12. More from Yancey…
Was reading at lunch about how Yancy believes that the true Christian life is not lived at any one extreme or even in the middle, rather it is lived with both extremes. Huh? Well on the one hand, God woos us into relationship with him but at the same time he is (while we live) transcendent, other, apart, unknowable. The Bible is absolute truth but it’s also the living word (which implies change). God knows everything that will happen but we have the freedom to disobey him. There are other examples but I’m at work and quoting out of the book is difficult.
Anyway, I was thinking about how much of my Christianity was formed through a ministry that stressed absolutes. “Right and wrong are absolutes – every choice, every situation, every thing falls under being right or wrong in God’s eyes.” They pointed to the ills of society and said that they were the result of a world living apart from God’s design. The implication was to align one’s life with right living by making right choices – read the right books, listen to the right music (classical), worship at the right churches (they had a list of suggestions), worship with the right songs (preferably hymns). Anyway, while the thought of a world ordered by absolutes was an appealing one, reality turned out to be more nuanced than that. I don’t think the world is grey, rather there’s dark grey areas and off white areas.
On the other hand, there are churches where anything goes. I was reading the works of someone named Robert Farrar Capon who seemed to say that everyone (and he meant everyone) was saved, they had only to realize it. I don’t think he meant saved after they realized it, he mean they were saved whether they realized it or not. The job of the church was to make them aware of it so that they could stop fretting over the problems of life and live in the blessings that Christ died to give us. Now this is a gross over-simplification (at least I hope it is) of his work but it goes to show that there are some who will go to the opposite extreme from the absolutists and say that anything goes under the blanket of grace. But grace IS real and salvation is unearned. The sinner who sincerely (and who can judge sincerity) repents after stumbling for the trillionth time is just as forgiven and he is still saved even while he is sinning for trillionth and oneth time.
Once I got to the point where I stopped buying into the absolutely absolute view of the world I started searching for a new paradigm, somewhere between there and the loosy-goosy cheap grace of Capon. But there really is no middle ground and so for a long time, I didn’t know where I stood. Yancy, however, says that the only answer is to embrace (or at best live with) both extremes. I like this alternative because it’s adventerous, it’s flexible, malleable. I like having options. Don’t ask me to pin down a point between the two because they’re both true and both in effect.
Anyway, I wrote this in three quick spurts (between my supervisor’s watchful eye). I have no idea if it holds together. I’ll try to write something more coherent tonight.