September 22, 2011

Reflective Inaction

Do you want to know what one of my pet peeves is? (Other than the ones I outlined what feels like ages ago) To date my current biggest pet peeve is unreflective action (followed very closely by unreflective speaking). That is in fact my biggest concern with the Missional Church movement. I don't like loose ends, or uncertainties, or otherwise sloppy thinking. I want to understand why we ought to be doing something, and what the goal it is supposed to achieve.

I really do believe that getting your thinking right precedes getting your actions right. Or more simply put I think wrong thinking leads to wrong acting. However I am feeling very convicted right now having spent the afternoon in study and reflection.

Right now I am feeling convicted about my reflective inaction.
But let me bring you up to speed.

I just finished reading the books Erasing Hell by Francis Chan and Why God Won't Go Away by Alister McGrath. Chan's book is very much in response to Rob Bell's Love Wins, and as the title indicates is about Hell. McGrath's book is another of his publications on the topic of New Atheism. I wanted to read the McGrath book because it has been a little while since I was able to clear my head and dive into this debate (I know it is odd that I find reading and thinking about this debating as head clearing). And since Hell has been somewhat of a hot topic I wanted to brush up on that as well*.

Call it what you will but I went in to reading the books with the attitude of strengthening what I already knew. I wanted some more fodder for whatever argument or debate I might find myself in concerning these topics. After all I knew I was right I just wanted a little more conformation.

More Powerful Then We Care To Admit 

As I read Alister McGrath's book I was getting what I paid for. He was telling me why the New Atheists are wrong, and how to combat their ideas. One criticism that he returned to a few times was that the New Atheist movement seems to be unable or unwilling to do anything productive. Yes they rage against religion with scathing remarks, they tell us how evil and stupid all us religious people are, but that's it. Christopher Hitchens for example went out of his way a number of times to criticize Mother Teresa. McGrath asked a pointed question,[when both Mother Teresa and Christopher Hitchens were alive and well], if you were in rages sitting in a ditch in the slums of Calcutta who do you think would be more likely to give you a bowl of soup? His point was well taken the New Atheists may feel they have truth all sewed up, but it hardly has produced anything worth talking about.

Then I moved onto Francis Chan's book. And the point he came back at again and again as we was proving the case for the traditional doctrine of Hell was this wasn't about doctrine, it was about destinies. If we got this one wrong, a lot of people will suffer because of it, either in this world or the next. I took what he was saying to heart, and in many ways I felt as he described his actions, thoughts and feelings it was like he was holding up a mirror to my own. I found myself guilty of what I was ready to rail against the New Atheists for. 

I hold the traditional doctrine of Hell to be true, and that it is clearly attested in scripture. I don't like it but I know it's there. However I spend most of my time skirting around such passages. I avoid telling the full truth because I have a distaste for 'fire and brimstone' preachers. Like many I focus on God's love, but avoid or quickly zip through his wrath. 

The truth is if you were to observe me you would not get the sense that I believed that at any moment Jesus could return and the people that surround me in this coffee shop will be judged; separated like wheat and chaff, or sheep and goats. In short I believe things to be true, but I do not act as if they were. I spend lots of time in study and reflection, but not enough in action. 

I spend far too much time in reflective inaction.

There has become a sort of in vogue question that I see popping up in  lots of Christian books and blogs, Are you educated beyond level of obedience? I don't know who first asked it. But it is worth asking ourselves. I know I am asking myself. 

* As a side note I picked Chan's book over Bell's because after watching both promo video's I found I was drawn to Chan's humility in dealing with a very difficult topic and somewhat put off by Bell's sensationalism. I may still pick up Rob Bell's book for the sake of understanding the controversy surrounding it, but I doubt it.