What are the stories we tell ourselves, and how do these stories shape what we believe and how we live? What kind of disciples do these stories and doctrines create? How should the gospel counter-form us into a discipleship that is following Christ’s call on our lives? How does a life of discipleship and discipline flow out of doxology and worship?
While many churches in our day emphasize convenience and comfortability, one of the key ingredients to a life of lasting discipleship is actually discipline. In other words, like marriage or excelling in a particular career path, being a Christian is not always fun, but often involves hard work, faithfulness, and perseverance. We also need faithful shepherds to come alongside us, to feed and care for us, as we make our way through Vanity Fair on our way to the Celestial City. That’s the focus of this edition of the program as the hosts wrap up their series, Finding Yourself in God’s Story, on this episode of the White Horse Inn.
“We don’t live the Gospel, but we do conduct ourselves in a way that in step with the truth of the Gospel. And that’s not just moralistic peccadillos, it’s something grander. It’s a vision that Paul was talking about right there about not living hypocritically, about loving across the boundaries of race and of socioeconomic standing, of male and female, rich and poor, people’s cultural affinities, whether you like opera or country music, across all of the boundaries, all of the enemies in this world that you can possibly think of, all the hostilities, living non-hypocritically, being at all times driven by the Gospel.
“Above all that is what the life of discipleship is – empowered by the Gospel and guided by God’s law. That is discipleship in summary. And, you know, it really comes down to love. That’s why Jesus could summarize the whole law in terms of loving God and loving your neighbor. Discipleship is about receiving God’s love and giving God’s love to others.” – Michael Horton
The move to the therapeutic in society has been induced by several cultural developments. The intense psychologization of men’s attitudes and feelings as the primary subconscious level of “who we are,” the altering definitions of justice as primarily the accommodation of society to remove all barriers from self-expression and empowering fulfillment of the self, and the movement to the individual subject as the arbiter of that freedom to happiness apart from external structures and forces. The good life of justice, freedom, happiness have been internalized to such a degree that boredom and the external forces which upset that interior life are now seen as the greatest of evils. Justice has been re-defined in the last century as the removal of external barriers and the material empowerment of the individual towards the good life perceived to be desirable.
Men’s attitudes and feelings have come to arbitrate justice and goodness in the late modern society. Safety and security have been held out as the primary good of Western culture above what previous generations saw as essential to promoting the good life, namely liberty, self-reliance, and responsibility. Conventional ideals of moral responsibility have gradually become subordinated to state interpreted therapeutic ideals. “Modern culture is unique in having given birth to such elaborately argued anti-religions, all aiming to confirm us in our devastating illusions of individuality and freedom,” writes Philip Rieff in his magisterial, The Triumph of the Therapeutic.
Jacques Ellul argued in the mid-century that whenever a culture’s ethical outlook could not keep a pace with its technological developments, propaganda was the fated result – the subconscious alteration of men’s attitudes and feelings through technological means of domination. Modern cultural production has moved into the business and technique of manipulating a sense of wellbeing under what Jürgen Habermas has called a “therapeutocracy.” (Timothy W. Massaro, “Therapeutic Culture,” WHI [blog], October 05, 2015)