the real left behind

the real left behind March 4, 2013
left behind cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
(click on this cartoon and it will take you to our fine art print gallery)

Whenever anyone says that the church has abandoned Jesus, I take that accusation seriously.

Lots of people notice… anyone from comedian Bill Maher who says that Christians obviously aren’t following Jesus’ instructions to Gandhi who said that he liked Christ but he did not like Christians because they are so unlike Christ… I take this seriously.

But so do church theologians who find clever ways to theologically explain away this incongruence… such as we are born miserable sinners and that is all the church is… a collection of miserable sinners, so don’t expect too much of us.

There are slick theological loopholes available in abundance that will excuse us from taking Jesus seriously. And Buddha. And Mohammed. And Gandhi. And Bill Maher. And our neighbor. And ourselves.

Is it possible that divinizing Jesus allowed us to distance him from the realm of human possibility?

As the cartoon suggests, has Jesus been left behind?

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  • Carol

    I would speculate that many people who post to this blog did not leave the institutional churches, the their churches left them.

    To be redeemed is not merely to be absolved of guilt before God, it is also to live in Christ, to be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, to be in Him a new creature, to live in the Spirit.
    ~Thomas Merton

    “The institutions of Churchianity are not Christianity. An institution is a good thing if it is second; immediately an institution recognizes itself it becomes the dominating factor.”
    — Oswald Chambers

    “In the beginning the church was a fellowship of men and women centering on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome where it became an institution. Next, it moved to Europe , where it became a culture. And, finally, it moved to America where it became an enterprise.” –Richard Halverson, former chaplain of the United States Senate

  • Michelle Cooper

    David, by “divinizing Jesus” are you referring to Jesus being part of the “trinity” as opposed to Him coming forth from God as His Son – the image of the invisible God?

  • It is always easier to worship the teacher instead of actually doing what He said. Many, not all of course, but many evangelicals I know say all you have to do is believe. Believe in Jesus, believe in the Bible, believe in whatever their preacher says. Believe in Jesus and don’t cuss, don’t drink, don’t smoke, follow all the sex rules, go to church and sing, and you are good. Many Catholics just go through the motions, go to confession, take communion, believe in the Church and the Pope. Most people are cultural Christians. Are you surprised? Jesus clearly never thought everyone would follow Him. He described His followers as salt, most of a meal is not salt. He called them light, not everything is light. He doubted if He would find any faith when He returned. Following the teachings of Jesus is much harder than just believing in Him. It takes work. You have to change, and people hate and fear change. Much easier to sing songs and give lip service. Oh yeah the church has left Jesus.

  • Fred

    That’s some strong commentary. It really rings true.

  • What if the divinizing came about because we allowed theologians to define who Jesus is for us as individual’s – apart from experiencing who Jesus is for us as individual’s. I have found (myself included), that those who rationalize Christ, apart from experiencing Him, seldom exhibit His character. The gospel is a message of both the heart as well as the head. I spent my first fifteen years theorizing Christ, the last seven experiencing Him. I’ll take the later over the former any day. In my experience of Him, I discovered His humanity – and therefore His heart. In my theology, I discovered His laws, and therefore my sin. Change and peace came via His heart; condemnation and intolerance for anyone outside ‘the Church’ came through the law. If the Church has left Jesus behind, then it’s probably not the same Jesus who came to reveal the Father and save the world –

  • Did the church ever have Jesus? Even in the earliest accounts from the gospels and Acts, we see the apostles tripping and fumbling their way through disbelief and paradigm shifts. Truth is, we are all people, fallable ignorant people trying to find our way in the dark. God calls us, but He doesn’t make everything over-clear because the journey and the wrestling is part of the point. We do our best and trust God in our weaknesses, this doesn’t excuse us from following Christ’s commands, but it reminds us that our salvation is not dependent on our efforts or successes, that there is hope when we fall down, enough hope to get us back on our feet to try again.

    I think that the different definitions of the word church come in useful here as well. The institutions of the church have, yes, it seems largely left the teachings of Jesus behind and opted for what was logical, comfortable etc. The church invisible, that is to say all those people who are truly and honestly doing their best to seek the heart of God, they have never had Christ either, but for them Christ is out ahead calling them to follow His path, and they respond by following as best they can.

    I also think that it is interested how often we accuse each other of not following the commands of Christ. Some point to others accusingly and bring up Christ’s words about Hell and punishment; others bring up Christ’s words about loving others; or about forgiving debts and not filing suit; or about judging others; or about giving to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s. In reality, none of us is really following every word of Christ, and most all of us are prone to picking and choosing pieces of Scripture here and there from the rest according o what makes sense to us, or what we feel strongly about, or what we’re comfortable with. I think we should have grace for one another on those instances, but continue to hold up the Bible to ourselves and each other continually and never stop wrestling with the passages that are uncomfortable or that don’t make sense.

  • I don’t think so; the Trinitarian version of Christ holds the divine and human natures of Christ together. Of course it is very easy to emphasis one side over the other, with often disastrous results; but as long as we hold to the gospels, Jesus Christ is most definitely human.

    Also, notice that David said that similar phenomenon can be seen in a variety of different religions and movements. He points to several very human figures that are subject to being “left behind” by the very movements they founded or inspired.

    In my opinion, its more a matter of the followers creating an idea of who their leader is, was, or is supposed to be. Then they adhere more to that idea (which will inevitably fit better with the other ideas they are already comfortable with) than with who that leader actually was.

  • Ben

    Your title in texting
    –> )*(