This summer, I've decided to regularly attend my family's non-denominational Church so that I can worship with my parents, Grandmother, and nephew every Sunday morning. Given my love for high-liturgical services (despite all my issues with it), I have struggled to find patience with the cliche worship style. The homilies, however well-intentioned, are little more than Oprah's self-help messages baptized in a few Scriptures. I often leave these services feeling rather alienated. Beyond the fact that so many of the lyrics in these modern worship songs are theologically impoverished at best, I find it dishonest to say that I will "give all" to Christ. Isn't that the point, that I can't do such things? Isn't His faithfulness to me, even when I am faithless and seek to escape the friendship He has established with me in Christ, the very essence of the Gospel?
Today, I found it difficult to be silent. So I began to express my disagreements about this particular Church with my Dad. I started out by saying that my intention isn't to seem like an elitist, or that I have it all figured out. I truly am learning just like everyone else - this much is certain.
But as I was talking, I honestly could not believe the words that were coming out of my mouth. There is no potentiality, it is all actualized in Christ. There is no ladder for Christians to climb, it is simply an act of grace that we continually realize who we are in Christ by the power of the Spirit. Sanctification isn't necessarily a matter of "getting more holy" but rather a deeper awareness of one's own inability and helplessness. This is what grace means. To me, this is the Gospel. That before the foundation of the world, the Father chose to reconcile humanity onto Himself in Christ. Even more, we have no where to stand, but continually depend upon the grace of God as we bear witness to this truth not only to each other but to the world. A theologia crucis - a theology that believes God is most revealed in the suffering and humility of the cross - does not mean recovering from and escaping doubt, weakness, and disbelief. Rather, it recognizes that God is still faithful to us in Christ as we encounter all of this suffering.
I began to wonder how all of this is consistent with my other theological sympathies. The radical posture of humility and dependence I just outlined which I articulated to my Dad today doesn't seem to be consistent with other aspects of my theology (ecclesiology for starters). My Dad's questions by way of response made me realize that my position is very unstable. Again, it offers no where to stand. Ironically, this is what makes me so attracted yet so uncomfortable with Barth's methodology (this became all the more clear at the Karl Barth conference last week). His understanding of the object of faith in Jesus Christ determines his radically unstable methodology which continually seeks to "start at the beginning" when bearing witness to the Gospel.
Is this too - the instability - what it means to faithfully witness to a theologia crucis?
While I won't end up long-term at this type of non-denominational Church, the very occasions that give rise to these realizations and questions are uncomfortable. I pray for the courage and willingness to live out whatever conclusions might surface even if that means a radical ecclesial reorientation.