Friday, March 25, 2011

NYT on single would-be-pastors...

Here is a recent article in the New York Times that describes the difficulties single pastors have with finding full-time positions in evangelical churches:

I think what's so frustrating about stories like this is that they simply serve to reinforce what many people outside the Church (by that I mean Christianity as a whole) already think; namely, that churches are not offering a life-view that is really that compelling or different in a positive sense, so why should Christianity be taken seriously?

I understand this is not the whole story, and many churches are not as rigid as those represented in the article, but it makes me wonder: how do we offer Christianity as a meaningful option to people, when they can easily see that we aren't even able to offer a clear indication of what Christianity is supposed to be to ourselves?

Many churches are more concerned about one's marital status than the possibility of actualizing God's call on a person's life through ministry; others of us then come along and essentially say the first group doesn't know what it's talking about. What are people supposed to think?

I suppose this is a much bigger question, really: it has to do with the divisions among the Church as a whole, and what should be done about it. I don't have the answer, but I do think something has to change - something big - if churches, broadly speaking, ever expect to be taken seriously as anything more than just another cultural gathering-place. If that's all Church is, we're screwed.

Of course, many would probably say that's the point - the Church is supposed to be 'rejected' by the world and suffer persecution, etc. But there's a difference between suffering persecution and just being ignored because you've lost all credibility. Unfortunately, I suspect that in many churches, the real problem is the latter, not the former.

I still have hope for the Church as a whole, because I believe there are many churches who are striving to make their congregants into disciples who have faith in Christ and follow his life and teachings. Unfortunately, there are also many who are instead attempting to build ideologies, or just have social gatherings.

And, more frustratingly, these different Christian groups usually all claim to be doing the same thing (following Jesus), and usually, of course, they are doing it better than the other guy. No wonder people are confused, and pay less and less attention to us.

Any thoughts?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bonhoeffer on Love...

"Love: this is the decisive word... Without this 'love' everything disintegrates and is unacceptable; in this love everything is integrated, united, and pleasing to God. What is this love?

...we must exclude any definitions that seek to understand the essence of love as human behavior, as disposition, dedication, sacrifice, will for community, as feeling, passion, service, or deed. All this without exception can exist without 'love'... Everything we usually call love, everything that dwells in the farthest depths of the soul and in visible deeds, indeed, even brotherly or sisterly service to the neighbor that springs from the pious heart--all this can lack 'love.'

So, if there is no conceivable human behavior that would as such unambiguously qualify as 'love'... then this poses an enigma, an open question as to what else the Bible could still mean by 'love'.

The answer is: God is love. For the sake of clarity, this sentence must first be read with the emphasis on the word God, even though we have become accustomed to emphasize the word 'love'. God is love: that is, love is not a human behavior, sentiment, or deed, but it is God who is love. What love is can be known only by one who knows God; the reverse is not true...

Thus, nobody knows what love is except through God's self-revelation. Love is therefore God's self-revelation. God's revelation, however, is Jesus Christ... Christ is the sole definition of love.

Love is not what Christ does and suffers, but what Christ does and suffers. Love is always Jesus Christ himself. Love is always God himself. Love is always God's revelation in Jesus Christ.

However... only the concrete doing and suffering of this human being Jesus Christ will make clear what love is... To the question, 'In what does love consist?' we continue therefore to answer with scripture: the reconciliation of human beings with God in Jesus Christ."