At the Baptist Assembly last year I heard from the front something I’ve heard a lot. Get your heart (ie emotions) in line with your thoughts (belief).
We moved house recently to be closer to the church I work for. We own a house so we wanted to rent that out and move into a rental property close to the church. As the weeks went by, and each prospective tenant came and went, my heart sank. Yes I believed in my head that God could provide but in my heart, it was a different story.
This is what the speaker at the Assembly was on about. Get your heart to match up with your head.
But I don’t think that’s possible. i think that’s a myth.
In his new book, “insurrection”, Peter Rollins says this:
“our outer world [our actions/ heart] is not something that needs to be brought into line with our inner world [our thoughts/beliefs] but is an expression of it“.
What our heart believes is what we truly believe. In other words our actions express what we truly believe. It’s not right to tell someone to get their heart in line with their head. They are not two separate entities. Here’s what Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:
“the heart in the biblical sense is not the inner life, but the whole man in relation to God”
How we act shows our beliefs. I think this is part of what Paul was saying in the famous love section in his letter to the Corinthians. We can say all the right things and believe what we’re meant to but it means nothing if our actions express something differently.
There have been many heated arguments over the faith based/ works based salvation. I’m starting to believe that they are one in the same. Our works are an expression of our faith so in essence, those works do save us because they project what we believe.
What do your actions tell others about what you truly believe?
The ending, although I did enjoy it, felt a little too compromised and it is this that I want to focus on so if you haven’t seen the film, and want to see it, best to stop reading now.
I personally believe the film should have ended with the freeze frame kiss. At this point, Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) has acted selflessly. He has reconciled with his father, given the criminal a form of justice, and allowed the last few moments of the commuters lives to be one of happiness.
It then becomes clear than Stevens actions have created another universe, one where the bomb does not go off and everyone survives (apart from the guy who he ‘possessed’ but lets not dwell on that ethical dilemma in this post).
He gets the girl.
Thus everything he’s done has been justified. He gets the reward.
There lies my problem with the film.
The philosopher (I’m not sure he’d like that title but he’s getting it) Peter Rollins recites this parable in his book, “the orthodox heretic”:
“You sit in silence contemplating what has just taken place. Only moments ago you were alive and well, relaxing at home with friends. Then there was a deep, crushing pain in your chest that brought you crashing to the floor. The pain has now gone, but you are no longer in your home. Instead, you find yourself standing on the other side of death waiting to stand before the judgment seat and discover where you will spend eternity. As you reflect upon your life your name is called, and you are led down a long corridor into a majestic sanctuary with a throne located in its center. Sitting on this throne is a huge, breathtaking being who looks up at you and begins to speak.
“My name is Lucifer, and I am the angel of light.”
You are immediately filled with fear and trembling as you realize that you are face to face with the enemy of all that is true and good. Then the angel continues: “I have cast God down from his throne and banished Christ to the realm of eternal death. It is I who hold the keys to the kingdom. It is I who am the gatekeeper of paradise, and it is for me alone to decide who shall enter eternal joy and who shall be forsaken.”
After saying these words, he sits up and stretches out his vast arms. “In my right hand I hold eternal life and in my left hand eternal death. Those who would bow down and acknowledge me as their god shall pass through the gates of paradise and experience an eternity of bliss, but all those who refuse will be vanquished to the second death with their Christ.”
After a long pause he bends toward you and speaks, “Which will you choose?”
I believe Stevens actions in the film would have been more noble if his life had ended with the kiss.
Where he didn’t get the reward.
I find the same with Christianity.
I’ve enjoyed it and think it’s not too bad a resource. But I do have issues with it and its connected with this idea of rewards.
The underlying message of the series is become a Christian so you go to Heaven rather than Hell.
Become a Christian so you get the reward.
Is that how the gospel should be packaged?
Yes, eternal life is important but salvation is bigger than that. Salvation is not static.
It is not just a once and for all ‘ticket’ into Heaven.
We are saved to be a blessing. We are saved to be salt and light.
If Christianity is ‘sold’ as a rewards based faith then we get into all sorts of trouble further down the line.
How do you communicate the christian faith to your young people?
Is it about stepping into partnership with the Creator God through the risen Christ to redeem this world and live as if we already had eternal life or is it simply about getting your ticket to the rewards?
Sometimes I doubt.
Sometimes I wonder where God is.
It’s not that I don’t believe He exists. I’ve had to many experiences of the mysterious and the miraculous to doubt the existence of God.
It’s just sometimes… He seems absent.
Sometimes I experience the absence of God.
I guess it’s like when you have a party or something and one of your friends doesn’t show up. You experience the absence of your friend. You feel the lack of presence of your friend.
Sometimes I feel that about God.
But then I attend a church service or youth event and it’s all about certainty. There doesn’t seem any room for doubt. Any room to discuss the experience of absence.
“God exists. Here’s what he’s saying. Here’s what you need to do. End”
We sing about this certainty. We hear about this certainty.
But sometimes I’m not certain. And that’s okay. It shouldn’t be a dirty secret.
Peter Rollins suggests that on the cross, Jesus experiences this absence of God. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
It’s not that Jesus thinks God doesn’t exist. It’s the fact he’s experiences the absence of God for the first time.
It makes me wonder what a service or youth event that embraced doubt and the experience of it would look like?
What would a worship song that embraced doubt and the experience of it sound like?