How Contrarian Are We? (#529)

How far have Wayne and Brad walked from their evangelical past? An article in the April issue of Christianity Today offered a new matrix to define what an evangelical is using four theological statements. It gives Wayne and Brad a chance to check their evangelical roots to see how the last fifteen years has shaped their view. Though they both consider themselves conservative theologically, one thing continued to stand out as they worked through the matrix—it didn't have room for a Living God in the practicality of daily life. Evangelicalism has replaced a living God with the Bible text, and a vibrant relationship for following a set of expectations. As they work through the matrix they discuss the Bible, their purpose in the world, the atonement, and what constitutes salvation.

Podcast Notes:
Wayne's Visit to the Nomad Podcast
Christianity Today Article: Defining Evangelicals
Wayne's Travel Schedule
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  1. Hi guys!

    Had some thoughts about the first theological statement discussed in Christianity Today, about the Bible. To me, the Bible’s importance is highlighted when Jesus was tempted by Satan. Each of Satan’s temptations were countered by a Scripture verse by Jesus, who considered Himself the Word in First John. When you think of the Bible in terms of the ‘Word of God’ rather than simply as text, the Bible takes on a whole new meaning, much like ‘Church’ is defined as more than merely a building. And I tend to believe its takes some supernatural thought to come to that conclusion, you won’t arrive at that on your own, nor can you convince someone else (believe me, I’ve tried!).

  2. A short note…appreciated the way Brad expressed taking a deep breath in the midst of our pain and enjoying the relaxed grace of asking Jesus for what is in His heart.

  3. I found the definition of “evangelical Christianity” liberating in many ways. Mostly because I have noticed over the years that the way some of my christian friends describe God, he can only be thought of as punitive, judgemental and rigid. I feel this is especially true of those who have a Calvinistic slant on the things of God.

    My lovely son died less than two months ago, two weeks before his 26th birthday. He was in a fatal car accident killing him and another passenger as well as the driver. I remember telling God days after it happened that I felt fearful of fundamentalist Christians, and the kind of belief that says heaven is the exclusive domain of those who go to church and say the sinners prayer. I know my boy wrestled big time with God, he was struggling with meth addiction and psychosis, which means how he saw God was at times twisted. Writing this though, I know Gods heart was always for him, and God never ever abandoned him.

    I don’t know if this makes me a universalist, but I believe there is a place for all of us in Christ, even if while we were on the earth we latched onto things and believed things about God that are not right. I feel that if this is not true then what hope is there for any of us, because we all have blind spots when it comes to God. And I agree with you both, that it is about relationship. Our relationship with God can be troubled at times, we can doubt that he even exists, we can think that he makes mistakes. But the hope of glory is that Father is bigger than it all, and heaven indeed will heal all of life’s hurts an injustices….whether we belong to the club of evangelicalism or not.

    • I just wanted to add I find the evangelical definition liberating because I can full and happily shed this label, I can’t align myself with any of those four points at all

    • Condolences to you for the loss of your son, and thanks for sharing part of your story here.

      I noticed that at least where I live, ‘Christian’ radio is primarily Calvinistic in nature, When I decided to turn the radio off, that made all the difference to me. If only Calvinists go to Heaven, God help us all.

      • Thankyou Ron….yes that is the truth…and this theology seems to make ppl far less loving in practise too.

    • Alyssa, I’m so, so sorry for the loss of your son. What a nightmare! I’ve been involved in two other circumstances this week of parents dealing with the death of their kids in the 20s. I can’t imagine anything more painful than to lose a child at any age. Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you in these painful days. Take all the time you need to grieve and let God wrap you in his arms and hold you until all the pain is put to rest in his love. Certainly no one loves him more than the God who created him and he is fully safe in the his hands. Labels are truly worthless and love is the key in the midst of whatever tragedies life in a broken age throws at us. I hope you have others around you who can simply weep with you and love you from the depth of their souls….

      • Thankyou Wayne. I don’t know where I’d be without God and the people who love me. It’s made me think a lot about what we believe as Christians, I wish God were visible and the mystery wàs taken away..we really have to trust and hope we will all be together again some day.

        • It will be one day. i think we’d know now of these finite minds and bodies can handle it. Like Job said, there are things too wonderful for us to understand in the pain of a broken age. It may be too soon to read either of the books I recommended this week on my blog, but both are written by parents who are going through what you’re going through. They speak with passion and kindness not the religious falderal that only comforts the one talking, not the one hurting.

          • Job is a bit profound in places, it is we on earth that seem to be limited for sure. I will definitely have a look at these books at some stage ????

  4. Aaarg! Labels, labels, labels . . . words and more words that lose their meaning or take on distorted ones from the original intent. Where is the true Christ of God, where is Jesus, where is LOVE? I guess I’m neither an evangelical nor a Christian these days by the world’s definition? }:-/

  5. It seems like the difference between what you guys said and what that article in Christianity Today said is the difference between an iconic version of something and the real thing. It made me think about reading the Bible. We all know the iconic version of “it” – read it every morning, memorize etc. The truth is, lot of people do just that and feel they have done the will of God even though it’s boring, and they have to force themselves to do it. But it is boring because they seem to practice the iconic, lite version of Bible reading. What if reading of the Bible is a much broader thing? Can we call “reading of the Bible” when the Spirit of God brings about a certain circumstance in my life that opens up my eyes to how I should love my children?

    Is this “happening” also “the reading of the Bible”? Obviously, the Spirit has revealed to me something about the love of God, but I have not necessarily read it in the Bible that morning. And visa versa, I may have read about the love of God in the Bible that morning, but there was nothing in my heart that stirred and said: “I get it”. Strangely enough, I would still feel that I “have read” the Bible and done the right thing even though my heart was empty. And I would hesitate to say “I have read the Bible” when it was the Spirit that revealed the love of God to me thru a circumstance – without actually reading about it.

  6. How many times have we heard “i believe in the bible” or some variation of the organized church spokesman that proudly asserts “We are a bible believing church”. And how often have we heard the bible referenced as “the word of God”.

    My understanding and experience is the strengthening of my faith in response to trust that is developing inside the relational knowing of God. I am so grateful for the transition from attempts at the practice of a system of belief I had learned (through reading, preaching, thinking, discussion, etc) to engaging the person Jesus and the Father through the holy spirit and together journeying through life one day at a time. Engaging in eternal life (the very life of God -WOW!) is an amazing gift that just keeps giving, as the expression goes.

    As pertains to the bible, I prefer to reference it as “the words of God”. I recall Richard Wurmbrandt teaching how that in the Hebrew language there is no word for the word …word. Instead it is a word that means jewel. This explanation shed a light on the value of the words of the bible to say nothing of the pause it gives me to carefully consider the words I am thinking of offering to others. (Lord knows the number of times I have delivered anything but jewels….).

    The choice for me is the freedom of the relational knowing of God as opposed to the frustrating failure of practicing a system of belief codified as “christianity”, or even worse, thinking and pretending one is mastering the performance required by such a system resulting in arrogant, obnoxious spiritual prigs (a word borrowed from Oswald Chambers). I opt for freedom and the resultant rest.

    A good friend and I were discussing the Westminster confession. The first question is “What is the chief end of man?” Given answer “to glorify God and enjoy him forever”. We shared a laugh as we simultaneously agreed that we would change the answer to “The chief end of man is to know God”.

  7. Hello Alyssa,

    My deepest condolences to you for the loss of your son. I concur with you Alyssa. If our relationship with God has to be perfect then none of us has a chance. I remember in one of Wayne’s CDs he talks about Thomas and his involvement in the upper room discourse. Labelled as doubting Thomas he is scorned because his questions are interpreted as lack of faith. Thomas’s questions plowed the furrow for the remainder of the upper room discourse. Without questions we learn nothing and I think God welcomes our questions because minimally it indicates we are actively seeking Him and it opens up an opportunity for God to reveal Himself to us.

    Love and God Bless to all this evening……………….

    Bill B

    • Bill, thanks for sharing how Thomas questions prepared the way for Jesus discussion. As Father maks space for more grace in my life, it is helpful to see that my fears, doubts and paimful questions shape room for deeper dialogue w Him. Blessings, Sue

    • Thankyou William….I feel a bit like Alice going down the rabbit hole in some ways…all of my heart-felt beliefs are thrown regularly into my vision, but they are fleeting and there is nothing to grasp on to, if that makes sense. My impression of Thomas is that he just said what he was thinking, no people pleasing, no editing. I really appreciate Thomas for that. I think he had a very grounded faith, and as you alluded to this faith is really expressed through doubts…it’s funny, at the moment I am fully relying on the imperfect way we all relate to God, hoping beyond measure that God will be bigger than all of my feelings of doubt, and even more than that, that God is bigger than the feeling that he is not there at all (I know he is…..but it seems like he is not). Surely he is bigger than death, life, labels, confessions, doubts, feelings, experiences.

      • He is! He is! He is! He is at work in you sorting out some of the twisted religious thinking. It’s like the roots of a seed sinking into the soil long before the plant itself emerges. You will come to see him, too, in time and you’ll never regret jumping down the rabbit hole, or taking the red pill, or saying “Yes” to whatever he has in mind for you. Prayers and blessings…

  8. Thomas is one of the unsung heroes of the Bible. Religion mocks him for doubting, but in fact he’s only asking the honest questions that allowed himself and others to discover a greater glory. Jesus is never bothered by our questions and doubts. He wants to win us into his trust and he’ll take a doubter over a pretender any day!

    • I was a PRETENDER…that became a DOUBTER…that is becoming a RECEIVER
      I feel like a little boy exploring his way in this great and scary world. When I am frightened I run back to the ever present comforting embrace and love of my Jesus. Jesus affectionately gazes my way adoringly watching me as I take more and more steps, and I learn to be a grown up and own my place in this world. However, the foundation of being like a little child and feeling safe in His love and presence in is the anchor being laid securing me as I risk more and more in this adventure of life…

  9. Okay…I’ve had a lot of my beliefs pulled out from under me on my journey. I am of a Baptist (Calvanistic) background. I am glad to be free from things I have wrongly believed….but could someone discuss salvation. I infer from what I’m reading above that ALL people are saved….where does a sinner’s prayer come in? ARE Muslims saved? I didn’t get the laughter behind that comment.

    • Hi Sarah, what huge thoughts and questions. Hard to do justice in a forum…I would say I’m not sure about the laughter….this is a serious subject. I wonder if it’s more the focus as in “I’ve got to do a sinners prayer” shifting to more “How do I know Jesus? How do I know His involvement and how He’s interested in me?” It’s movement away from a set of rules to the discovery of a Person. Wow…there’s so much more to discuss….maybe these are a few thoughts just as a start. Blessings, Sue

    • Great suggestion, Sarah. Brad and I will tackle this in a future podcast. Like Sue said, it’s a big subject to tackle in a forum. I’m sorry for your confusion about this, but it will provide an excellent question for us to root around in.

  10. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am finding that I have entered a state of deep cynicism about the church and “Christianity”. I no longer call myself Christian, but rather a follower or believer in Christ. The word Christian is so polluted by politics and religion I cannot bring myself to associate myself with the term.

    Having come to see regularly where personal boundaries get crossed for the sake of personal or institutional gain within the religious establishment, I no longer trust anything that is said across pulpits and institutional settings, and everything gets closely examined. It feels like I am hearing skewed messages everywhere.

    I think this “hearing skewed messages everywhere” is partially my own filter, part of the pendulum swing of life that I usually find myself in as I work out concepts and ideas in my mind. But this a difficult place to be and I wrestle with the need on one hand to discern what are the things that are really off and need to distance myself from, and on the other hand the need for extending grace to others and being okay with living in the place of imperfection that is the body of Christ. The same “grace and begin okay with” that I have to learn to extend to myself because I too am blindly flawed in so many areas.

    I can just feel the superiority of my opinion rising in the midst of this all. Ugh.

    • John, it’s all part of the process of learning what’s true and not true about the things I’ve heard in the past. Our defense mechanisms say throw everything out and start all over, and if you have to, go ahead. But I find it much more helpful for people just to ask God to show them what was real about the things I learned of you and which aren’t? You were never meant to trust what others told you anyway. We were always invited to know him and let him be our filter, setting us at rest in what is true and making us restless about what is false. It takes some time to learn how to do that, but God wants it for all of us.

      • Hi Wayne. At rest with what is true and restless about what is false. I like that and I do take all these things to Him for filtering. But I guess I am getting a lot of restlessness, which is disconcerting based on volume of moments where this occurs. I am learning and doing a lot of pondering.

        • I honestly get how scary that can be, John. But these are really good times. As you hold all of this in tension before God you’ll find some things settling in as true, some settling out as false, and some settling out as “not important.” We want all our questions answered, God just wants to reveal himself to us more every day. A new book will be coming out in a week or so titled PARADOX LOST.. I helped the author a bit with it and I think it’s fabulous to realize from our perspective there are a lot of theological paradoxes that seem unresolvable but aren’t in him. I love this book!

          • I will watch for it.

            I realize in this conversation that I am experiencing and seeing what happens to foundations built on shifting sand. The shift is structural and startling when it happens. Jesus be my rock.

          • So that’s a new book called Paradox Lost? Not the one from Catherine Skurja: Paradox Lost: Uncovering Your true Identity in Christ.

          • I didn’t realize there was another. Yes, there is no one coming out May 3 by Richard P. Hansen. I’ll blog on it at Lifestream when it is out.

  11. Thank you, Sue. Thank you, Wayne. I almost didn’t voice my confusion. I dreaded being condemned for even considering it. But…I’m learning to follow that “still, small voice” and trusted the safety of love being here. Looking forward to a future explanation.

  12. Don’t worry, Sarah, as long as I am looking over this comment section no one will ever be condemned here for any reason, much less asking an honest and sincere question…

  13. Looking for authority makes it a rules & works thing. I think having the authority paradigm with God doesn’t help things.

    Jesus used the word Lord when quoting scripture or when quoting other people. But on His own if He ever referred to God as “lord” he would say His Father is the “lord of..” something. Jesus said in Matthew 11:5, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.”

    Jesus didn’t teach people to pray to God as “Lord.” “The Lord’s Prayer” doesn’t even have the word lord in it, there God is called “Our Father.”

    • Hi Mar, I don’t see authority as just those who make the rules and force others to follow them. I see authority as the residence of all Truth and power, and though he could force us, he has respect enough for us to invite us into his reality and the way his universe is meant to work and the way he created us to be. And all that because he wanted “his joy to be in us, and our joy to be full.”

      • That is agreeable. However I don’t think God could force us seeing that “love does not demand its own way” & He is love. He has the power to force us but His perfect love prevents that from being an option in His mind.

  14. Wayne & Sara, I’m so sorry about the passing of your beloved dog! My Shepherd/Husky/Terrier, Hero (which I got 2 weeks after 9/11/01), will turn 15 in August. He’s nearly deaf now & has a lot of trouble walking (it’s not hip dysplasia, but is neurological), but I think he is still enjoying his life. Dealing with a geriatric dog, however, has definitely got me thinking about doggie end-of-life issues. But I hope the memories of your dog bring you comfort & that your new puppy brings you joy!

    • Thank you April for your concern. The new puppy is bringing great joy to our home and starting to fill the hole left by our old buddy. We’ve seen five dogs through end-of-life issues and it never gets easier. They truly become part of the family and it is tough to see them go. It’s not easy to know when the pain or lack of functioning overcomes their joy of life. One vet told us when they no longer wag their tail when you return after being gone for awhile is a good sign that their discomfort has overcome their will to love. We never wanted our dogs to needlessly suffer, and we never wanted to put them down for our convenience. We’ve always been sure, however, when the time game and never looked back with regret. I pray you’ll have that wisdom too as you love Hero at the end of his life. Blessings to you too.

  15. There is a major problem with defining people or groups with labels. Having that label applied to me, saying what I believe, and how I live my life don’t necessarily agree. As far as making the evangelical label, there have been other ways over the years to look at what an evangelical is, and they use different criteria. There is Bebbington’s quadrilateral from 1989 which shares only half of these four points, while from 2006, the Barna Group has been using a definition based on these four points and five others as well, and a 2011 Pew Research Center study of evangelical leaders ironically found agreement with only 3 of these 4. They may not have even been asked about the Bible. But what we have to remember is that these things: what we or anyone else says we believe, what group, if any, we associate with, and how we act, may not agree. And that is a big problem with labels and their definitions. For instance, in this survey, but not reported in the CT article, is the fact that 4 out of 10 Christians who call themselves evangelical and say they attend a protestant church do not even strongly agree with all four of these points, making these people, in the words of the researchers, not “evangelical by belief”. So we end up not just disagreeing on what the label means, but missing the problem of using labels: Neither the label applied to me, what I say I believe, or who I think I am — none of these — matter very much compared to what I actually do. That is why I prefer this journey of living loved to labeling.

  16. Defining followers of Jesus
    1. It is personally important to demonstrate the love of Jesus to other people around me.
    2. Jesus death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove to power of sin in my life.
    3. Jesus is the highest authority for what I believe. The bible helps me to understand Jesus’s love for me and who He is.
    4. I believe Jesus came into this world to introduce me to his Father. So I can live in a personal relationship with Him, my Abba.

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