Today I wish to direct your attention to a pair of posts which ought to be read side by side, one after the other.
First is a post by John Piper in which he responds to a provocative sermon preached by Andy Stanley a few weeks back which lit up the evangelical blogosphere and made all the right people angry. Piper’s response is one of qualified support in which he questions parts of Stanley’s message and approach, specifically the wisdom of seeking to assuage the doubts of the present generation by promoting a view of Scripture which potentially undermines the faith of subsequent generations. He argues that the way forward is through richly passionate expository preaching across the entire length and breadth of inspired Scripture.
Along the way, Piper has this to say about the nature of faith itself:
Saving faith is not the persuasion that the resurrection of Jesus rose bodily from the grave. That persuasion is essential to saving faith, but not the essence of it. The devil knows that Jesus rose from the dead, and he is not saved (see also Luke 16:31). The essence of saving faith is seeing the supreme beauty of Christ in the meaning of the event, and embracing him as Savior, and Lord, and the greatest Treasure in the universe. Satan does not see the crucified and risen Christ as supremely beautiful, and he does not treasure him. But believers do. That is the essence of saving faith.
Meaning: It is not enough to believe that the Resurrection happened. One must recognize the supreme beauty of Christ in it, and embrace Him as Savior, Lord, and the most valuable treasure in all of existence. Okay, so I probably didn’t have to repeat what Piper just said, but this formula is all over the place in evangelicalism: It isn’t enough to believe X, one must also Y. You believe X? Well so does Satan, and look where it got him. If you really believe, then show your faith is real by Y.
This brings to mind a quote that appeared on Tim Challies’ blog a while back: “You may be singing ‘Holy, holy, holy,’ but if you aren’t thinking about God while singing it, you are not worshiping. —Donald Whitney” My question for Piper is the same question I had then: How much? How much do we have to be thinking about God while singing “Holy, holy, holy” in order for it to count as true worship? How much do I have to see the supreme beauty of Christ and recognize him as Savior and Lord and the greatest Treasure in all of existence in order for my faith to qualify as saving faith? Is there a magic threshold, a magic percentage? If so, how can I know I am there?
This is where we are in evangelicalism: Faith and worship are all about what we do, making sure we are thinking the right thoughts or feeling the right feelings and expressing those feelings in the right way.
Now we move on to our next post: Chris Kratzer shares a bit of his journey in an honest, bare-knuckle rant entitled “I’m Done: Why I’m Completely Walking Away From Church, Ministry, And Most Everything “Christian”“.
Kratzer is the epitome of what we are talking about here: He is the one who has been there, done that, and got a whole closetful of summer camp T-shirts to show for it. He has tried to play the game. He has tried to reach the magic threshold of thinking the right thoughts, feeling the right feelings and expressing those feelings in the right way, and through his ministry, encouraging others to do the same. And it is killing him. He can’t do it anymore. So he is walking away from it all.
I don’t need to say anything more about what Kratzer has to say. You can read it for yourself. Read it. Sit with it. Let it soak over you. Know that there are people out there who just can’t play the game anymore. Ask yourself: Is it worth it? Is it worth it to go on playing the game, trying to think the right thoughts, feel the right feelings and express them the right way? And if you are successful at playing the game: At what cost? What kind of person is it turning you into? Do you like being that kind of person? Can you go on with it? Do you even know?