Monday, February 14, 2011

Sample Chapter 8 part 2: The conclusion of Roger the Warlock.

I gave a teaser last Friday of a snippet of Chapter 8 of my book No Argument for God (available at Amazon right now for $9).  Many of you were eager to hear the rest of the story - here is part of it.  More on Wednesday . . .

If you missed last post - it is worth it to go back and read about Roger.

And there it is—the truth! We both had a furtive laugh, and I
thanked him for his honesty . We had a really good conversation
after that about faith, God and the universe . No great conversions
were made that night, but things really took off when Roger was
true to himself . He was no Satanist, he was a normal young man
who liked to hang out with cute witches on Halloween . We can
work on his decision-making later, for right now one thing is
clear, Roger was a bad actor and an even worse Satanist .

It’s not easy to like a poser . We can learn something from this
as people of faith . Christianity gets awkward when it tries to cloak
itself in something that it is not . In an effort to appear more rational
and logical, Christianity has gotten away from its roots . Per-
haps it is time to get over appearances . Christianity is a glaringly
odd belief system that does not fit in with scientific empiricism .
Are we okay as people of faith to ignore the pressure to be reason-
able, to make sense?

Who do we look to as a model for this? We should go back to the beginning . When the Christian faith was new is perhaps when it was at its most laughable . The early church was born into a world dominated by Greek thought .

If there was ever a sophisticated and intelligent culture that could confront and defeat Christianity, it was Greek culture .

So when the first Christians brought their message to the
world, they knew that they were encountering a culture with
quite a few road blocks . The smart move would have been to
work within the framework of this impressive culture . Try to
sound smart and philosophical, try to package it in a way that the
Greeks could understand and take hold of . It is obvious, though,
that the early Christians were intent on relating their experience
with the risen Christ regardless of how it played . The early Chris-
tians knew that the “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks
look for wisdom,” but they decided that they would proclaim
“Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:22-23) . They emphasized
that God came in the flesh and did mighty works among them—
chief among them being the resurrection .

This, of course, was a serious Hellenistic no-no.  For Greeks, bodies were the prison-house of the soul.  To say that God came among us in the flesh was sure to get a door slammed in your face.

I love how in light of that, John’s Gospel opens with a pronounce-
ment that Jesus was flesh . Look at it again  .  .  .
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with
God, and the Word was God .  .  .  . The Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us .
(John 1:1, 14)

John’s bold break with Greek wisdom reveals his allegiance to something higher than Greek wisdom.  He chose not to argue with the logicians, just to relate his story. 

This kind of spirit is evident in the early Christian
community, which did not apologize for being so different .

This commitment to personal experience in the face of opposi-
tion is refreshing . Instead of worry about establishing credibility,
the young faith community stayed true to what they had lived
through . They proclaimed the resurrected Christ regardless of its
seeming irrationality . In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he em-
braces the ridiculousness of the gospel . With apparent bravado,
Paul is saying, “Yeah, that’s right, this is nonsense . . . to you .” His
pride in the oddness of the gospel spills over with his questions to
the Greeks:

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the
philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wis-
dom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world
through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased
through the foolishness of what was preached to save those
who believe . (1 Corinthians 1:20-21)

Paul reveals two things in these verses . First, it is foolish . “Fine,
you win . What I believe is absurd . Now let me tell you what hap-
pened .” Paul was not taking the position that only the rational is
real, in fact the opposite may be true . Paul was an educated man
who could have taken great pride in his ability to explain theo-
logical and philosophical difficulties . But he does not parade his
academic accomplishments; in fact he is surprisingly humble .
Note his tone when he addresses the people of Corinth:
“When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or
superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God .
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus
Christ and him crucified . I came to you in weakness and fear,
and with much trembling . My message and my preaching were
not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration
of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s
wisdom, but on God’s power . (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

Contrary to the rationally exacting world of Hellenism, Paul
purposefully sidesteps proofs for his arguments and resolves only
to relate his personal experience . When Paul speaks of only know-
ing about Christ and his crucifixion, he is demonstrating the
foundation of the truth—the person of Jesus . The Greeks saw this
as foolishness . The foundation of Paul’s theology was the person
of Christ, and he knew that human reason was incapable of con-
veying that .

Lets face it, for too long we have been bogged down in an
attempt to establish the intellectual legitimacy of the Christian
faith . Has this pursuit taken us from the original mission and
mandate of the church—namely, to proclaim truth rather than
reshaping it? We have flattened the beauty of the message to fit in
the court of human reason . 

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