Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cracks in the Foundation

There are cracks in the foundation. If Jesus is the bedrock beneath mainstream Christianity, then the foundation is the day-to-day religious life and experience that believers build upon him. (Mainstream here refers to Christians who have put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. It includes Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox faiths.) This foundation captures how people relate to God, to fellow Christians, and to the world. It encompasses their beliefs and what they do at church, in Bible studies, prayer groups, ministry programs, outreach events, and personal devotions. Much of this foundation is solid. For instance, what Christian could argue with embracing a sincere faith in God’s Son and endeavoring to live a moral life. But cracks are nevertheless common in this foundation. Water and mud seep in and damage the structure. These leaks hurt some believers, harden others, and diminish the experience of God and church.

The way to fix a leak is to find the source and plug it, like the Dutch boy who puts his finger in a hole in the dike to save the town. This seems like a straightforward gesture, but finding the source in this case is not trivial. The leak is not where many think it is. It is buried beneath layers of commonly accepted and culturally normal ways of thinking and behaving. Problems arise only after building on this foundation and realizing something is amiss. The building stands but is cockeyed, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

So, one must trace the problems to their source. After spending years in this process as part of my own personal journey, I believe the cracks in the mainstream Christian foundation are legalism and intellectualism. These ism’s, so to speak, represent a tedious fixation on moral rules and an overemphasis on human reason and intellectual analysis, at the expense of trust in God’s Spirit. The result is a faith out of balance, where legitimate articles are elevated above their appropriate place. They become idols that keep us from God rather than instruments for drawing near to him. We need to make repairs to the foundation. By recognizing how and why faith has become out of balance, we have the opportunity to correct it and become whole and stronger in hope, faith, and love.

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