Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Negative holiness

So recently I've been spending a bit of time trying to identify what Christian growth looks like and it has led me to re-engage with an old problem with the way it is too often viewed.

What does a good day as a Christian look like? What does a day which I'm happy with look like. Well generally a good day is one which I don't look back on and identify loads and loads of things which I shouldn't have done. It's a day when I look back and don't cringe at the unkind word I said, don't wonder how much damage my selfish actions have caused, don't despair at my impatience, irrationality and anger. A good day is one where I haven't been unkind, impatient, harsh, unloving or cross.

Sounds ok doesn't it? Well the problem is that we are not simply called to not be unkind but to be kind. We are not simply called not to be impatient but to be patient. We are not simply called not to be cross but to be self controlled. You get the idea - we are called to be gentle and loving rather than just manage not to be harsh and unloving.

How you measure your holiness or growth really matters. If we measure on the basis of us managing to not do the stuff we're not meant to do then we will pull away from people. The best way to limit our unkindness, impatience etc is to limit our exposure to other people. After all it's easy to not be unkind if we don't see anyone all day.

On the the other hand if we measure on the basis of us doing what we're called to do then we will work hard to connect with people and really share lives with them knowing that it is only possible to show kindness, gentleness, self control, love etc in this setting. The best way to show kindness, patience etc is to increase our exposure to people.

It is therefore possible that growth could involve an increase in unkindness, harshness, impatience etc as we connect with people and find that as we try to show kindness, gentleness and impatience we also increase the chances of us failing.

Until we redress this view of growth people will continue to detach and the church will not grow more like Jesus but simply maintain its respectable front whilst it happily stagnates. Negative holiness is not what we're called to.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Does Doctrine Matter

So the planets have aligned in a bizarre way and resulted in two freak activities beginning at the same point.
1. We've just started a series on Galatians at church
2. My wife and I (ten years behind the rest of the world) have started watching spooks

These two things beginning at the same point have forced me to again consider the question does doctrine matter? Let me explain.

In Spooks there is a particularly good episode where they are infiltrating an extremist Islamic group who are attempting to train young (15 year old) men to be suicide bombers. Few things have made me more angry than seeing lies being taught, lies being hammered home and resulting in a 15 year old boy throwing his life away in an act of meaningless violence. As you're watching this it's hard to argue that doctrine doesn't matter.

You see the truth you believe matters. If you believe the West is evil and that true spirituality comes through blowing yourself up then you tragically waste your life. This of course is all that doctrine is. Doctrine is simply the truth you believe and the truth you believe definitely matters.

It's easy to think that doctrine doesn't matter. That doctrine is just the dry theory used to divide but actually the truth you live for is hugely important. As you watch the extremists in spooks it would be hard to argue otherwise but perhaps in more normal life it looks a bit harder.

But you see if the truth that you believe is that life is about happiness and that happiness comes from the acquisition of money/stuff then you will live your life according to that code. Now that matters because if that's true then a life lived with that goal is the best chance you've got but if it's not true then a life lived with that goal will ultimately lead to a wasted life.

Whatever you live for whether it's true or not really matters because that ultimately will make the difference between a wasted life and a life lived to the max. This is something Christianity doesn't duck.
So in the Bible we read the statement that if Jesus' life, death and resurrection are not true then we are to be pitied because we are living our life on the basis of a lie.

So we come to Galatians and we see Paul passionate about confronting false teaching. Confronting lies which are being propagated. This can feel dry and aggressive but actually it is just a recognition that what you believe matters. Doctrine matters not because then you can win an argument, not because then you can be sound but because the truth we believe determines the things we pursue.

So the question we're all left with is what is the truth we can build our lives upon?