24 January 2012

The Gimmicking of Christianity

Why is it that we always seem to need a "thing," a shtick of some sort to keep us talking about the Christian faith?  Here are a few recent gimmicks Christians have used to talk about their faith: Tim Tebow (and especially the superstition around his performance against Pittsburgh in the playoffs), the spoken word poem "Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus" (see it here), Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life (a few years ago), fish car magnets, and many others.

Many of these things are good and helpful, but what bothers me is when these things become the Christian faith of many people.  Jesus has been replaced by the latest Jesus-related fad, and Bell, Warren, Osteen, and Chan have become "the author[s] and perfecter[s] of our faith." 

It's not just an average Joe problem, either.  I saw this in seminary all the time.  Love of the Bible was set aside for love of books about the Bible.  When asked, "who are you reading these days?", I wish my answer would have been, "God" rather than Alvin Plantinga or some Continental theologian.  I love my seminary education, but it took me about 18 months to "thaw out" spiritually from the whole experience.  My professors are not at fault in this; I chose not to stay plugged into my church enough, I chose not to pursue a ministry while in seminary, I chose to let my devotional life slide. 

My seminary classmates, I imagine, understand.  Some of them might scoff, thinking that I just couldn't handle it or something, or perhaps that I chose to take the easy road of not pursuing a PhD and leaning more on practical ministry than systematic theology and philosophy of religion to help the church.  There's probably truth to all of those ideas.  But for me it just boils down to Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

We are not called to study about him, as if he were just another quirky historical figure.  We are called to know Christ, to learn Christ, to remain in Christ.  Many people can destroy me in a debate about biblical scholarship, textual criticism, harmonizing the gospels, reformed theology vs. open theism, and lots of other fascinating discussions.  I don't really care.  What I want to know is this: are you fixing your eyes on Jesus?

Jesus Christ, not anyone or anything else, is the goal and substance of our faith, and if we get anything right in this life, let it be this: that we lived and died devoted to Jesus and His word, because nothing else really matters.

Not Tim Tebow and his magical 316 coincidences.

Not spoken word poems that are biblically and theologically off-base.

Just Jesus.  Philippians 3:8-11

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