During the decade of that unfortunate fashion trend, I went looking for something different in Poor Richard’s Army Surplus Shop. What attracted me to weathered army fatigues and vintage flight jackets were their marks of authenticity. The irony of never having flown a plane or spent a day in boot camp was lost on me. I wanted to put on something that seemed really real.
It should not surprise anyone that the main criticism directed at the church is mock authenticity. Acid washed beliefs. I’d agree, that if anyone is going to represent God, they better be prepared to be genuine, whatever the cost.
But it’s painful and risky to cast off your false self. Reminds me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s blunt summary: “When Christ calls a person, he bids him, ‘Come and die!'” And you’re thinking, “Hey! Sign me up!”
If we’re honest, we want others to be genuine, but we ourselves would like to be let off the hook. We love inspiring stories of people who make great, personal sacrifices; but just give me the cliff-notes version and tell me the principle so I can benefit without risk. Sadly in some places, this description is what “grace” has been reduced to.
Without a genuine experience of grace, we’re prone to look for acid-washed short-cuts to deep, weathered faith. Innovative brands of belief enter the marketplace of ideas frequently, laying claim to some new, narrow way—a truer updated encounter with the Divine.
For example, in his book, Falling Upward, Richard Rohr uses eastern mysticism and popular psychology as a means of going deep and getting real. But it’s a bit like wearing someone else’s flight jacket to me. Quoting Carl Jung and calling the Holy Spirit “She” seems like a bid for “street cred.” It brushes past the greatest mystery, that God wants to be known, and wrapped His message in a person. We don’t get closer to a personal God by abstraction.
Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”
You can strive with the trends in search of genuine faith, only to find yourself “eternally our of date” (Lewis). Knowing God and making Him known is the great revelation and mystery through Christ.
“For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in him” (Col.1:9).