An Open Letter to Evangelicals, (sort of)

I need a little help over here on the dark side in liberal, post-liberal, or whatever you want to call it, land.
I guess it all started when my wife died and I realized one of two things was true: either the God Id been talking about lo those many years the Father God who intervenes in our lives whenever He deems it prudent so as to serve His inscrutable ends – either that God does not exist, or that God hates me, (and a whole bunch of other people too). There is a kind of cognitive dissonance in that, seeing as how God is love. And so it was that the first of the cords making up the old rope bed which had been holding me up as I slept, unraveled. Then just like in Tolstoys dream, the others followed until finally I was suspended on one lonely rope – the perennially ill-defined love of God. But suspended over what? Answer: a deep, dark, scary abyss.
Still, there was that one rope, the love of God, and so I balanced my life upon it so to speak, and followed it out until I found it was attached to a massive white pillar, the good, true and beautiful presence of Gods creative mystery. Naturally the pillar too was suspended over the abyss, but the extraordinary brilliance of the thing offered courage and hope.
So I did what a few people do when the underpinnings of their traditional faith unravel before their very eyes I became a liberal, God forbid. The trouble is that most people do not become liberals at that moment, most people become uninterested. That would be OK with me except for the fact that a society operating without the meaning gleaned from a walk of faith, devolves; it runs seriously amuck. And so we find ourselves at a moment when humanity must change or die, and most people live outside a context of meaning; most people have no community of transformation. I think you’ll agree that’s a problem.
Thats why I need some help over here on the dark side. For it seems that my new liberal friends left more than their theological constructs behind when the ropes came unraveled. It seems as though we’ve lost a certain zeal for our faith. Its understandable really, were at a disadvantage because if you are liberal, then you aren’t so sure of yourself when you talk about God, which is good, because we really dont “know” anything, but it does mean you cant yell as loud as an evangelical. And so we’ve just gotten in the habit of being quiet about our faith; its better than engaging in endless, unwinnable debates. Trouble is, that means we’ve gotten out of the habit of describing and then sharing our faith convictions with the world around us. We show our love through the work we do and many people think we have good hearts, but they dont know why. They usually assume its because we believe what you believe, but they dont want to tell us what they think, because they dont want to offend us. So they stick with their assumptions about what Christians believe and refuse to ever come near any church.
As a result, I think we all need to face the fact that the church is unalterably, inevitably drifting into the abyss and because of that, I need a little help over here on the dark side. (I know you may want to argue this point, but really, look at the trends, Im right.)
First, I need people who believe that Christian faith is a path of transformation. I need people who believe that God is calling us to growth and development and that Gods grace provides the engine for such growth. If I remember correctly, you all believe that. I do too.
Second, I need people who think it is extraordinarily important for us to share our faith with those who have no path of transformation. You do that all the time. (Id hasten to add that I think it is also important to enter into discussions with people who are walking a different path of transformation as well; those conversations challenge all of us to develop and grow – but enough of my liberal agenda.)
Finally, I need some people who believe, that the Bible has something to offer. Understand, I dont think its a magic book, but for well over three thousand years the Spirit of God has lived within the community of this book, forming us and shaping our conversations. (Understand I think God lives in other communities with other “books” as well oops there goes that liberal agenda again.) Our forbearers in this “community of the book,” – the writers, the editors, and all the believers who have validated the text for thousands of years – were in the end, not so much speaking truth, as they were pointing towards truth using the only language, the only worldview they had available to them at the time.
So now too many modern Christians think they can just decide which parts of the text we will reject as a product of an ancient (and therefore inferior) culture, when what we really need to be doing is asking ourselves what each and every chapter and verse might be pointing toward all of it, not just the parts we like. (This isn’t just a liberal thing; you all do it too.) I mean, OK, Im pretty sure there was no theophany on top of Mount Olympus, (oops, that’s Sinai, or Horeb take your pick), but Id sure like to know what experience of the Divine led the authors of the text to describe things that way. You see what Im getting at.
So there it is; I need a little help over here on the dark side. I need people who think life is about transformation, who think it is incumbent upon us to share our faith, and who think the Bible is pointing towards the truth of Gods love so that we can all bring a little more clarity to a world sick with yearning for just that, Gods creative love.
We can do this, we really can, because I believe Arthur Gossip was right. In the midst of the darkness, the “moon rises and throws a lane of gold to us across the blackness and heaving of the tumbling waters,” and as that light emerges it becomes brighter and brighter still, until you can look into the abyss and know you could fall forever and never escape the loving arms of God.
Anyway, I need a little help over here. Trust me, it is not as dark as you think.
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About Sam Alexander

Sam Alexander is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael and also serves as Adjunct Instructor in Homiletics at San Francisco Theological Seminary.


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