fire and brimstone! …and math?
One thing that I’ve enjoyed (?) talking to about my friends is whether or not “fire and brimstone” sermons still have a place in the church.
I tend to think they do. Read your Bible lately?
Recently, this powerful rhetoric by a missionary named Paul Washer has been attracting a decent amount of internet buzz. I watched the entire thing, and I’m glad I did.
I think he has excellent points to make. Whether we like it or not, Christianity makes some bold claims and is inherently divisive on many points. Washer’s point that Christianity demands a narrow path as well as a narrow gate is completely spot on. I find that in my contemporaries’ reaction to religion and legalism, this can be entirely forgotten. He is entirely and amusingly right that so much of pop Christianity today is based more on song lyrics than the Bible. He is entirely right that the youth of America need a tough message and to embrace a self-discipline they’ve never even dreamed about…
But I think so cautiously. I’ve seen this kind of preaching abused time and time again. It’s as easy for this kind of rhetoric to become just as damaging as any cheap grace doctrine. And as much as he rails against a culture of personality, I am amused to find that an awful lot of the so-called “power” of his message relies on a dynamic presentation (again, which I don’t think is an inherently bad thing–charisma is part of being human. But boy! does it require accountability and humility).
Then why does the Bible contain scriptures that can be taken to support such opposite viewpoints? Does this disprove its message, as so many atheists believe?
It brings up an interesting point, which reminds me of some posts on a recent blog I read. I think the author is really on to something.
This is a bit of a stretch to explain, but I’m reminded of an interview I wrote a very long time ago with a gentleman who was a fairly brilliant mathematician in the NSA. It’s been a long while, but from what I remember, he talked at length about helping to develop a software program that would extrapolate the parabolic curve of a satellite path and refine it based on continually gathering and taking the square roots of the errors/deviations from its flight paths.
In the same way, I feel like we need to take multiple perspectives into very serious consideration when it comes to our faith. Balance and humility are absolutely essential to something that is of so much importance and requires such radical action from our lives!
(analogy switch here).
This is not merely keeping an open mind and turning a blind eye toward those who disagree with us. On one level, post-modernism (and humanism in general) seems to continually cycle and throw out the idea of truth as new discoveries are made and old stand-bys fail on one level or the other…and on the other hand, those who don’t understand what such thoughts are striving for (at their best) decry their weak-kneed worldview (often rightfully so) and are prone to resort to rigid legalism. I’ve seen this expressed in many conflicted ways within the church and society at large.
I find it downright hilarious. And sometimes very, very sad.
It is akin to saying that since calculus and higher math supersedes and plays around with mathematics, simple addition is no longer valid. On the contrary, the “higher” truths’ entire underpinnings rest on the truths of “simple” math…and for many, those simplicities will give them far more life than calculus ever will.
It is a matter of perspective and true, hard-won understanding. It’s why I have sympathy for those that believe in evolution and those that don’t, those that go to church and those that don’t, those that drink and those that don’t, those that believe in war and those that don’t…I’m trying to take the square root of the deviations and find truth, not because the old “simple” math is dead, but because it is very much alive and applicable.
And what is the truest, simplest form of math? Love (in every way that it is expressed and felt) must be what binds us together…a love for enemy and friend alike, ruled by a deep, peaceful love for God and His word. Everything else, including the very vital need for daily repentance that Washer is after, flows out of this.