I do not believe in Christianity

Recently I have been confronted by statements that people “believe in Christianity”. I must say that upon reflection I do not believe in Christianity – I believe in Jesus.

SO here is a Kierkegaard quote:

The conflict about Christianity will no longer be doctrinal conflict (this is the conflict between orthodoxy and heterodoxy). The conflict (occasioned also by the social and communistic movements) will be about Christianity as an existence. The problem will become that of loving the ‘neighbour’; attention will be directed to Christ’s life, and Christianity will also become essentially accentuated in the direction of conformity to his life. The world has gradually consumed those masses of illusions and insulating walls with which we have protected ourselves so that the question remained simply one of Christianity as doctrine. The rebellion in the world shouts: We want to see action! (Soren Kierkegaard, Journals and Papers 4185)

To the above very-well phrased quote from Kierkegaard let me add: Christianity is not a doctrine, and not action alone, but a person! That is the paradox, the mystery, of the Single Individual – I am called to surrender myself to another person, I am called to a radical relationship to the Absolute – Jesus.

preaching?

Most preaching I have heard falls into one of a number of categories:

  1. self-validating (“We are much better than [insert group disliked]”)
  2. intellectual gymnastics (“The Trinity is like …”). [As an aside, a sermon on the current state of a theological discussion on an issue is the dullest of all!]
  3. service agreement (“Because Jesus died for you, you ought to …”)
  4. just follow the rules (“DO what the Bible/[Authority] says!”)
  5. carrot and stick (“DO this or go to hell”)
  6. hyper-grace or fatalistic (“nothing we do does any good so don’t try”)

I have fallen for each of the above when I have preached, especially #3 as a form of emotionally manipulating people into agreeing with me.

I can count the profound sermons on one hand. And these have not been about a theological issue, a doctrinal insight,  a new take on the liturgy, or seeing the hidden meaning in a scriptural text.

I find a lot of preaching has no clear purpose apart from that it should be done. And that is apart from the fact that rhetoric is a lost art – there is no development of the argument from point A to point B. And, of course, the preacher has so much to say that they cannot expand any point beyond simply stating a truth.

Or the sermon is seen as an intellectual activity like a lecture where a point of doctrine is the issue. So the sermon becomes an avalanche of information and distinctions, often leaving even the most educated overwhelmed. And the preacher is validated by feedback congratulating them for their brilliance – because, in the end, no one understood a word.

Jesus uses simple stories from everyday life to illustrate his mission and life. He does not invent a new terminology but he gives a new meaning to old language by his life and death. And he doesn’t answer questions no one is asking. His message is simple: love. Love God, love your neighbour, love your enemies.

Anyway, just an observation!

faith?

I have been thinking a little about “faith” – what is it? Too often we create two poles – faith and reason – and simply ask where a person stands. Is faith simply a choice to sidestep reason and accept something on authority? I wonder if it is not a little more fundamental – faith is the movement from being a human being to becoming a person, a single individual.

So I did a quick google and found this article from a psychologist, The Nature of Faith. The article has a nice start but I think the author misses something:

Finally, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition, there is another important element to faith. Faith is not mere belief in the claim that God exists. Just believing a statement has little to do with one’s life, in many respects. The New Testament takes faith to include belief, but it goes beyond this as well. Faith also includes trust, in this case trust in God. So perhaps the best definition of faith is something like this: Faith is trusting in God, based on sound reasons.

Yes, faith in a statement about something is not faith in the Christian sense. Yet there is something more fundamental that the article misses: for the Christian tradition “faith” is not in a something but in a someone. Faith is primarily relational – it is mutual and reciprocal. It is a choice! But a choice to receive.