September 21, 2014
...dispatches from the post-evangelical wilderness
From David Hayward at The Naked Pastor:
Shouldn’t that altar have “KJV 1611″ written on it instead of a cross?
That’s what the law does…makes us feel like “crap”.
But preachers ought not stop there.
When we’re all cut off at the knees by the law…then hand over Christ! And new life happens…again.
I don’t think this cartoon is about law and gospel, Steve.
I kinda have to go along with Johnny One-Note here, except I doubt the idiot preacher is preaching from the Law of God, but probably from one of our beloved ecclesiastical Talmuds. If he were preaching from the Law of God there would indeed be hope that he would preach Christ crucified, but the Talmud is insatiable and won’t even accept the blood sacrifice.
hmmm, so I’m not the only one to see that interesting connection. Great observation that the talmud, in any configuration or embodiment, is indeed insatiable.
Interestingly enough, though I don’t often see eye to eye with Steve, I did interpret this cartoon exactly the same way. “You are not praying enough, tithing enough, trying enough, attending enough, witnessing enough.” And it makes you feel like crap.
Orthodox version of this:
Father’s parents came from an island in the Aegean where the tourkokratia wasn’t lifted until the 1920s, when his parents were teenagers. The stories of how they maintained their Orthodoxy under such difficult circumstances is usually tailored to produce guilt about how little Orthodoxy we practice in the benign environment of the USA.
He has a point, but, yeah, it does tend to make you feel like crap. I might show up for Orthros the next week, but then I fall right back into my slovenly habits.
Could we have an explanation of those Greek technical terms you Orthodox types keep using?
Though the situation sounds like the Orthodox version of “When I was a kid… Ten miles through a blizzard… Uphill both directions…”
“tourkokratia” – government by the Turks, which severely circumscribed the practice of Christianity in the Ottoman Empire.
“Orthros” – Sunday service before liturgy. Actually a very educational service, where you learn about the saints of the day and how the day fits in with the rest of the Orthodox calendar.
Lol. Sounds exactly like the stories from my Armenian family.
Any time the preacher tells you what you ought to be doing, it should make you feel like crap. Super smiley motivational speakers have a knack for trying to make our moral obligations sound exciting, but at the end of the day, if we don’t realize how far we fall short, we’re just lying to ourselves.
I’ll just add that the law should NOT make us feel like crap. It’s mis-use of the law that makes us feel like crap. I have to read Psalm 119 every now and then to remind myself of this. The law is good, and Jesus came to fulfill it.
St. Paul calls the law, “the ministry of death”.
When Jesus told them that “if you are angry with your brother, then you are a murderer”…that they felt good…or felt like crap?
Or when he said to them, “if you even look at woman in that lustful way, then you have committed adultery”?
The law is a demanding taskmaster and ought not make us feel good about ourselves, if we are honest about it.
Steve M…as I read the Ten Commandments again, I don’t see any of them as a “demanding taskmaster.” And when I think of Jesus’ two great commands – love God, love others – I don’t see either of them as a “demanding taskmaster” either. It’s man who tends to make them demanding taskmasters.
The law of God is not just a “demanding taskmaster.” It’s also a frowning judge. Because it shows us what we ought to do, this inversely reveals how much of it we lack. It doesn’t matter whether you see it as demanding or not. The command to love God with ALL our heart and our neighbor as ourself is an ideal we will not ever live up to. That’s why Jesus came. You will never run out of room for self-improvement, and we will never cease to have and overwhelming amount of good left that we could be doing. Yes, the law IS good, but partly because it shows us our own lack of goodness, that we might turn to God and find it there in Christ. It is also “light to our path,” as the Psalms also say, but whenever the law/morality/self-improvement is wielded as something that is supposed to somehow make ourselves feel better about ourselves, the point is being entirely missed. The hope and peace that Christians have, from the Scriptures, is the Gospel, the work of God’s hands on our behalf, and not our feeble attempts at goodness.
It certainly is about law. What else could the preacher be saying to you from the Bible that would make you feel like crap… other than a list of what you should, ought, or must doing…or how you need to try harder to measure up to those Bible verses?
And then, of course, we must answer that law preaching…with Christ.
Mike, it’s always about law or gospel. And with some luck (fewer and further between these days though)…both.
Sometimes it is about simple abuse of power and the pulpit.
The cartoon spoke of the Bible reading.
I’d rather have a purely abusive preacher. Easy to walk out on and not look back. The one’s that use the Bible are much more destructive because of all that law crap they are feeding you, which can only make you prideful…or drive you to despair.
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Not everything needs or deserves theological analysis.
But when preachers preach..from the Bible (the cartoon)…either law…or gospel will come out of their mouths. Law being either God’s law…or ‘what we do’. Both will expose us and ‘should’ make us feel like crap.
“But when preachers preach..from the Bible (the cartoon)…either law…or gospel will come out of their mouths.”
Maybe, but I’ve heard a lot of nonsense from preachers that fit into neither category. Like the “prosperity gospel” when a passage is used to prove it. Or like Jesus as a model for business leadership. Or a series of sermons on biblical finances or biblical marriage, where passages are stretched to prove something that isn’t there in the beginning.
Or just an angry preacher using a verse as a starting point to vent his anger at everyone. I’ve always heard them called “foot stomping, bible thumping” preachers when I was growing up.
If these things are law they aren’t the Law I see in the Bible.
It is about both. I’ve been there. Pulpit power abusers love the law.
I guess that is true.
But the prosperity gospel is always tied to something, isn’t it?
You need to pray more. To give more. You need to be more serious about your Christian faith. and these things are ‘law’.
I think the nice ones (preachers) who use the law to try and make you a better Christian are just as dangerous. Maybe more so.
And not just the religious law. But the social use of the law. “Get out there and help…whomever.”
Both types of law usage put the sinner back into what he or she does to make them better.
And this really has nothing to do with the freedom of the gospel.
I dunno. I think pulpit power abusers just love their own power. I don’t think they give a flying flip about the righteousness of God’s demands. This is why they are so often caught up in scandal. This is also why they invent so many of their own darned rules. It’s about power and control, not exhorting spiritual slackers to do the right thing. Encouraging responsibility and right living is NEVER abusive, and this, imo, is what the law does (though certainly not all it does). Heck, if I didn’t have a few people in my life who knew the right time and place to give me a swift proverbial kick to the posterior, my life would be a whole lot worse off. In a way, sound advice is a gift of grace, even if it does speak softly and carry a big stick. It’s called tough love, and I believe even God has this for His children.
The law is great! But NOT for righteousness. And a great many of these law bangers, whether they be social gospel guys, or religious law guys, use the law in order to make you a ‘better Christian’.
We are never going to be ‘better Christians’ (more righteous, more worthy) than at the moment we were baptized.
In fact, St. paul tells us that when the law came in…we got WORSE!
Amen to that!
St. paul tells us that when the law came in…we got WORSE!
I dunno. I think you may be misreading Paul a bit there. I think the law’s condemnation of sin made sin more evil. But I don’t think the law caused us to sin more. That would make God the author of evil. Besides, we couldn’t sin more. You can’t get more depraved than “totally.” (…unless, of course, you believe in “utter depravity.”)
I like to think of the law as a guiding light. Not towards self-improvement, attaining righteousness, merit, or even making God smile. I just think that, since it does reveal God’s will for our lives, to the extent that we do follow it, His will is done on earth, as it is in heaven. Lawful living makes life on earth better. Obedience is possible, to a limited extent, out of self interest. Not that it would gain us any standing before God. The ideals are unachievable. But they are nonetheless worth striving after for their own sake. My standing in civil society is better since I do not steal (that much). My marriage is better off since I don’t run around, etc… Do I keep either commandment perfectly? No. But to the extent that I do keep them, life goes better for me. There are times doing the right thing will cost, I’m sure. But if we believe the Words of Christ, trusting his promises can lead to a little elbow grease when it comes to morality. Just because we are convinced that sin is bad and love is good.
But since we never come close to perfect obedience, we live in a constant need of forgiveness. This is why the Gospel always gets the last Word and the means of grace are essential for the life of faith.
My +1 was a response to Chaplain Mike’s comment about the abuse of power in the pulpit.
Just because he’s preaching from the Bible does not mean he’s preaching the law. I’ve heard a lot of ranting at parishioners from Southern Baptist pulpits demanding that they live up to quirky cultural standards never mentioned in Scripture. Abusive preachers usually can not find enough pummeling devices in God’s law, so they invent their own. The Law of God is a ministry of death, but it is a ministry none the less. The traditions of man, on the other hand, can be means of torture.
If you (anyone) are going to criticize or poke ‘fun’ of preachers in churches who make people “feel like crap”..then let’s be open enough to discuss why this is.
“Nope. He or she is merely an asshole, and that’s it.”
One might as well draw a cartoon about an assembly line supervisor then. They can make people feel like crap, too.
Hey! I resemble that remark…
Sorry about that, Chief…
Just because the caption reads “…he’s quoting the bible…” doesn’t mean he’s quoting it correctly or in context. My take on the cartoon is the preacher is preaching hell-fire and damnation, using various scripture verses to tell his congregation they aren’t doing enough. That’s the kind of preaching that usually makes me feel like crap, anyway.
Amen, me too. Or at least it did in my distant past. Now I just walk away or turn it off.
I’m not sure what side I fall on here.
I don’t support preachers or church culture that are heavily on the legalistic side, who continually yell and scold or offer guilt trips, who are all Law and no Grace at all.
But. However. One reason (of a few) I’ve been leaving the Christian faith and wandering into Agnostic Land of late is that I see a lot of Christians not actually living by the Bible, and preachers taking a very soft stance on sin.
I spent my childhood to my adulthood having right motives, trying to help people when I could, and actually living out the Bible’s teachings. But in recent years, especially after a death in my family of someone close, I had my eyes opened to the fact that a lot of Christian don’t live how the Bible says, even the ones who go to church every Sunday.
Why should I bother living out the Bible’s teachings when it seems 99% of other Christians are not, and the faith (the Holy Spirit) is not apparently transforming the lives of those who profess to be Christian, since most Christians these days are sinning at the same rates as Non Christians (eg, high divorce rates, abortion, pr0n addictions, fornication, spousal abuse, etc)?
And preachers, aside from some very legalistic churches or denominations (such as IFB) don’t actually preach strongly against sin (again, not that I’m a fan of how legalists such as IFBs go about it, but they at least address it at all, which is a step above most evangelical type churches or Southern Baptists).
Amen. The Gospel is supposed to result in new creation in Christ. If there is no transformation at all then where is there any proof that the Holy Spirit is real and at work???
Even though I loved reading “Ragamuffin Gospel” I can’t help but be bothered by Brennan Manning’s life as a whole. Where was there evidence of any change? Although, he was VERY honest so I guess that in itself speaks well of him.
Interesting take on this, Daisy. Some folks here at iMonk have certainly spoken of how little support they’ve gotten from their church and fellow Christians during times of stress and struggle.
In the cartoon above, if you put words coming out of the preacher’s mouth, “Fellow congregants, we have people who are depressed, we have people who are struggling, right here in our congregation, and none of you are being Christ to them!”
…does that change the message of the cartoon? Does it make it not so funny anymore? Are there times when we pew-sitters SHOULD feel like crap?
Better question: Are there times when anybody who actually believes the teachings of Christ can honestly not feel like crap? “Be thou perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Any time God asks us to do something, anything at all, you can count on us to fall short and screw it up. The point is that divine imperatives should never be given without divine indicatives: absolution, substitution, empowerment. Christ did these things (obeyed the law) and lived a perfect life on our behalf, he paid the price for our failures, and he gives us his Word and Spirit that we might continue His ministry. Apart from these, all and any moralistic pontification is simply not Christian. The essence of Law and Gospel is this: What God demands from us (good works, obedience, even belief) is, in the end, always overshadowed by the good things God gives to us (forgiveness, life, and salvation). He gets the last word, and any attempt to repay his goodness is the prodigal’s older brother refusing to join the party. Rather, if we rejoice in God’s goodness in us and receive them thankfully, we might find Him extending His grace to others through us in ways we don’t expect and surprise us. However it happens, in the end, it will be something we cannot possibly take credit for.
Matthew 11:28-30 certainly seems to support what you’re saying, Miguel. Here it is from the Message:
The Message (MSG)
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Write toChaplain Mike
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