Archives For humility

I’m not linking to a hundred blog posts.  I’m not starting another op-ed column.  Because this post isn’t about Rob Bell.  Or Hell.

If you haven’t seen for yourself what has the Christian subculture all stirred up, watch this…


So Rob Bell’s upcoming book may or may not suggest that there’s no Hell. Or nobody is in Hell.  Or they won’t be.  Or not for long.  We don’t know. The book comes out March 20 something.  But his publisher (HarperOne) says that Rob is (among other things)… “arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering.”

Justin Taylor responded.  John Piper tweeted.  Boom.

But this post isn’t about Rob Bell… or Hell. To the point then.

Culture shifts.  It swings like a pendulum. I often find myself looking at the pendulum of cultural ideology with a mix of fascination for the psychology of it all (like watching people you don’t know in the airport) and concern for souls (like watching a family member get on a plane to fly somewhere far away… maybe for a long time).  I carry a mix of modern-age cultural realism and heart-ache-inducing care for souls.  Always there. Watching culture swing.

Watching Rob Bell, whom this post isn’t about, I was reminded again… and then again by the Twitter explosion last Saturday… and again and again by a dozen and a half bloggers in rapid response…

One thing this current parabolic shift in Christian evangelical sub-culture has embraced that we can be sure of is… we can’t be sure of anything.

I don’t mean to use hyperbole.  We might embrace mystery.  Wonder.  We might say we just seek Jesus.  Or we want to live like Him.  But we don’t really want anyone to tell us what that means.

Relevant Magazine (giving voice to the twenty-something generation at the intersection of Christian faith and real life) just published their list of “50 ideas that changed everything.”  Number 19?  Yep.  “Nothing says FAITH like DOUBT.” Then they sucker-punched me in my email inbox with this excellent article about “Why Doubt isn’t a Dirty Word.”

One of the many blogs that was sent to me on the whole “Hell” debate, which this post isn’t about, was from thirty-something faith-life observer and Christian sub-culture Pocket-Guide author Jason Boyett, whose latest book is titled “O Me of Little Faith: True Confessions of a Spiritual Weakling.” (Which, by the way, I think you should buy for the cover art alone.  Genius.)

In the Christian realm of conversation “relativism” is frowned upon, even by those of us who have grown up steeped in post-millennial stew.  We know enough to reject “relative truth.”  Right? I mean… right?  I think the postmillennial babies that are now emerging (some pun intended) in the life of the Church as young adults believe that there are some things that are just unshakably true… if they are pressed.  But we aren’t supposed to press, as far as I can tell.

The truth is, doubt is cool right now.

In fact, doubt is seen as a sign of true humility, honest faith, open-mindedness, reasonableness, approachability.  Questions are hip. The guy this post isn’t focusing on asked 25 of them in his two and a half minute video above.  But that’s OK.  Questions make people think.  It’s just that while questions foster exploration of the possibilities, clear statements made with conviction don’t leave that kind of creative space.  Conviction communicates faith in absolutes. And absolutes are exclusive because they rule out other options.  And if you’re reading this right now, and that leaves a bad taste in your mouth… exclusive, absolute, clear-cut conviction… I’m asking the question today:  why is that?

Somehow, conviction has become equated with haughty self-righteousness and narrow-minded mean-spiritedness, pride, vulgar stubborn offensive…  conviction is a lesser value.

My heart breaks.

Who will write the book, “My Faith is Strong, and I Know in Whom I Believe”?  What has happened to the William Wallaces, crying “FREEDOM!” against the odds?  Is it no longer admirable to take a stand for a belief, or is it only admirable to take a stand for somebody else? I know, that’s a false dichotomy.  But it has some teeth.

I think the next generation Church would readily embrace the poor and broken and marginalized in our communities – take a stand for LOVE – and that is commendable.  New passion to be Jesus-with-skin-on in a way our parents often weren’t.  In a way I haven’t been.  God bless those who LOVE in Jesus name.

But will this generation also take a stand for TRUTH?  Is it admirable anymore to hold to ideals even when those ideals may be unpopular, or uncomfortable?

If someone you love is on a self-destructive path, what is the most loving thing to do?  Comfort does not equal compassion. the Bible isn’t clear about everything.  But many, many things are ringing with clarity and urgency.  There is a life and death reality that follows every soul, every heartbeat.  Even among the hostile and the apathetic.

Church! For Christ’s sake – decide what you believe!  Stand for it. Live it out.  Doubt is acceptable as a process – a pathway to further understanding.  But I don’t believe it is a virtue as a perpetual excuse to substitute personal experience for higher ideals.

Doubt may be the new faith, but I have greater respect for those who can humbly, respectfully, but unflinchingly demonstrate that they believe something to their core, and they are willing to rise or fall on that conviction.

Now to the passionate, to the men and women of conviction, the the truth-tellers and safeguards of Biblical inerrancy… please love people. It is rare to see someone stand for the Word with an iron will and the patience to engage in respectful discussion.  We have a responsibility to be Christ-like, which is impossible.  So I ask the Holy Spirit to keep shaping me, that I can be a man of great conviction and great humility.

There is this huge part of me that wants to tell you what I think about Rob Bell.  I know his book isn’t even out yet.  Certainly the world will be in a better place to have that discussion freely after four hundred bazillion of us buy his book on March twenty something.  Congratulations HarperOne.  There’s this part of me that wants to talk about hell – about the hundreds of references to this place of darkness and pain and fire spoken of in plain language in the Bible from cover to cover – and laced through Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom like a stubborn thread… making people uncomfortable.

But this post isn’t about Rob Bell… or Hell.

It’s about the value of CONVICTION.  And the necessity of HUMILITY.

UPDATE: A reader reminded me of the connection to another post that touches on the topic of speaking with conviction. If you’re curious, and you want a good laugh, check out this VIDEO and a few thoughts that follow… >> i believe, like, you know? :: in defense of the declarative voice


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“this post isn’t about rob bell… or hell :: conviction and humility” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

WOW! You can see forever up here. Looking down on all the little people. I love it up here.

Man, this seat of scoffers is comfy, too, the way it cradles my hind end. Like it was built just for me. I had it custom fitted here on top of this high horse. Which is awesome. I love getting up on this baby, and then we stand up here… on top of this pedestal. Good times. So glad I hardly ever sin anymore. That makes it way easier to judge all of you without feeling guilty. This works out great, too, because from up on this here high horse, on top of the pedestal I’ve erected, my very vantage point makes it impossible to even see you people without looking down on you. So that’s working out sweet.

* insert prolonged barfing here *

To my non-Christian friends, can I just say that if I’m ever up on my high horse, hair blowing in the breeze (like Fabio), pecs bulging and loose fitted oxford unbuttoned to mid-sterum (like Fabio), you have permission to hit me in the face with a goose (like Fabio). This is all going to tie together into one glorious metaphorical union in a few paragraphs. I promise.

I’m not afraid of heights, per se. It’s more like a fear of falling from high places. And honestly, it’s really more about the landing than the falling, to be specific. But even with my weebers about falling from high places, I DO enjoy the occasional adrenaline rush of a good rollercoaster. Oh man. The higher, the faster, the gut-wrenching-er the better, baby. There’s nothing like the crushing g-force shift of being perched on top of the world, taking a leisurly perusal of the neighboring states, and then hurling over the drop at 90 mph into the abyss.  Adrenaline junkies, can I get an AMEN?!

And as much as I love a great rollercoaster ride, it is possible that I love the ironic happenings of March 27, 1999, even more.  There sat Fabio. Front row.  Hands alternately behind the safety bar, waving to fans, and flipping that cascading golden mane.  In all of his pectoral glory.  It’s the inaugural run of the new “Apollo’s Chariot” roller coaster in Busch Gardens Williamsburg.  During the first drop over the 210 foot descent, Fabio Lanzoni killed a goose.  With his face.

I’ll never forget hearing the news later that night.  Picture me eating pizza with friends…  “So.  Did you hear Fabio killed a goose with his face on a rollercoaster today?” Now picture me with Diet Dr. Pepper shooting out of my nose.  That’s pretty much how it went down.

Might be my favorite news item of the 90’s.  I mean, it probably would have killed a regular guy – probably would have taken my head clean off.  Thank goodness that goose connected with the regal countenace of the iron-necked wonder.

But all of this reminiscing has a point, after all. And I mean to say this for both my non-believing friends who are sick of feeling the judgment of the church folks you rub shoulders with, and for my fellow Christians who have gotten comfy up here, looking down on the little people from our lofty vantage point…

The truth is…  WE ARE JUST LIKE YOU. I’m not talking to sinners and non-sinners, here.  I’m talking to sinners… and other sinners.  We’re all just sinners. NO ONE is entitled to a comfy ride on the their high horse.  NO ONE has earned the right to look down on the regular people…  we’re all regular people.

Psalm 32 (written by David, one of my heroes) starts like this…

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

Thank goodness he didn’t start with, “Blessed is the one who has never sinned before,” or, “blessed is the one who will never sin again.”  I’d be OFF that list. And so would you.  In fact, Jesus is the only man who would make the cut.  But it doesn’t say that.

Martin Luther writes about this Psalm and notes that even the saints are sinners.  They can’t become holy, forgiven, and reconnected with God without acknowledging that fact before the Lord.  Apart from our best efforts (which can’t get us anywhere with God), Jesus alone covers our sin. Luther writes…

“In short, our righteousness is called (in plain language) the forgiveness of our sins…  All the saints are sinners and remain sinners.  But they are holy because God in His grace neither sees nor counts these sins, but forgets, forgives, and covers them.  There is thus no distinction between the saints and the non-saints.”

Did you catch that last little bit?  NO DISTINCTION. We’re all sinners.  We’re all regular people.

“They are sinners alike and all sin daily, only that the sins of the holy are covered not counted; and the sins of the unholy are counted not covered…  both of them are truly wounded, truly sinners…”

So, um, I’m gonna just get out of this comfy seat up here, and climb down off this here high horse and, um, take the zip line down from this here pedestal.  Because the only difference between me and my non-believing friends is JESUS.  Still sinning.  Don’t want to.  But when it comes to my relationship with God, and he look at me, JESUS has covered my sins, and the Father doesn’t see them at all.

To my unbelieving friends… please give me a smack if I ever come across as if I’m on some higher plane than you.  I’m not.  You and I BOTH need Jesus. And this isn’t to say that sin doesn’t matter.  Quite the opposite.  But we can’t fix it. Only Jesus can cover, remove, clean up, and remake us.  From this eye-ball-to-eyeball vantage point, I’m asking you to talk to me about why Jesus matters.  But it’s not because I’m any better than you, or that my sins are any less significant than yours.  I’m just forgiven.

And to my fellow Christians… If you survey your surroundings and realize you’ve been looking down on all the little people below you, surveying your surroundings from the top of the coaster… the High Horse Express… it’s time to come on down.  And if you’ve gotten a little bit too cozy in that custum made seat of scoffers, God has a way of humbling the proud.  I’ve seen the forecast.  It’s going to be thick with geese all week.

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“Lord, please hit some Christians in the face with a goose like you did to Fabio. Amen.” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.