Wednesday, May 31, 2006

An article by Chris Seiple

HT: Jarrod Cochran

IS OUR PIETY PAGAN?
by Chris Seiple
“If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” - (from C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)

There is nothing safe about worshipping a King. Yet for many of us who are Christians, safety is what we daily seek. We take safety in knowing the rules, drawing the boundaries. A black-and-white world feels safer than a world of gray.

We feel safe when we keep score, if only to prove our success in His name. We pray for quantifiable favor and prosperity from God, but forget about our own sin. We draw theological boundaries — determining who’s in, and who’s not — but lose sight of the fact that His body is bigger than our church. We count the souls we’ve saved for our Savior, but do not live out radical obedience to the King who is sovereign over all spheres of life.

Certainly, issues of accountability, prosperity, theology and evangelizing are biblical and important. But in our pious pronouncements of certainty about them, are our means of worship becoming more important than the ends of worship? We “bow down to the work of [our] hands, to what [our] fingers have made” (Isaiah 2:8). Within the simplifying safety of religion, we remove the mystery and majesty of our faith. Or as Jesus said: “You have forgotten the more important matters ... justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23).

Oswald Chambers wisely warns us: “We have shown our ignorance of Him in the very way we determined to serve Him…. Have I been persecuting Jesus by a zealous determination to serve Jesus in my own way?”

Do we dare to be true disciples of Christ, and not merely “pagan Christians” who seek reassurance in empty idols and rituals? Will we center on Jesus and remember that He is the keeper of the scorecard? Will we focus on being a member of His body, letting Him draw the boundaries? Will we see life as a chance to love Him by loving others, knowing that He will provide?

It won’t be safe: we might meet a woman by the well; we might drink wine with a tax collector; we might have to pray for an enemy. We might even meet someone outside of our churches.

But it will be good: because our King does not need our regulating religion, only our faithful obedience.

“He’s the King, I tell you.” He does not promise safety, only the security of eternity with Him.

(Chris Seiple is president of the Institute for Global Engagement.)

4 comments:

Mike D said...

The thesis is intriguing but the development lacks focus and definition. Feeling safe in beliefs or worship styles does not indicate a pagan approach to faith. Seiple is probably correct that Christians tend to feel too safe in their self-drawn boundaries, but Chris does not supply the necessary tools to identify and change the problem.

There are too many issues mentioned in passing. Are we talking about rules? denominations? ethical positions? chruch growth? health-wealth gospel? lack of radical discipleship? theological dogmatism? worship styles? individualism? Listing these issues not not provide support for his thesis that we are pagan. It is cheap criticsm that lacks an appropriate exposition of the ideas.

It is easy to criticize in generalities. What is needed is vision and a direction to pursue. How do we cast off "reglating religion" in favor of "faithful obedience?" Draw a picture of what that looks like. It sounds good, but what do you mean? If this is a call for me to stop gathering with others to live for Christ together, it is wrongheaded. If I am alone I need no rules. But when I try to do something significant in cooperation for others, the structure is needed.

Alethes Ginosko said...

cool article, I love Oswald Chambers.

Jason said...

I can think of some other fairly obvious criticisms, too.

Um... that unsafe King the Beavers are talking about in the story? He's there to draw a pretty sharp line in the sand and feed the vultures with the corpses of those who choose to stand on one side rather than another. The line may not be drawn in entirely expected ways--He gladly accepts a nominal enemy of His later in the story, who (in effect) not only died thinking himself an enemy of His but while actually trying to serve a far more overt enemy of His!--but even so... {shrug}

Lines have to be drawn, and pronouncements of truth have to be made. But, I agree that we shouldn't be trying to do that in order to be (much less merely feel) safe.

I can go even further than that (probably in agreement with what Chris was trying to say, though not very eptly {s}): that line has to be drawn rather bloodily in our _own_ hearts first and foremost. (We _ought_ to be wincing at the notion that _our_ hearts must be _circumcised_, y'know... {s!})

Steven Carr said...

'“If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”


Didn't Lewis mean Aslan to be a Jesus-type figure?