The new version of “Spirituality of the Cross”

The new revised, enhanced, and slightly expanded edition of my book The Spirituality of the Cross: The Way of the First Evangelicals has just been released by Concordia Publishing House.

Spirituality of the Cross

That book has brought lots of people into the Lutheran orbit. More than that, it has brought quite a few people to Christianity, people who had never understood the magnitude of the Gospel before. I am still getting messages from people who have found this little piece of writing of mine helpful and life-changing. Hearing such things is strangely humbling and uncanny to me, the thought that God is making use of this thing.

This new edition is not that different from the old one, but I have added material in the chapters on vocation and the theology of the Cross, drawing on more things I have learned about them since the first edition came out in 1999. I also cleared up some passages in the first edition that some people had questions about.

This book is also somewhat smaller in dimensions, and therefore thicker, than the first edition. It still keeps on the cover that great Rouault crucifixion, which is simultaneously highly contemporary and highly traditional, which strikes just the right note that I am trying to achieve. The design of the new book also uses that image on the inside, facing each new chapter, a visual reminder of how the Cross ties all of the different topics together.

There are a few changes I made because I had assumed that what my own congregation did was common to all Lutheran churches. For example, I had thought that all Lutheran pastors wore collars, refused to perform weddings during Lent, and did not give eulogies in funerals. Well, those were the practices I learned from the pastor who brought me into Lutheranism–I used to belong to a theological liberal church, if you can believe that–and I later heard from indignant tie-wearing pastors who corrected me! I made some changes accordingly.

It’s still the confessional variety of Lutheranism that I am drawing on, though. But it’s not just the theology, conceived as an abstract system of doctrine, but the spirituality–the lived, vital, personal dimension of Christianity that Lutheranism opens up. That is what I am trying to recapture.

I aimed the book partially at those people today who say they are “spiritual” but not “religious.” That is a huge cop-out, of course. But some of these folks are looking for something that they aren’t getting from much of the Christianity they encounter. Contemporary versions of Christianity have often drifted away from the depth, the complexities, and the mysteries of the Christian faith. They have reduced them to simplistic dogmas, jolts of experience, or feel-good platitudes. But the fact is, Christianity has its spirituality–not the vague cloudy idealistic mysticism that is usually associated with that word, but rather mysteries grounded in the Incarnation of God, His death on a bloody piece of wood, His physical resurrection, bread, wine, water, and our own ordinary callings of everyday life. That spirituality can still be found in the Lutheran tradition, though Lutherans today have often forgotten it just like everyone else. When people who are experimenting with Eastern spiritualities encounter genuine Christian spirituality, they often see the difference and find the spirituality that is centered on Christ and His Cross compelling. Anyway, I am especially gratified to hear from people who have converted to Christianity from Ba’hai or the New Age movement after reading this book. Often their parents or a friend has bought it for them. I am also gratified, of course, to hear from people who have recovered their own spiritual heritage.

I wrote the book as a kind of experiment in apologetics and evangelism to the postmodernist mindset. The book is personal. I avoid polemics. I don’t criticize anyone but myself, in the different mistakes that I have made. Such an approach keeps people from getting defensive, since when they do, you can never get through to them. When I turn the Law, though, against myself, I do so in a way that readers can relate to, so that they do turn it against themselves, and they become as hungry for the Gospel as I am. I don’t emphasize rational argumentation, as such, though I hope I am rational. Rather, I emphasize the mysteries of the Christian faith. I don’t explain them away; rather, I make them seem even more mysterious. I also avoid the cliches, the conventional piety, the dumbing-down, and the tackiness–as well as the moralism and politics–that turn so many people away from even considering Christianity.

I’m not saying that this is the only way to write about such things, but it seems to work with at least some readers. I hope this new edition reaches the people who need to read it.

You can buy it here: Spirituality of the Cross

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://philippians314.squarespace.com Kim in ON

    I am eagerly waiting for my copy, which I pre-oredered. Got the shipping notice in the mail and am now looking forward to its arrival. I found the book was a challenge to my understanding of “evangelical.” I come from a tradition that says it is “evangelical,” and this book was a huge eye-opener for me. Can’t wait to get the new edition!

  • http://philippians314.squarespace.com Kim in ON

    I am eagerly waiting for my copy, which I pre-oredered. Got the shipping notice in the mail and am now looking forward to its arrival. I found the book was a challenge to my understanding of “evangelical.” I come from a tradition that says it is “evangelical,” and this book was a huge eye-opener for me. Can’t wait to get the new edition!

  • Joe

    Sounds great! I just orderd God at Work. We are planning on using it as a guide for a men’s Bible study.

  • Joe

    Sounds great! I just orderd God at Work. We are planning on using it as a guide for a men’s Bible study.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I’m very much looking forward to ordering copies of this new edition. The timing is great – I just ran out of my latest gift stack. This book has been an important piece for a high percentage of new adult members at the little Lutheran church I serve here in Salt Lake City. Just yesterday, I was talking to a prospective member, whom I could tell, the book was helping him think through some pretty important things. It had seemed like such a chance encounter with this guy – when I met him a few weeks before, he said he wasn’t sure he could believe the whole cross thing or something like that and the conversation went from there with a little gift from me of Veith’s little gem of a book here. Thanks so much, Veith!

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I’m very much looking forward to ordering copies of this new edition. The timing is great – I just ran out of my latest gift stack. This book has been an important piece for a high percentage of new adult members at the little Lutheran church I serve here in Salt Lake City. Just yesterday, I was talking to a prospective member, whom I could tell, the book was helping him think through some pretty important things. It had seemed like such a chance encounter with this guy – when I met him a few weeks before, he said he wasn’t sure he could believe the whole cross thing or something like that and the conversation went from there with a little gift from me of Veith’s little gem of a book here. Thanks so much, Veith!

  • Booklover

    “did not give eulogies in funerals”

    I very much appreciate this aspect of Lutheranism–in which all the glory goes to Christ at a person’s death. If any “good word” is spoken of the dead, it is in reference to his or her baptism.

    This is a radical change from most funeral services which show a 1/2-hour video of a person’s life. Many people get upset when Lutherans don’t show these pictures at a funeral service, because that’s how it’s done almost everywhere else. But these can be shown later at the fellowship hall while or after sharing the meal.

    I think the Lutheran service points toward eternity, and the One who made and redeemed them, not at the mortal who “made certain choices” or who lived a certain way. When my dear departed dad came home from funeral services for friends who were supremely eulogized and waxed eloquently upon, he would say, “that preacher sure knew a different man than I knew!!”

    Thanks for your books. I think I own all of them. (Not a suprise.) I also appreciate Craig Parton’s and John Warwick Montgomery’s writings.

  • Booklover

    “did not give eulogies in funerals”

    I very much appreciate this aspect of Lutheranism–in which all the glory goes to Christ at a person’s death. If any “good word” is spoken of the dead, it is in reference to his or her baptism.

    This is a radical change from most funeral services which show a 1/2-hour video of a person’s life. Many people get upset when Lutherans don’t show these pictures at a funeral service, because that’s how it’s done almost everywhere else. But these can be shown later at the fellowship hall while or after sharing the meal.

    I think the Lutheran service points toward eternity, and the One who made and redeemed them, not at the mortal who “made certain choices” or who lived a certain way. When my dear departed dad came home from funeral services for friends who were supremely eulogized and waxed eloquently upon, he would say, “that preacher sure knew a different man than I knew!!”

    Thanks for your books. I think I own all of them. (Not a suprise.) I also appreciate Craig Parton’s and John Warwick Montgomery’s writings.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Dr. Veith, I read your earlier book and intend to read the revised one. Your attempt to appeal to the very real and chilling post-modern relativistic soft mind is excellent.

    I recently read David Bentley Hart’s brilliant Atheist’s Delusions: The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies, another excellent book that defends the Cross and the Patristic Christian Revolution, though the problem with this book is that it almost sneeringly writes off modernism and condemns its adherents.

    Frankly, I waver between Hart’s view that modernity will continue to remain dominant and drive Christianity at best to the margin and your refusal to accept this and write compellingly about the hope of a resurgence of the Cross, even with Post-Modern folk.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Dr. Veith, I read your earlier book and intend to read the revised one. Your attempt to appeal to the very real and chilling post-modern relativistic soft mind is excellent.

    I recently read David Bentley Hart’s brilliant Atheist’s Delusions: The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies, another excellent book that defends the Cross and the Patristic Christian Revolution, though the problem with this book is that it almost sneeringly writes off modernism and condemns its adherents.

    Frankly, I waver between Hart’s view that modernity will continue to remain dominant and drive Christianity at best to the margin and your refusal to accept this and write compellingly about the hope of a resurgence of the Cross, even with Post-Modern folk.

  • http://scottishlutheran.blogspot.com Mike Keith

    The Spirituality of the Cross is a great book. Short and simple yet it contains the profound truths of the Gospel. I have used it to help the elders in our congregation grow in their understanding of their faith. I have given it to people who have been struggling to understand God’s forgivness for them (also Senkbeil’s Dying to Live is excellent in this area). It is a great book and one that I recommend regularly.

  • http://scottishlutheran.blogspot.com Mike Keith

    The Spirituality of the Cross is a great book. Short and simple yet it contains the profound truths of the Gospel. I have used it to help the elders in our congregation grow in their understanding of their faith. I have given it to people who have been struggling to understand God’s forgivness for them (also Senkbeil’s Dying to Live is excellent in this area). It is a great book and one that I recommend regularly.

  • A.D.P.

    ‘Twas one of the first theological books that I read, besides the Small Catechism. I had to look about twelve words up in the dictionary. . . including the word “polemics”. Like with their child psychology books, my parents were somewhat surprised to find me reading it (Um, they were in the living room bookshelf. . . how was I supposed to NOT read them?), although a bit more pleased in that particular case. So, anyway, the point of the story is that seeing the cover of the book brings back warm fuzzy memories. Glad to hear a new edition is coming out, might even consider getting it tho’ my budget is tight. Are you planning a “book bomb”, or should I just get it whenever? (Book bomb= everyone buys it on Amazon on the same day in order to boost it in the ratings and hopefully go viral).

  • A.D.P.

    ‘Twas one of the first theological books that I read, besides the Small Catechism. I had to look about twelve words up in the dictionary. . . including the word “polemics”. Like with their child psychology books, my parents were somewhat surprised to find me reading it (Um, they were in the living room bookshelf. . . how was I supposed to NOT read them?), although a bit more pleased in that particular case. So, anyway, the point of the story is that seeing the cover of the book brings back warm fuzzy memories. Glad to hear a new edition is coming out, might even consider getting it tho’ my budget is tight. Are you planning a “book bomb”, or should I just get it whenever? (Book bomb= everyone buys it on Amazon on the same day in order to boost it in the ratings and hopefully go viral).

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Ah, A.D.P., what a nice thought. I hadn’t heard the phrase “book bomb,” though we did that for Lars Walker’s book and that of John Kleinig. Tell you what. Since it was YOUR idea, and not mine, for those who want to, let’s try for a book bomb Monday!

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Ah, A.D.P., what a nice thought. I hadn’t heard the phrase “book bomb,” though we did that for Lars Walker’s book and that of John Kleinig. Tell you what. Since it was YOUR idea, and not mine, for those who want to, let’s try for a book bomb Monday!

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    I’ve got to get a few copies of your book, Gene.

    Thanks for writing it.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    I’ve got to get a few copies of your book, Gene.

    Thanks for writing it.

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  • http://prayeramedic.com Dan

    Once again, thanks for writing this book. I am a member of a Lutheran congregation (just became a member this past Sunday!) today because of this book. Prior to reading it, I was on the verge of forsaking the institutional church altogether and selling out to the house church movement.

  • http://prayeramedic.com Dan

    Once again, thanks for writing this book. I am a member of a Lutheran congregation (just became a member this past Sunday!) today because of this book. Prior to reading it, I was on the verge of forsaking the institutional church altogether and selling out to the house church movement.

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Rev. Paul T. McCain

    Dan, I’d love to hear more about your personal use of this book and why it was so important to you. If you would like to post those remarks here, great, if not, feel free to contact me at:

    paul.mccain@cph.org

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Rev. Paul T. McCain

    Dan, I’d love to hear more about your personal use of this book and why it was so important to you. If you would like to post those remarks here, great, if not, feel free to contact me at:

    paul.mccain@cph.org

  • http://prayeramedic.com Dan

    I’m comfortable posting here. There are a few prevalent ideas that are very popular in the house church crowd, and I have fallen prey to them for quite some time. In many ways I am still coming out of all this. I’m going to answer your question about Veith’s book in a very round-a-bout way, stay with me.

    It is extremely couth to question authority and to doubt and challenge tradition in my generation. This comes as no surprise to most of you, but it is somehow embedded in my genes. In my personal observation (which may be very limited), it seems that most folks in my parents’ generation take the pastor’s word for it because they trust his authority. My generation doesn’t do that. You need to prove why I should trust you.

    After reading Frank Viola’s “Pagan Christianity,” I had a lot of questions and plenty of ammo. I went to several local pastors (a few of them LCMS) and none of them could give me an intelligible response to the book. One pastor had read the book and was questioning his own tradition as a result – we were practically in the same boat. The book really set me on a path of rejecting the institutional church for a couple of years, and it caused me to really study church history and how our Christian practices came to be. Unfortunately, it set me on the wrong path, but my studies in church history set me straight (largely due to the fact that my wife is earning an M.A. in Theology, so good church history books are abundant in our house). While Viola and Barna make profound points about some church practices, their church history leaves a lot to be desired. Their “analysis” is a mishmash of outdated secondary sources, out-of-context quotations, unsupported hypotheses, and personal prejudices. Even worse, on those occasions where legitimate experts on the field are cited (i.e., Dom Gregory Dix, Paul F. Bradshaw, Alexander Schmeman) their views are taken so out of context as to have them seemingly ally with the authors when in fact their views are quite the opposite. But no pastors were able to tell me that. I had to do my own research. Sadly, I don’t think most folks who read this book will do the same, nor do many know how.

    Despite having sorted through some of the faulty church history in “Pagan Christianity,” a lot of the ideology still stuck. Especially since it has been continually reinforced by books like “unChristian,” “Reimagining Church,” “Blue Like Jazz,” “Revolution,” “The Untold Story of the New Testament,” etc. In many ways, “Blue Like Jazz” got me started on this whole kick back when I attended Concordia Seward (prior to dropping out and leaving the church altogether). The book is still extremely popular in young adult circles, including in the LCMS.

    Only within the last year or so have I begun to deconstruct the deconstruction, so to speak. I began by reading “Why We’re Not Emergent” and “Why We Love the Church,” both by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. Those books helped me realize that “so much that passes for spirituality these days is nothing more than middle class, 20-something coffee culture. If you like jazz, soul patches, earth tone furniture, and lattes, that’s cool. But this culture is no holier than the McNugget, Hi-C, Value City, football culture that most people live in. Why does incarnational ministry usually mean hanging out at Starbucks instead of McDonalds?” (Kevin DeYoung, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2009/01/29/jesus-came-to-save-grimace-and).

    But these books and all my research thus far still only brought me to a point where I essentially could respect the institutional church as a valid form of ministry, but I still thought it was the least effective approach and continued to hold most of my Viola/Barna-inspired prejudices.

    The two prevailing areas of cognitive dissonance that I still retained at that point were:
    1. The clergy/laity distinction
    2. The sacred/secular dichotomy

    These two areas are widely attacked by house church folks, and they make some pretty good arguments. Let me begin with the clergy/laity distinction. I blog frequently at prayeramedic.com, and you can actually watch my progression of thought on this issue. When first confronted with the idea that there is no hierarchy whatsoever in church leadership, and that church leaders have no authority over church members, I knew it was wrong. It went against Scripture. I immediately pointed this out: http://prayeramedic.com/2008/10/biblical-leadership/

    You’ll see that I used Scripture to demonstrate that church leaders had genuine authority and that this was God-given. But then I read Viola’s book and continued to listen to the house church crowd. I then wrote this post: http://prayeramedic.com/2008/10/secular-job/

    That’s a huge shift in a VERY short period of time. The subtle deception that I didn’t recognize at the time is co-mingling the two issues I listed above into being one and the same. In fact, I probably need to take down this blog post – but I’ll leave it up for now.

    In many ways, I was right. The things I have been griping about in the church are extremely prevalent in mainstream evangelical churches. The pastor is more of a CEO than a spiritual leader and so much of what is being passed off as spirituality is empty emotions, false hope, deception, manipulation, etc. It didn’t help that my wife and I were extremely jaded by the church. I was serving as a young adult minister in a Pentecostal church where things got out of hand and my wife was asked to leave (but I was not). To make a long story short, we left then got mixed up in a United Pentecostal cult (denies Trinity, requires baptism in Jesus’ name only), we left there and got into some wacky charismaniac groups, then we found “mainstream” churches that might as well have called their sermons “motivational speaking” or “lessons in morality.” It was all so shallow and insincere, and so fake. It’s no wonder that the house church message was so appealing.

    The postmodern mantra seems to be “authenticity,” “community,” “experiential,” “participatory,” etc. and that appeals to someone who has only seen fake, inauthentic expressions of faith that have more to do with making people feel good about themselves. I also was struggling with some major sin issues and so were many other folks I knew, but the church was not a place we felt free to confess these things. Nor was it a place where we felt welcome to be ourselves. To most folks Church is just a cultural thing, something they do, not something they are. The house church mantra cries out that the church is an organism, not an organization. This still appeals to me in many ways.

    And we can learn a lot from house church folks. But their fatal flaw is dismissing the institutional church, altogether. Both are valid ministry models that can coexist – and each has its unique strengths and weaknesses.

    Enter Veith’s book. I started looking for books on spirituality, and I found “Grace Upon Grace” by Kleinig. I started reading it and enjoyed it, but I found his writing style difficult to stick with for lengthy periods of time, kind of like reading Kierkegaard or ancient church literature. I then found “Spirituality of the Cross.” Remember that my main two issues were clergy/laity and sacred/secular.

    Veith’s writing style was so easy to read and approachable that I read the book in only a few sittings (similar to Viola/Barna books). Veith really threw me off guard by building a comprehensive model of spirituality and avoiding intellectual quibbles. The answer to the sacred/secular problem is the doctrine of the two kingdoms, and the answer to clergy/laity is the doctrine of the vocation. People had told me this before, but only in theological terms. Veith explained these doctrines in an authentic way, explaining them in a way that actually made me consider how I should live in light of these truths – not just how I should think.

    He immediately tore down the false approaches to God from Koberle: moral, intellectual and mystical. Even though I had heard Koberle’s ideas before, the way Veith explained it made me go “aha!” I got it. His talk about the presence and hiddenness of God was profound as well. I always viewed the Lutheran view of the Sacraments as being only slightly removed from Catholicism. I basically figured that Catholicism was so ingrained in Luther that he didn’t want to stray far in the means of grace doctrines. But Veith clearly explained the mystery and beauty of these means in a practical way.

    I was so confused after all of my experience with charismatic churches and the general teachings of the prosperity gospel and positive confession that are so prevalent in American Christianity. Veith really helped draw the big picture for me, what spirituality really looks like. It isn’t so much about “doing big things for God,” as it is about yielding to God in the small things and recognizing how many big things God IS DOING that we neglect, like what He accomplishes through His means of grace and regular worship.

    I felt as though I had been lied to and deceived by Christianity, as though I had fallen prey to a “bait and switch” tactic. But God had been working all along, I had simply been taught to seek Him according to my own will, not His.

    Also Veith, citing C.S. Lewis, helped me realize that by spending all my time in limbo I was missing out on true community. The entire time I thought that the traditions and customs were the culprit, but I came to realize that sin and human depravity was the real issue. I had been imposing impossible ideals on the people of God, looking for a perfect church in many ways. I didn’t think this was the case, I would claim I wanted an authentic church, not a perfect church. Veith showed me that as a child of God, I often don’t even want the right things. What I need most is often not what I desire. There’s far more authenticity in bad coffee, hard pews, and people of all generations who aren’t very cool and often aren’t very intellectual than there is in coffee shops, smartly-dressed people, and haughty lounges with only folks from one generation who think they know everything. When you think about it, the emergent church is really only a white, suburban, 18-35 yr old movement. That is very limited and is not cross-generational and interracial (issues the emergent church often critique mainstream evangelicals for). Jesus died for all people of all nations, races, and languages – not just for a select group of haughty young adults.

    All in all, Veith challenged me to think critically about my presuppositions. He showed me that I was simply chasing after another fad, setting myself up for another disappointment and further disillusionment. All the while I was seeking authenticity, truth, community, experiences with God, and to be used by God. Veith made it clear that I have been misdiagnosing the issue altogether. The problem isn’t a lack of these things, the problem is sin. The answer is the cross. This is the only true spirituality. This is the only true contentment. I must seek Christ, all these other things flow only from that. When we put the cart before the horse we end up with another man-made institution, even if it meets in homes.

    I still have unanswered questions (end times, women in ministry, etc.), but these are not as important as the central issues: Jesus Christ, sin and forgiveness, the cross. I had been struggling a lot with daily prayer prior to reading Veith’s book. After reading it I came to see that in many ways, tradition keeps me safe. Tradition is not always bad. I traditionally wash every morning, and that keeps me from smelling like a farm animal. I now use “Treasury of Daily Prayer” to get in the Word and pray daily, and it works for me. Before I would have never done this, claiming it would be “quenching the Spirit” and binding me in traditions. But you know what? For all my complaints, I wasn’t praying. Now I am. The simple format makes it harder for my flesh to get distracted. I’m a lot weaker than I used to think I was. I am far more dependent on Christ than I realized. This is humbling. This is almost humiliating. But I was wrong. I NEED Jesus. I NEED His grace. I NEED structure. I NEED accountability. I NEED fellowship. And the house church movement made me doubt and mistrust the very things that could have brought me freedom. All relationships are guarded and preserved by structure. Try telling your wife after you’ve had an affair, “Come on, I thought our marriage was about the relationship, not all these do’s and don’ts.” I’ve learned to embrace the structure, rather than fight it and “deconstruct” it.

    So I am probably rambling now. The bottom line is that through reading Veith’s book, the Holy Spirit has taught me some important things (and He continues to do so). I have learned that Jesus Christ is the focal point of Christianity, not authenticity, community or anything else. This fact requires that we live differently, not simply pay lip service to this fact intellectually while practically pursuing other things. If Jesus Christ is at the center of our spirituality then a lot of things are different. I still agree with many of my gripes about mainstream churches, but the Lutheran faith offers something more stable than the changing winds of most of these groups (in most cases), it simply points me to Jesus.

  • http://prayeramedic.com Dan

    I’m comfortable posting here. There are a few prevalent ideas that are very popular in the house church crowd, and I have fallen prey to them for quite some time. In many ways I am still coming out of all this. I’m going to answer your question about Veith’s book in a very round-a-bout way, stay with me.

    It is extremely couth to question authority and to doubt and challenge tradition in my generation. This comes as no surprise to most of you, but it is somehow embedded in my genes. In my personal observation (which may be very limited), it seems that most folks in my parents’ generation take the pastor’s word for it because they trust his authority. My generation doesn’t do that. You need to prove why I should trust you.

    After reading Frank Viola’s “Pagan Christianity,” I had a lot of questions and plenty of ammo. I went to several local pastors (a few of them LCMS) and none of them could give me an intelligible response to the book. One pastor had read the book and was questioning his own tradition as a result – we were practically in the same boat. The book really set me on a path of rejecting the institutional church for a couple of years, and it caused me to really study church history and how our Christian practices came to be. Unfortunately, it set me on the wrong path, but my studies in church history set me straight (largely due to the fact that my wife is earning an M.A. in Theology, so good church history books are abundant in our house). While Viola and Barna make profound points about some church practices, their church history leaves a lot to be desired. Their “analysis” is a mishmash of outdated secondary sources, out-of-context quotations, unsupported hypotheses, and personal prejudices. Even worse, on those occasions where legitimate experts on the field are cited (i.e., Dom Gregory Dix, Paul F. Bradshaw, Alexander Schmeman) their views are taken so out of context as to have them seemingly ally with the authors when in fact their views are quite the opposite. But no pastors were able to tell me that. I had to do my own research. Sadly, I don’t think most folks who read this book will do the same, nor do many know how.

    Despite having sorted through some of the faulty church history in “Pagan Christianity,” a lot of the ideology still stuck. Especially since it has been continually reinforced by books like “unChristian,” “Reimagining Church,” “Blue Like Jazz,” “Revolution,” “The Untold Story of the New Testament,” etc. In many ways, “Blue Like Jazz” got me started on this whole kick back when I attended Concordia Seward (prior to dropping out and leaving the church altogether). The book is still extremely popular in young adult circles, including in the LCMS.

    Only within the last year or so have I begun to deconstruct the deconstruction, so to speak. I began by reading “Why We’re Not Emergent” and “Why We Love the Church,” both by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. Those books helped me realize that “so much that passes for spirituality these days is nothing more than middle class, 20-something coffee culture. If you like jazz, soul patches, earth tone furniture, and lattes, that’s cool. But this culture is no holier than the McNugget, Hi-C, Value City, football culture that most people live in. Why does incarnational ministry usually mean hanging out at Starbucks instead of McDonalds?” (Kevin DeYoung, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2009/01/29/jesus-came-to-save-grimace-and).

    But these books and all my research thus far still only brought me to a point where I essentially could respect the institutional church as a valid form of ministry, but I still thought it was the least effective approach and continued to hold most of my Viola/Barna-inspired prejudices.

    The two prevailing areas of cognitive dissonance that I still retained at that point were:
    1. The clergy/laity distinction
    2. The sacred/secular dichotomy

    These two areas are widely attacked by house church folks, and they make some pretty good arguments. Let me begin with the clergy/laity distinction. I blog frequently at prayeramedic.com, and you can actually watch my progression of thought on this issue. When first confronted with the idea that there is no hierarchy whatsoever in church leadership, and that church leaders have no authority over church members, I knew it was wrong. It went against Scripture. I immediately pointed this out: http://prayeramedic.com/2008/10/biblical-leadership/

    You’ll see that I used Scripture to demonstrate that church leaders had genuine authority and that this was God-given. But then I read Viola’s book and continued to listen to the house church crowd. I then wrote this post: http://prayeramedic.com/2008/10/secular-job/

    That’s a huge shift in a VERY short period of time. The subtle deception that I didn’t recognize at the time is co-mingling the two issues I listed above into being one and the same. In fact, I probably need to take down this blog post – but I’ll leave it up for now.

    In many ways, I was right. The things I have been griping about in the church are extremely prevalent in mainstream evangelical churches. The pastor is more of a CEO than a spiritual leader and so much of what is being passed off as spirituality is empty emotions, false hope, deception, manipulation, etc. It didn’t help that my wife and I were extremely jaded by the church. I was serving as a young adult minister in a Pentecostal church where things got out of hand and my wife was asked to leave (but I was not). To make a long story short, we left then got mixed up in a United Pentecostal cult (denies Trinity, requires baptism in Jesus’ name only), we left there and got into some wacky charismaniac groups, then we found “mainstream” churches that might as well have called their sermons “motivational speaking” or “lessons in morality.” It was all so shallow and insincere, and so fake. It’s no wonder that the house church message was so appealing.

    The postmodern mantra seems to be “authenticity,” “community,” “experiential,” “participatory,” etc. and that appeals to someone who has only seen fake, inauthentic expressions of faith that have more to do with making people feel good about themselves. I also was struggling with some major sin issues and so were many other folks I knew, but the church was not a place we felt free to confess these things. Nor was it a place where we felt welcome to be ourselves. To most folks Church is just a cultural thing, something they do, not something they are. The house church mantra cries out that the church is an organism, not an organization. This still appeals to me in many ways.

    And we can learn a lot from house church folks. But their fatal flaw is dismissing the institutional church, altogether. Both are valid ministry models that can coexist – and each has its unique strengths and weaknesses.

    Enter Veith’s book. I started looking for books on spirituality, and I found “Grace Upon Grace” by Kleinig. I started reading it and enjoyed it, but I found his writing style difficult to stick with for lengthy periods of time, kind of like reading Kierkegaard or ancient church literature. I then found “Spirituality of the Cross.” Remember that my main two issues were clergy/laity and sacred/secular.

    Veith’s writing style was so easy to read and approachable that I read the book in only a few sittings (similar to Viola/Barna books). Veith really threw me off guard by building a comprehensive model of spirituality and avoiding intellectual quibbles. The answer to the sacred/secular problem is the doctrine of the two kingdoms, and the answer to clergy/laity is the doctrine of the vocation. People had told me this before, but only in theological terms. Veith explained these doctrines in an authentic way, explaining them in a way that actually made me consider how I should live in light of these truths – not just how I should think.

    He immediately tore down the false approaches to God from Koberle: moral, intellectual and mystical. Even though I had heard Koberle’s ideas before, the way Veith explained it made me go “aha!” I got it. His talk about the presence and hiddenness of God was profound as well. I always viewed the Lutheran view of the Sacraments as being only slightly removed from Catholicism. I basically figured that Catholicism was so ingrained in Luther that he didn’t want to stray far in the means of grace doctrines. But Veith clearly explained the mystery and beauty of these means in a practical way.

    I was so confused after all of my experience with charismatic churches and the general teachings of the prosperity gospel and positive confession that are so prevalent in American Christianity. Veith really helped draw the big picture for me, what spirituality really looks like. It isn’t so much about “doing big things for God,” as it is about yielding to God in the small things and recognizing how many big things God IS DOING that we neglect, like what He accomplishes through His means of grace and regular worship.

    I felt as though I had been lied to and deceived by Christianity, as though I had fallen prey to a “bait and switch” tactic. But God had been working all along, I had simply been taught to seek Him according to my own will, not His.

    Also Veith, citing C.S. Lewis, helped me realize that by spending all my time in limbo I was missing out on true community. The entire time I thought that the traditions and customs were the culprit, but I came to realize that sin and human depravity was the real issue. I had been imposing impossible ideals on the people of God, looking for a perfect church in many ways. I didn’t think this was the case, I would claim I wanted an authentic church, not a perfect church. Veith showed me that as a child of God, I often don’t even want the right things. What I need most is often not what I desire. There’s far more authenticity in bad coffee, hard pews, and people of all generations who aren’t very cool and often aren’t very intellectual than there is in coffee shops, smartly-dressed people, and haughty lounges with only folks from one generation who think they know everything. When you think about it, the emergent church is really only a white, suburban, 18-35 yr old movement. That is very limited and is not cross-generational and interracial (issues the emergent church often critique mainstream evangelicals for). Jesus died for all people of all nations, races, and languages – not just for a select group of haughty young adults.

    All in all, Veith challenged me to think critically about my presuppositions. He showed me that I was simply chasing after another fad, setting myself up for another disappointment and further disillusionment. All the while I was seeking authenticity, truth, community, experiences with God, and to be used by God. Veith made it clear that I have been misdiagnosing the issue altogether. The problem isn’t a lack of these things, the problem is sin. The answer is the cross. This is the only true spirituality. This is the only true contentment. I must seek Christ, all these other things flow only from that. When we put the cart before the horse we end up with another man-made institution, even if it meets in homes.

    I still have unanswered questions (end times, women in ministry, etc.), but these are not as important as the central issues: Jesus Christ, sin and forgiveness, the cross. I had been struggling a lot with daily prayer prior to reading Veith’s book. After reading it I came to see that in many ways, tradition keeps me safe. Tradition is not always bad. I traditionally wash every morning, and that keeps me from smelling like a farm animal. I now use “Treasury of Daily Prayer” to get in the Word and pray daily, and it works for me. Before I would have never done this, claiming it would be “quenching the Spirit” and binding me in traditions. But you know what? For all my complaints, I wasn’t praying. Now I am. The simple format makes it harder for my flesh to get distracted. I’m a lot weaker than I used to think I was. I am far more dependent on Christ than I realized. This is humbling. This is almost humiliating. But I was wrong. I NEED Jesus. I NEED His grace. I NEED structure. I NEED accountability. I NEED fellowship. And the house church movement made me doubt and mistrust the very things that could have brought me freedom. All relationships are guarded and preserved by structure. Try telling your wife after you’ve had an affair, “Come on, I thought our marriage was about the relationship, not all these do’s and don’ts.” I’ve learned to embrace the structure, rather than fight it and “deconstruct” it.

    So I am probably rambling now. The bottom line is that through reading Veith’s book, the Holy Spirit has taught me some important things (and He continues to do so). I have learned that Jesus Christ is the focal point of Christianity, not authenticity, community or anything else. This fact requires that we live differently, not simply pay lip service to this fact intellectually while practically pursuing other things. If Jesus Christ is at the center of our spirituality then a lot of things are different. I still agree with many of my gripes about mainstream churches, but the Lutheran faith offers something more stable than the changing winds of most of these groups (in most cases), it simply points me to Jesus.

  • http://prayeramedic.com Dan

    I must also give credit to several close friends and pastors who have always been willing to steer me in the right direction, even when that meant getting in my face: DCE Paul W., Pastor Charlie L., Pastor Mark P. and Dick R.

  • http://prayeramedic.com Dan

    I must also give credit to several close friends and pastors who have always been willing to steer me in the right direction, even when that meant getting in my face: DCE Paul W., Pastor Charlie L., Pastor Mark P. and Dick R.

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Rev. Paul T. McCain

    Dan, thank you for sharing your story. May God bless you and keep you!

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Rev. Paul T. McCain

    Dan, thank you for sharing your story. May God bless you and keep you!

  • fws

    Dr Veith, is there any plan to translate your work into portuguese? You need help with that?

    I used to keep a stash of your book to pass out to people I would meet. I found that it saved alot of people alot of grief. It seemed especially helpful to roman catholics who were considering leaving rome for something zwinglian or worse.

    I can see how your book would be so very very valuable to brasilians. I met a lovely young couple this week, doctors at age 23. They were receptive to talking about faith in ways most americans at 23 are not. Your book would have been perfect for them if only I had it in portuguese.

  • fws

    Dr Veith, is there any plan to translate your work into portuguese? You need help with that?

    I used to keep a stash of your book to pass out to people I would meet. I found that it saved alot of people alot of grief. It seemed especially helpful to roman catholics who were considering leaving rome for something zwinglian or worse.

    I can see how your book would be so very very valuable to brasilians. I met a lovely young couple this week, doctors at age 23. They were receptive to talking about faith in ways most americans at 23 are not. Your book would have been perfect for them if only I had it in portuguese.

  • fws

    Dan. Bless you in your walk with Jesus and for sharing so much with us.

    We come to him usually as a last resort having tried everything else. There is no pride in that. But then there is a possibility of being useful to others. You are now free to serve in a way you were not before. His yoke is light. That peace that the world cannot give.

    “Lord, lord where shall we go? You alone have the word of life. “

  • fws

    Dan. Bless you in your walk with Jesus and for sharing so much with us.

    We come to him usually as a last resort having tried everything else. There is no pride in that. But then there is a possibility of being useful to others. You are now free to serve in a way you were not before. His yoke is light. That peace that the world cannot give.

    “Lord, lord where shall we go? You alone have the word of life. “

  • Helen K.

    follow

  • Helen K.

    follow


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