Monday, March 20, 2006

A Theologyless Presentation Of Christ?

Last night I was at the little weekly meeting at the Slays' house (which was actually quite a bit more crowded than I remember it being in the past... Paul had picked up quite a few folks over year I guess) which had just started again for the Spring. It was quite a collection of believers from various nations... there were folks from Iraq, South Korea, Ethiopia, Russia... and I can't remember where Godswill and Ruby were from exactly :p. One of the African nations. We all have had wildly different backgrounds. There were teachers, engineers, an ex-pastor, and an ex-politician. A couple were actually under political asylum. As far as histories go, there were a few heavies last night.

Paul had mentioned to me a couple of times during our conversations that he was interested in dialoging about different cultures and thinking on how the gospel might be best presented in the cultures that internationals return to. Last night he gave us an article by Herbert Hoefer (an former missionary to India; you can find the article here) to read that presented what was to me maybe one of the most important ideas that had come to my attention in a long time, namely, the presentation of Christ as it appears repeatedly in the new testament to new believers in those ancient accounts - minus a lot of theology.

What am I talking about? The article really says it best, so go read it. I'll summarize very briefly: often times in the new testament, the death, resurrection, and ultimate lordship of Christ is clearly proclaimed, but the details aren't. "'Repent, believe, recieve' is the gospel proclamation" is how Hoefer puts it, and very often in the new testament accounts that's pretty much what a lot of people who recieve the gospel get to hear. Hoefer asks what if that is all that is proclaimed initially, and we let the cultures we're speaking to meditate on that and allow the Holy Spirit to lead them to the rest?

Of course questions may (and probably will) come soon after the proclamation... stuff along the lines of "What does that mean?". The point I think though is at least the listener gets a chance to frame it within his or her own worldview first. Then having attempted to make sense of it, they can really repsond with what they think of the gospel, instead of trying to make sense of, in addition to the gospel, the various intepretations or theologies we may be tempted to heap onto those basic facts.

I'm not knocking theology. I love it, and I like a little structure to my beliefs. Scripture itself tells us to watch our doctrine closely. We should all be trying to make sense of what the gospel says and internalizing it, making it a part of our hearts and minds. But the primary worth I see in any school of Christian theology, be it Calvinist, Arminian, or what-have-you, is that people are caring enough about getting it right to try to make a system of thought. Ultimately though, and I think this was one thing that Paul Slay is trying to get at, a system of thought is simply a religious form. The substance of faith is exactly what's in scripture and nothing more.

For the moment, I'm enjoying thinking about the new ways to talk about the gospel with people. I do think I've come across as being pretty heavy-handed when talking about Christ in the past. There's been this mental leash, a sad insistence that I get the internal logic right within myself before I open my mouth, when really, it is the Spirit that works, and it is the Spirit that convinces the heart of the listener. I forget that at the first moment I met my God, I didn't know all the details. I only knew he loved me more than I could imagine, and that Christ on the cross had something to do with that.

That day, my heart truly broke for the first time, I truly wept for the first time, and I knew I was never going to be the same again.

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