Thursday, March 12, 2015

Toward a Public Christian Faith

It has become a common, if unexamined, belief that the only institutions that have anything to say about a culture’s common problems are politics, law, and higher education, especially the hard sciences. What this means is that when we are faced with common, large, problems we look to these institutions, people, and their respective ideologies to provide solutions. The problem is that none of them have any solutions worth any serious devotion.

The Christian, however, has at their disposal another resource that has answers to public problems. At the very least it provides a sound and valid foundation for understanding and addressing our common issues. But our culture has ruled it out of bounds for public discussion. The living Christ and Christian theology is the resource that exemplifies God’s wisdom and power among humans and which reveals truth to us. But people of faith, theologians, pastors, and churches have been relegated to the insignificant shadows of “private belief” or “opinion.” And not only has the outside world pushed the church and her theology out of the public square, the church has, in many respects, become content there.

To come “out of the shadows” and put forward a full-bodied public life the church must learn that she is a public institution with answers to our culture’s common problems. We need not subsume ourselves and our priorities to the other institutions listed above, and neither do we need to learn a triumphant posture over them. Instead, for the follower of Christ, all these vocations (and many, many more) become means of expressing our theology. If this is understood and practiced, the Christian need not seek a revised form of Constantinianism (because they no longer see politics as a surrogate savior), and the Christian need not separate their faith from the tasks that consume most of their waking hours (because their faith and their lives have become indistinguishable).

Part of what this means is that the church must learn to use the resources at her disposal to begin learning and teaching what it would mean to begin thinking about daily life with Christ. Christ is not a spiritual add-on, or the ideal who guides some of our moral decision making. Instead, he is the very manifestation of the Creator of all things, the smartest man who ever lived, and still alive filling his people with the power and wisdom of his kingdom. So, we don’t begin thinking about marriage, politics, law, education, computer programming, or custodial work with the presupposition that Christ is not concerned. On the contrary, if the Christian is doing it, Christ is deeply concerned and involved.

Does this mean we must develop a “Christian quantum physics,” a “Christian computer programming language,” or a “Christian” anything? Not necessarily. Instead, we ought to become people enamored with and filled with Christ and then go do our jobs, or relate to friends and family, or vote.

I wonder from time to time, what would it look like for the local church to become so robust a community founded on the truths and life of Christ that people find in her the resources they need to address life and all that comes with it?

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