Each generation of believers develops its own weird convictions about Scripture. Though confessions and creeds offer some stability, they also conceal our faulty beliefs under a thin cover of orthodoxy. And there they wait, erupting to the surface in times of trouble
One place we can find the corporate weirdness of our day is in the doctrine of sanctification. It seems that we have arrived at a consensus about the normal process of sanctification and it’s not good. Here it is:
Legalism is usually a description of the church down the street that is not relevant to us and to our church. The reality, of course, is that when Paul, in Galatians, identifies our instincts to live under the law he is talking to all of us. We may not be making a big deal out of circumcision, but we inevitably find our own ways to pursue law over grace, and it actually feels very spiritual to us. So legalism is in all of us, and you will find it under everything from anger to depression.
Jesus changes everything. Everything. And shame is at the very center of what he changes. He keeps shame in view from his birth to his death. He loved the shamed and outcast, he identified with them, he became them. Watch his life and you see the King absorbing the shame of the world. Watch his crucifixion and you see the death of shame. But the fruit of all this is a little different than we might expect. Instead of being the ones who receive honor and liberation from shame, we are lead in a path, like his, that leads down and then up.
We cannot do battle with an anonymous foe, and both guilt and shame can be nameless. We might know we feel horrible and hopeless, our view of ourselves is trashed, we feel like a failure in everything, but the culprit is elusive. So, we will start with simple definitions of guilt and shame. We will discover when they intersect and when they diverge - the early books of the Old Testament will help us get our bearings. Then we will find words for these experiences and be blessed to know the God who names the silences.
Last week, I wrote that CCEF is interested in benefitting from careful and modest science[i]concerning human behavior. When we find reliable observations, we then use Scripture as our interpretative lens to understand them as part of a larger reality. This, I suggested, does not diminish the value of the science but instead places it in a richer and more meaningful context.
CCEF likes science. Of course, everyone likes science—there is no news in that.
To be more specific, we like the disciplines that carefully observe human behavior. These include anthropology, medicine, psychiatry, sociology, literature, history, psychology . . . and another dozen or so. If someone is looking closely and carefully at people, we are interested.
But closely and carefully are the operative words here. All science is not equal. Good science precludes a rush to judgment. It takes time and requires humility.
CCEF has always had an eye for future generations. We are in the business of applying Scripture to everyday life, and since there is certainly no end to its applications, we hope to be an institution with longevity. Christian institutions, however, do not always last. There are various reasons for this of course—and not all of them are bad. For some, the work is completed or taken over by new institutions. For others, fiscal struggles or mismanagement interrupt what might have been a fruitful ministry. But of greatest concern are institutions that fail