Matthew Henry John Bartlett

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Thursday 20 January, 02005

Here we are

by Matthew Bartlett @ 9:19 am

Richard asked, “Why should a gospel substantially founded on the concept of humans being sinful be rendered “implausible” by evidence that human beings are sinful?”

I think it is something to do with what comes next, that is, now that we know everyone is sinful & flawed & broken etc., how does that affect how we’ll operate as a community? One possibility: Christian community could be a place where in a sense it’s OK to be a bad person, we don’t have to pretend to be perfect and happy and having-it-all-together all the time, because we know none of us are. Andrew Basden has good things to say on this topic.

The way things are now, I think we all have our masks on pretty securely most of the time, and aren’t very well equipped to deal with messiness & brokenness. I don’t know how we can change this, I’m the worst offender.

7 responses to “Here we are”

  1. aaron says:

    Umm, another answer is that the gospel is not founded on the concept of humans being sinful, but on the faithfulness of God in beginning the healing of humanity through Christ. Here is Paul’s description of it:

    …the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ…

    If all we needed was human brokenness to be able to say that God’s work is evident and trustworthy, then there would be no problem seeing God’s work. But the gospel isn’t that humans are bad, it is that God is faithful. Thus, Jesus’ prayer was that the fruit of that faithfulness would be so evident that God’s work through himself would be undeniable.

  2. aaron says:

    Having said that, I agree with matt about the state of our masks.

  3. dan says:

    Yeah, aren’t Christians supposed to be perfect and happy like, all the time? I know I am. Aren’t you?

  4. Richard S says:

    Aaron. I don’t (and didn’t) suggest that man’s sinfulness is the only foundation of the gospel. I agree that God’s faithfulness is central. However, without sin, there would be be no issue – no sin, no need for salvation (or a saviour), no gospel. But anyway, that is a divergence from the real issue. I really wrote to agree with Hans.

    As plausible as the Col Rmxd thesis of a causal connection between the lack of strength of a church community and disbelief may seem, it is illogical. As I have implied, as a matter of logic, a failed community provides evidence of the truth of the gospel.

    Having said all that, I agree that we need to work hard on our church community. Read C S Lewis and more recently Rick Warren (40 days of..) to see other people who say that. However, you will also see that both authors warn against elevating some ideal concept of community over the importance of actually being part of a real one, with all it’s ups and downs and warts (etc). Lewis in the Screwtape Letters records Screwtape encouraging Wormwood to get the new christian to pick holes in his neighbours on the pew – why? because that destroys community. Warren quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

    “He who loves his dream of community more that the Chriatian Community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter….If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed….;if on the contrary, we keep complaining that everytning is paltry and petty, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow”.

    I suppose that this quote leads me to the real views I want to express – yes, think hard about our community. But, it isn’t an abstract exercise. It relates to real people, and requires actual personal involvement. It’s failures don’t mean that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, but that we need to work harder in love, and ask His forgiveness for our sin.

    Nuff sed.

  5. Aaron says:

    Richard, thanks for your response. The warning you give about attitudes to and involvement in the church community is right on. I need to work on that myself.

    However. Jesus apparently did not consider the link between a strong church community and disbelief ‘illogical’. He prayed for the unity of love among his followers – explicitly not the apostles but those after them – so that men would know he came from God. In addition, way before that prayer, he had instructed Israel that, were they to be the city on a hill, as they should have been, men would as a consequence give glory to God in heaven.

    Jesus was of course reflecting a very old perspective: before Israel even crossed the Jordan, she was instructed that if she did what was commanded of her that day, the surrounding nations would ask “who has a great a God as that of Israel?”

    Whatever our use of logic, it is the connections that God makes between things with which we need to come to terms. And this connection between the character of God’s people and the consequent belief/trust in God by those around is, I submit, extremely tight throughout Scripture.

    If this is so, and if Christ is the definitive revelation of God, then the representation we, as Christ’s body, make of Christ is absolutely critical to the receptivity of the world to God’s faithfulness. That is exactly the point of Christ’s prayer.

    Once again – I agree with your points about community. But I must still strongly disagree that “a failed community provides evidence of the truth of the gospel.” And it is precisely because the opposite is true that we cannot afford to “elevate some ideal concept of community over the importance of actually being part of a real one”.

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