that’s now called “church” and how our definition of God’s work has transitioned from the literal works of biblical and historical figures to fuzzy roundabouts? So let’s literally rewrite this NT text according to what is being done. “And my message and my preaching was fantastic, charismatic, even gripping. Rather than relying on God’s relational presence and activity, because you can’t see or hear God or judge whether S/He is or is not present and active, I command an ever increasing audience who turn up week after week to hear the word of God preached. God is doing great things and the tithes are good. Soon we will build a larger church or sanctuary.” That’s clearly not the same thing now is it?
Any faith that’s blind and deaf is coupled with God as an idol constructed by faith using the timber and gold of biblical texts. It’s propped up religiously week after week and the faith can’t be sustained without attending and serving in the church. The church as such is a parasite that preys upon your desire to know God. But make no mistake that this idol may be called Jesus and we can make every offering of enduring the message, praise, worship, service and money but it only has the life we give it and gives no life in return. It is an idol as deaf, blind and dumb as our faith. And an idol like that leads us along a slippery slope toward a death of faith and life and abuse and exclusion.
The foundation of any relationship is communication and though there is a mature communication in lovers that transcends words no relationship starts there. We cannot, and should not, make God’s silence and absence the substance of our faith and believe that because there is only such silence and absent that therefore our faith is proven ‘mature’. Instead, God’s relational presence, voice and activity must define clearly whether God is present and what God is up to. God’s silence and absence must be a trough measured in relation to God’s presence. Serving any blind, deaf, dumb and empty idol will cost everything and mean that we will have wasted our everything on it. In a faith that’s all about Jesus why do we err on the safety of God’s silence and absence?
So here’s the thing, if you’ve been in church a year or two or five or ten and still struggle to clearly hear and experience God then something is very, very wrong. It’s probably time to stop doing what you’re doing, deconstruct you’re faith and recognize that you’ve been led down the wrong path. The solution is not to choose between a community wanting to know God and going it solo but to choose between a relationship with God and a relationship with the idea of God. It is in choosing the latter that the Ekklesia emerges in the Church. And though this leads to its own set of problems, especially when there’s tension between those more invested in the doing of church than meeting with God individually and corporately, it is only in this that we discover life as the renewing presence of God as having drawn near in Person and thereout becoming life-givers.
I’ll leave this with the following :
- Those with leprosy were expected to live alone with no one, including their family, and people were not only not permitted to touch them but also to not come within 150’ foot of them when the wind was blowing. The result was communities of lepers dying together. And if you did come close to them, you were now considered “tainted” as well until proven otherwise. True Biblicists and Bereans will want to check, for example, Leviticus 13 and Numbers 5).
- Jesus touched lepers. They were healed.
- Using leprosy as a metaphor the lepers in our midst are either ostracized to keep the herds of church goers safe while those who try to behave like Jesus tend to contract ‘leprosy’ or are treated as though having contracted ‘leprosy’ through proximity.
We tend to, as Christians, lack both the character and power of Christ. Why do you believe is missing? If “doing church” as we are is the answer, we would not be in the position we’re in. I sincerely believe that the b.s. (that’s ‘bullshit’ just to be clear) that we regurgitate regarding faith is linked to a deeper paradigm that’s neutering our relationship with God. So let’s change this.