Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Is Yours the Gospel of the Born Again?

Technically, we could define gospel as the good news about Christ. Generally, that is what we focus upon as Evangelicals-- why not? Good News is in our name. I have begun to wonder if in doing so we have actually stripped the gospel of its power. We take it as a story, that if believed, results in a change of one's status before God from lost to found. We have pressed this line of theology hard since WWII, and it seems to me, we need to consider whether or not the fractured, frayed, weak condition of the Evangelical church is the result.

A noted internal study at Willow Creek a couple of years ago framed the issue quite well, for more than their own congregation, I think. Church-going Evangelicals look more and more indistinguishable from unchurced Harry and Mary everyday. Our approach to gospel isn't producing change in hearers lives. We have had, in fact, a fruitless season of harvest. I think we have entirely lost track of a simple verity: Jesus said we must be born again.

So then, what does it mean to be born again? Is it a Toyota moment? Not to many evangelicals would like the feeling of that! Is it just an idiomatic expression which refers to believing the story. If one believes, then our Cartesian soteriology assumes rebirth-- I believe, therefore I'm born again. We might not say it that way in our theological tomes, but I think that may be the practical reality of our approach to gospel. I don't think that's what Jesus had in mind, nor is it the picture the NT paints of the born again.

It seems to me that the born again should know they're born again, and that it should not be that hard for even the non-born again to perceive it. After all, there are effects on the mind and heart; there is an awakening of an intimate perception of the Father and the Son; there is the experience of change, akin to going from dry to wet when one jumps in a lake (not a very evangelistic image, I understand ;-) ). Jesus spoke of such in crystal clear terms in regard to Zaccheus, though wee man that he was.

It's hard for the promoters of that story, such as myself, to resign ourselves to waiting upon the Lord to do that secret Spiritual thing in the soul of people that truly makes them born again. We want to know right now whether or not the hearers of that story buy the story, and we want those folk to respond right now to the telling of it. The result has been an at first slow, but now precipitating decay into methodology that delivers assent to the story while downplaying the true nature of being born again. Is it any wonder the church looks so much like the world around her?