Evangelizing the Elect

Check out this video (video #2) on evangelism and election on James Macdonald’s blog featuring Mark Driscoll and Greg Laurie –> http://jamesmacdonald.com/blog/?p=6449

I’ve often been perplexed by the notion that the elect need to be evangelized. After all, if God elects them for salvation of some sort, then why do they need to be made aware of that election? Why would God elect a person but not to the extent that the person understands what God has done? It seems that this position is a way to reconcile what some understand the Bible has to say about election and evangelism. But this leads me to believe that we’ve either misunderstood what the Bible means regarding election or the Biblical authors weren’t on the same page, leaving us with this apparent contradiction. God is sovereign and does all the saving but we need to go out and preach the Gospel because, for some reason, God asks us for our help, even though he doesn’t really need our help…….

Contradictions aren’t bad. The Bible leaves us with all kinds of contradictions and paradoxes that we must wrestle with. I don’t think that discredits the power of the scriptures in any way. If anything, it adds to the power of the scripture. But contradictions and paradoxes aren’t necessarily buzzwords with sort of folks that believe they need to evangelize the elect while the non-elected folks are SOL.

So this clip that I linked to above is really fascinating to me. Here is a grown man devoting his life to a calling that isn’t really necessary when considering the logic of his own theology. Like he said, it’s a “take-your-son-to-work” day but for his whole adult life. This might be a nice way to think about it and I’m sure it makes sense to Pastor Mark but theologically speaking, it’s not really consistent with what he believes. God is either sovereign or he’s not. And if God is sovereign then why would he require us to a calling that doesn’t actually make sense in light of his sovereignty? And it seems that human beings typically do a bad job of representing God’s truth to those around us in the same way that a child disrupts the task at hand when taken to work by mom or dad. So maybe at some point those who believe God is sovereign and that he elects a limited amount of people should just sit back and let God do the work. Otherwise your actions don’t seem follow the logical conclusions of your beliefs and ultimately render them untrustworthy.

Freedom and Stuff Part 2

When we come to the realization that the conclusions we come to aren’t just purely objective in nature, it sets up a lot of really great possibilities. I would say that the most positive realization comes with knowing that we are not our conclusions. While I am a Christian and have certain positions regarding Christianity, that doesn’t define who I am as a human being. The essence of who I am isn’t comprised of my theological positions, political theories or the kind of clothes I wear or the car I drive, etc. The essence of who I am is comprised only of the being that God has created.

Acknowledging that our theological conclusions aren’t a product of who we fundamentally are is critical to developing the kind of empathy needed to move forward in a world where our various theologies are endlessly clashing.

It’s so much easier to demonize your theological other when you operate under the false assumption that your theological conclusion was arrived through an objective process. Evidence for this is so readily available, I say farewell to keeping up. When human beings are convinced that what we believe is simply a matter of believing what is true, disregarding the complicated matrix of consequences in which we develop our ideas, it is the first step in drawing the line between those who are right and those who are wrong.

But if we are able to disassociate the ideas we have from who we are at our core, this is the most critical step in developing a bond between those who might be our theological other. By coming to the realization that we develop our ideas while being influenced by our life experiences, we can see that this is the case with others as well. Rational arguments can be made but they are hardly any match for the power of life experiences and how those experiences shape a human being.

Freedom and Stuff, Part 1

As westerners, especially as Americans, we listen to this song as it the DJ plays it at our friends 90s party and nod our heads. We generally believe that we are free to do whatever we want, any old time with the exception that whatever we choose to do doesn’t infringe on the freedoms of anyone else. We’re free to choose our occupation, our hobbies, our sports teams, the music we listen to, the political candidates we support, etc.. I woke up today in Boise, Idaho and decided that I wanted to eat a bagel for breakfast. I left my hotel, walked a few blocks and proceeded to enjoy a very tasty everything bagel. The freedom to choose our preferences is so deeply ingrained into our society that it is simply unfathomable for us to see it any other way. It’s second nature.

This sense of freedom also bleeds into our religious preferences. The predominant religion in America is Christianity and the predominant form of Christianity in America is predicated on “right belief”. Basically, we get to God by arranging our thoughts about God in just the right way. If someone comes along, say a guy named “Rob,” and suggests that right belief might not be all it’s cracked up to be, people get really upset.

The reason I bring all this up is that underpinning this sense of right belief is the deeply held assumption embedded in our freedom-loving phsyces is that all human beings are completely free to choose what they want to believe. If you are a Christian it is because you objectively chose Christianity over all other religious options available to you. Or if you are a Muslim, it is simply because you’ve chosen to be one.

Absent from this assumption are the other factors that help determine our conclusions such as place of birth, cultural influences, familial influences, economic circumstances, and life experience just to name a few. All of these factors play very important, determinative roles in our decision making. To ignore these factors is to grossly oversimplify and misunderstand how we as human beings come to the conclusions we do.

I’m not saying that we don’t have some amount of freedom to make our choices, but these other, often ignored factors provide a framework that essentially limits or inhibits the kinds of choices we make.

Someone once asked me in an email interview why I was a Christian. I sat a thought about it for a while, trying to be as honest as I could with myself why I believe what I believe and the only really honest answer I could give was because my parents raised me to be a Christian. And it’s likely that I was raised to be a Christian because my grandfather was a Baptist minister and he raised my father to be a Christian. And the fact I was born in America where Christianity is the predominant religion didn’t hurt either. If I had been born in Japan or Saudi Arabia or Jakarta, chances are I would not be a Christian. If I had ardent atheist parents who raised me in a community of atheists where I had a bunch of atheist friends, chances are I’d be an atheist.

To take this a little bit further, a very important reason why I’ve reassessed my faith as a Christian in so many ways has been my life experience directly related to playing in a band. Traveling all over the world, making friends with and working with people who are not Christians. Making friends with atheists, feminists, homosexuals and learning about who they are and listening to their stories has greatly shaped my thinking and the conclusion I’ve come to.

Some might point out that this discredits my convictions. That I simply blow where the cultural winds take me. But the reality is that we are all blowing in the wind and it’s much nicer to be aware of that fact than to be blind to it.