First Third Conversations

The #1 Threat to Christian Faith (and it's not Immorality)

Golden CalfA blog post by Aaron Fuller

“You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do." ~Anne Lamott

My faith has been shaken up a bit recently...well, more than a bit. I've been engaging with another blog lately, the author of which is an atheist living in South Africa. He's an interesting guy, pretty straightforward, and sometimes just a downright jerk in his remarks...but aren't we all from time to time? 

Honestly, his arguments against religiousness, faith, organized religion, and God aren't anything remarkable. However, he's got me thinking: why exactly do I hold fast to religious faith and a Christian one at that? Why do I need God anyway?

Then it dawned on me. I don't need God as an idea, a concept, or as a set of ideologies to fashion my life by. I don't need God as an ideology that proves who I am, what I believe in and stand for, or that how I live my life is correct. I don’t need God as a concept that draws like minded people to me so “real change can happen.” I don't need God as a rigid doctrine or code that proves I am, at heart, "a good person."

That god is a nothing more than a human idol.

Look at how we talk to (or should I say at) each other these days: blogs, social media, and even professional media. Sure, we have a yearning and longing for justice, reconciliation; for love, forgiveness, grace and mercy; for liberation and salvation. The problem is, when these things exist only as well constructed and adhered to ideologies and concepts, they fall short.

We worry more about following, building up, and protecting the concept and ideology more than anything else -- a sort of “brand loyalty.” We look for those who are quick to join the cause, who buy into the same ideology. We’re quick to distance ourselves, and even condemn those, who oppose our ideas about how society and life should work. And whether you consider liberal/progressive or conservative/traditional arguments, both sides are guilty of idolatry -- and that’s the real threat, not immorality, to Christian faith and witness.

What I think we’re losing in our witness is that God is a God of action: God loves, God forgives, God judges, God sacrifices, God serves, God saves. In Jesus, God acts; God puts flesh on these notions of meaning and belonging that humans seem to long for so much. We call this the incarnation, and that is the core of what the Gospel is all about: the reality of what it means to be human, in God’s view.

And most of the time, God's action is a mystery, one that goes well beyond proof or conceptualization. My atheist counterpart would say that this just proves God is a delusion, and a worthless one at that. And I agree with him in regard to God as a human idol or to God as a concept. We don’t need that. We need a God who acts for us in light of our humanity, our limitations, and weakness. And we need a God, who in that action, will kick us off our insider butts from time to time, and along with it, will destroy our idols.

Now, regarding how this idea translates to the context of CYF/First Third ministry, well, I’ll leave that up to smarter people to write about (come back for tomorrow!). But I will leave you with this:

Perhaps the notion today that Christian faith and the church are threatened, even under attack by society and culture, isn't so ridiculous. But the real threat isn't so much from the outside; it's from within, fueled by our love of idols, by our worship of an ideological, self-constructed God. And not much is going to change if we don’t own up to it.

Aaron FullerAuthor Bio:
Aaron Fuller has done a lot of things and been a lot of places: grew up on a dairy farm, drove submarines, taught on a college campus, wrestled competitively, and coached wrestling, just to name a few. He now adds pastor to his list. Aaron is deeply committed to a multi vocational way of living out life and faith….because that’s exactly how it works for the rest of us, young and old alike.

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