Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Does a success-driven ethos foment the same kind of evil today?

COMFORT CONFRONTED. I mistakenly pulled from the shelf The Cultural Subversion of the Biblical Faith by Union Seminary theologian James D. Smart. I decided to browse Smart’s book for a moment. I’ve had it since Olivet Nazarene University days (1977-1981) where it was an assigned companion book in a class all students had to take. So, whether or not they took Smart seriously, all Olivet grads of that era were at least confronted with his assertions. I wonder if, in pursuit of success, comfort, place, etc., any ONU grads have since given Smart’s challenges a second thought? I pulled a few quotes from the final chapter that shed some light on the meaning of the cross in a culture of 'success':

SELF-RIGHTEOUS, FEARFUL, BLIND. “God’s sovereignty in human affairs must be understood in the light of the cross of Christ. The cross is the product of human blindness and evil. Men erect the cross—self-righteous men angered by what met them in Jesus, fearful men anxious for the future of their religious and political establishment, blind men not able to see what they were doing. But when men have done all that they can do, another Will becomes manifest, determining the actual meaning of the event in history.”

MEANING FROM DISASTER. “God is in the event in the sense that in binding this Jesus so completely to himself and making him the revelation of his inmost nature as a God of righteousness and love, he made inevitable the clash with human wills that resulted in the cross. And God is sovereign in the event, not in making it happen but in determining its meaning for the world, transforming it from a sheer disaster into the climactic and central even of the whole history of redemption.”

OUR WILL CONFRONTED BY GOD’S WILL. “At the cross all passivity and fatalism in relation to the events of history are purged from the Christian. Our eyes are opened to the dread possibility that, like a Caiaphas or a Pilate or a Judas, we may let our political, economic, or religious loyalties make us strike out blindly against God. What has happened in history is what we human beings have willed should happen. We have to take full responsibility for it. And there is no possibility of a different kind of history—a new age of justice and mercy—until the will within us is confronted and conquered by the will of God that meets us so compellingly in the Christ of the cross.”

FIRST CONCERN. “The task of theology should be to help us see more clearly where the line runs between faithfulness and unfaithfulness, between uncompromising faith and a religion deeply compromised by its cultural involvements. Life in the twentieth century under the sign of the cross is not what comes naturally for us. We are much more comfortable with a civil religion that provides us with principles and ideals that point the way to success in both personal and national life. But comfort, success, or even national unity is hardly a first concern of any thoughtful Christian.”

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