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An Inconsequential God

[pk_box width=”600″ align=”center”]”The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rests too inconsequentially upon the church. His truth is too distant, His grace is too ordinary, His judgment is too benign, His gospel is too easy, and His Christ is too common.”[/pk_box]

–David Wells, God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams (page 30).

Truth and Integrity

Truth and integrity lie very close to one another. In the absence of what is true, all that remains are power and manipulation. What takes the place once occupied by truth are private agendas, community ideals, rhetorical force, savage ad hominem attacks, fabrications, exaggerations, and power seeking. In the absence of truth, lying becomes the common coin of the realm. And this lying takes on especially virulent forms when it becomes religious. For then God is pressed into service for personal advantage. The stage is then set for terrible things to happen. We understand the dark side of this connection.

On the positive side, this connection between truth and integrity shows itself in that kind of ethical consistency that binds the whole of an individual’s life together. To know God is to know him in every facet of our being. It is to know him in our mind, heart, and emotional life, in our private world at home and in our public world, in worship, in Christian service, in the arena of ideas, in the conflict of worldviews, in the competition between religions. Because it is the same God whom we know in each of these ways, through the same truth that he has given us, a person of integrity will be the same person in all these arenas. The point about hypocrisy is that a person is different in different contexts. The person creates a post, or an image, to gain some advantage with some audience. The person and the pose, however are two different things. The point about integrity is that a person is the same, even when audiences may not be pleased and when there is, as a result, some cost to pay.

David Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008) page 95.

The Christian eschatological hope

Christian hope is not about wishing things will get better. It is not about hoping that emptiness will go away, meaning return, and life will be stripped of its uncertainties, aches, and anxieties. Nor does it have anything to do with techniques for improving fallen human life, be those therapeutic, spiritual, or even religious. Hope has to do with the knowledge of “the age to come.” This redemption is already penetrating “this age.” The sin, death, and meaninglessness of the one age are being transformed by the righteousness, life, and meaning of the other. What has emptied out life, what has scarred and blackened it, is being displaced by what is rejuvenating and transforming it. More than that, hope is hope because it knows it has become part of a realm, a kingdom, that endures. It knows that evil is doomed, that it will be banished.

David Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008).

Proclaiming what God has done in space and time

This is why those churches that have banished pulpits or are “getting beyond” the truth question are going beyond Christianity itself. The proclamation of the New Testament is about truth, about the truth that Christ who was with the Father from all eternity entered our own time. As such he lived within it, his life, like ours, marked by days and weeks and years. He lived in virtue of his unity with the Father, living for him, living as the representation of his own people before the Father, his very words becoming the means of divine judgment and of divine grace. But in the cross and resurrection the entire spiritual order was upended, his victory reached into and across the universe, and saving grace is now personalized in him. The world with all its pleasures, power, and comforts is fading away. The pall of divine judgment hangs over it. A new order has arisen in Christ. Only in this new order can be found meaning, hope and acceptance with God.It was truth, not private spirituality, that apostolic Christianity was about. It was Christ, not the self, who offered access into the sacred. It was Christ, with all his painful demands of obedience, not comfortable country clubs, that early Christianity was about. What God had done in space and time when the world was stood on its head was Christianity’s preoccupation, not the multiplication of programs, strobe lights, and slick drama. Images we may way, entertainment we may desire, but it is the proclamation of Christ crucified and risen that is the church’s truth to tell.

David Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008).