Questions always arise about my participation in Church. I think they are valid questions, but I think they are often predicated on invalid assumptions: essentially, they are some form of How can you do this? Where this is incorrectly understood or defined. As a result of “this” being incorrectly defined often “you” and “do” are also incorrectly defined. So what is the this is the first question that must be addressed. What is being done? comes way before Who is doing this? and How is it done? Ironically, my blogging is mostly about How and Who rather than what. To use insider jargon, these blog posts are usually testimony or discipleship rather than kerygma. Although you cannot properly do any without the others, the Kerygma comes first: the What, then the who, then an invitation to how.
Take it as a given that there is a God and he loves us. That’s a huge leap for some readers, I know. So maybe inviting you to “take it as a given” is a huge stumbling block for you. Yet, I don’t think you’ve read even this far without understanding that I believe this. We can fall down the rabbit warren of debates about God’s existence at a later date. For the sake of argument take it as read. I will take it, as writer, that the rest of this essay is totally useless without that beginning. But you cannot prove to me that there is no God – you can only prove that you do not believe there is a God and that may be a better question to debate, but we’ll come back to that. For now: the is a God and he loves us.
Imagine that you’ve met someone on Tinder, Scruff, or Growlr. How do you decide they are real and not some Nigerian scammer waiting to ask for money or someone worse waiting to beat you up when you go out to meet them the first time? You ask questions, you exchange photos, you probe a bit. After deciding the risk is worth it, you go ahead and meet. Did they reveal themselves in a full face shot? Did you see a full body shot as well? Are you able to say their physical type is – with 100% certainty – exactly what you think it is? How did you arrive at that conclusion?
Having walked through all of that how big of a risk will you take? Will you meet? Will you meet in a crowded, safe space? Will you go to each other’s apartments first? God and you have just “swiped right”.
There is a God and he loves us. What would such a God do? Who he hide away? Would he reach out? If he hid, how would we know? If he reached out how can we tell? Christianity says God has spent literally all of human history trying to get to us and trying to get us to listen. The classic Kerygma would include a long list of the Hebrew Prophets and their teachings, but you might rightly ask, “What about the Chinese?” or “Where does that leave the Arapaho?” It may surprise you to hear that both the Jewish and the Christian teaching is that God has left no one alone in this. C.S. Lewis used a nice, respectable word, “Tao” to describe the common teachings of all the religions on love, morality, ethics. It may surprise you to hear how great a common overlap there is among them all. This would make sense if God is a God who loves us. He would want us to know him as best as we can. He would put not just clues, but a huge, golden pathway everywhere around the world for us to get to him. This is not a case of “many pathways, one mountain”. Where, then, does this pathway go?
It’s useful to acknowledge all the ways these religions do not overlap. But is that important? Or is that like saying the leftwing or rightwing all around the world is destroyed by differences more than held together by commonalities? Being something of a Personalist Anarchist, I think all statists (Left and Right) have far more in common than they wish to admit. I think most religions would agree on even some very profound theological truths. But there are differences, yes. We’ll come back to that in a minute.
Is there anyone who manifests all these truths in one, supreme way? Is there anyone whom we can point at and say, “Given these two assumptions, and the fact that all these religions overlap in all these awesome places, is there anyone I’d say I want to be like more than I want to be like anyone else?”
Yes, I want you to say Jesus there, but not yet. In Part II I’ll go over a few other choices whom I am happy to acknowledge: but also to explain why they don’t seem to be the right ones. So tune in later this week for Kerygma II – Kerygmore.