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Friday, November 21, 2008

According to you, God must be lonely...

I've talked about Doug Pagitt's book "A Christianity Worth Believing" on here before. Its a great book--well worth your time to read. But just as great as reading the book was getting to go to the book tour stop in Nashville, helping setup the lights and sound, and hanging out with Doug, Tony Jones and Mark Scandrette. When Doug was doing his book reading/share time, he was talking about his opinion on tracts--and it was a enlightening moment.

I know you've probably seen the "Gospel tract" before--here's an e-version of one. They attempt to explain the whole story of God in a short, concise manner so as to convince someone to "personally invite Christ" into their life. (I use quotations only because I'm quoting the text from the page, not because I'm poking fun at what its saying.) Anyway, a lot of times these tracts show man and God separated by some great void that sin has created. (See here.) Doug made the point that God, who is (according to the diagram) all by himself on the one side of the void, must get lonely over there.

I've been thinking about that a lot. Not the joke. I got the joke. It was very funny to me. But I've been thinking about the separation from God that these tracts proclaim. One of the most beautiful teachings within Methodist doctrine is prevenient or preceding grace. (Decent explanation here.) It basically boils down to the idea that God is always part of all of our lives--his grace, his love is an active part of every individual's existence.

That's my problem with tracts. That's my problem with a lot of evangelism styles. They always boil it down to the "fact" that we're broken people (which I agree with) who are sinful (which I also agree with) and because of that, are separated from God (that, I don't agree with). I think God is always part of every life. For instance...

I think we all have an inherent sense of morality. Try cutting in line at the water fountain after recess at your local elementary school. Try cutting in line at Wal-Mart during their Day-After-Thanksgiving-Sale. Try sleeping with your wife's best friend, tell your wife about it, then blame it on her. Try living in Columbus, Ohio and supporting the University of Michigan. Try eating more than two Big Bufords from Rally's. There's just some things you KNOW you shouldn't do. You don't have to be told. You know.

That's just one example, and to some of you, that's a piss poor example. There's plenty of others we could talk about. But the point is this: there exists all kinds of evidence that God is at work in the life of every human. God isn't on the opposite side of some void or chasm, waiting for us to "invite Jesus to be our personal Lord and Savior." God is involved here and now--pointing us towards a better way. God's grace is present in all of our lives.


Psalm 139:7-8
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

3 comments:

mistylb said...

That's interesting. It reminds me of when I was young, hearing a preacher say that God didn't hear or answer any pray from someone who had not yet "accepted Jesus." I always thought that was kind of sad and was never real sure about it.

markandparx said...

Is. 59:2 does seem to suggest that our sin has indeed "separated" us from God. However, i agree that the common illustration used in tracts does break down. The separation is not some chasm where we're on one side and God is on the other. The chasm is death - the separation is death - we are dead in our sins. My issue w/ tracts is that it is up to the little stick figure guy on the left side of the drawing to muster up the courage/energy to walk across the bridge. Dead people don't walk, they don't do much of anything actually. The beauty of the Gospel is that that chasm was crossed by Christ, not us. The re-connect was accomplished by Christ, not us. So yes, the tract drawing seems a bit off but we have to been honest to at least admit they've been used (and continue to be used) effectively over the years. I know they aren't hip and most of the culture now thinks themselves way too savvy for something so archaic as a tract but let's at least admit God can use them - i mean, he used a donkey for crying out loud! (just a side note - anyone out there who hates tracts so much can move to an illiterate culture that's 100% muslim to explore other evangelistic options - we'd love your help!) peace - mark

JD said...

Yeah, Mark, there are several individuals verses that would, alone, lead someone to believe that. But when looking at the entirety of scripture, I don't see any way that someone could hold to that thought.

And I agree with the premise that God initiates it all--and that God has already initiated it for all, for that matter. I believe, without a doubt, that God offers grace and love to every human...