In the beginning of Dallas Willard’s book The Divine Conspiracy one of the first things he goes through is a breakdown of the dominant narratives of the liberal and conservatives corners of Christianity. He starts with the conservatives and I highlighted entire chunks of paragraphs and put exclamation marks to notate a entire page highlight, aka dear future Brooke, your arm is tired of highlighting but re-read this and inscribe it on your medulla.
I was reading it and thinking, yes, that is so silly to believe in what Willard describes as a barcode salvation and the conservative mantra. This is the idea that salvation has much less to do with the persons we are and much more to do with “getting in” to heaven. “What was only a theory of atonement became the whole Christian narrative”. There has been a loss of discipleship and loving the other, unless of course for the sake of conversion. In other words it has been called cheap grace, the essentials being made of up forgiveness of sins and the payoff of life after death so long as our belief is in Jesus. Then as a bonus, discipleship is available for the really good ones.
Yes! I see the holes in this logic clearly, I understand deeply what it’s missing. Then of course I read the liberal view and its breakdown, I highlighted less of this. This is because Dallas Willard knew clearly what I, as an independent thinker, have come up with all by myself. My genius mind has not been swayed by the Christian left, I stand alone in brilliance – clearly.
Willard essentially gets after those who have idealized social justice as the primary element of Christianity. It is fueled by those who see it as a primary response to faith to stand boldly against evils on behalf of love and justice. Although these are accurate responses to faith, when it is primary there is a loss of supernatural interaction, diety is just short of being replaced by Love, and Christelikeness is complete in our social engagement. Jesus becomes devoid of personhood and is diluted into a beacon for equality and community and certaintly not someone involved in either the mundane or the supernatural.
It’s never a good feeling when you are in process and are in the chaos of in-between, the faith you came from and know so well is being left behind as you wander towards new understanding with a complete lack of vision or clarity. Then after a lot of work and internal battles, someone smarter than you says basically, “oh ya, you fit perfectly within this category and these are your goals and motivations and here’s why it falls short.” I flatter myself and think I’m broad in my perspectives and worldview and come to find that in fact I’m in a different corner than I used to be, but in a corner just the same. This corner leaves me in control though, I don’t have to deal with how God interacts with us, I just have to work at making the world a better place.
Willard states, “What right and left have in common is that neither group lays down a coherent framework of knowledge and practical direction adequate to personal transformation toward the abundance and obedience emphasized in the New Testament, with a corresponding redemption of ordinary life.”
So what must my life become? Actually being more like Jesus, striving to become the type of person from whom good deeds naturally flow. I must recognize that having faith in Jesus cannot be separated from being his disciple, if one exists so must the other, and yet also recognize that I cannot remove Jesus and the supernatural from my good deeds. I have no idea how to do this, I suppose at some point I’ll have to stop spending so much time writing and reading about it, and eventually just do it. I’ll put aside the theories and words and, “heartily join his cosmic conspiracy to overcome evil with good.”