Perhaps you have noticed that the practice of the preaching Hell Fire in our culture is rather like placing intense heat under a shallow pan. Soon the water is boiling violently. But that is an unnatural state and immediately as the heat is removed the boiling ceases and the pan quickly cools. And tomorrow, the memory too has cooled.
I need some here and now answers. I didn’t die last night. I have a day in front of me with tasks and choices and relationships to work out. It is morning. The question “Where would you go if you died last night?” is moot.
The most important question in life is not “Where would you go if you died tonight?” I know that the Box Office exists to sell tickets, but I don’t want a ticket to some future event. Give me insight into life on this date, in this place. I’m not interested in Heaven or Hell or anything else that is so far out it has no connection with my next decision.
So too are the descriptions of Heaven. Harps and gold and mansions aren’t that different than guitars and gold and mansions. It seems to me that prosperity (that preaching for effect thing again) has a bit of a dark side.
I won’t be bribed by your heaven, nor blackmailed by your hell. I would give everything for a living alive life now. Could I walk out today, with light and life – every day – one day – that day – would be – today. Now that would be heaven to me!
The Crisis of Discernment
Discernment: keen perception or judgment, insight
Discernment has function. It is an early warning system, a warning system that admits of a significant danger or threat to an accepted base line. It doesn’t create the edges but senses them by a kind of faith received. That base line may consist of, as examples, a culture, or perhaps a body politic, a religion or world view. Standing within those base lines, discernment guards against those things that are of a contrary nature.
Discernment has form. It is knowledge, though of a source and nature beyond the academic. As knowledge alone, it is torpid. It only becomes real as it is believed and acted upon.
Discernment has purpose. It is moral, and judicially so, because discernment circumscribes something that is essentially social and relational. It defines correctness. Examples would include Cultural Correctness, Political Correctness and for the Evangelical branch of the religious sphere, Evangelical Correctness. Herein lies the problem. Discernment isn’t objective. It doesn’t create the edges but accepts them by a kind of faith received. The tenants of that faith make all the difference. If that faith is moral, discernment stands in the light and discerns all that tends to darkness. If that faith is immoral, discernment stands in the darkness and discerns all that tends to the light. If that faith is amoral, discernment stands in the shadows and discerns all that tends to the light.
It is my observation that our cultural, political and evangelical discernment rarely stand in the light and discern all that tends to darkness. At best it loiters in the shadows and discerns all that tends to the light. A predisposition to an increasing grayness prevails at the point of origin. Cultural correctness, political correctness, and yes, evangelical correctness are keen to discount all the sharp edges except, of course, that one remaining edge which is the right to discount all the sharp edges. We are left to awaken each morning to a world smudged into a nondescript value, a picket fence with no linear definitions. Sadly, this is not a static position. It is a continuum moving by stages from the amoral to the immoral. Discernment is as keen as ever it was, however its reference point has changed and is changing.
I was in Adam. There was a default principle at work in me from birth. It was mine by a genetic predestination I did not understand. Being genetic it could not be removed or repaired. Its end moved to inevitable death.
But then comes choice, as inevitable as death itself, A choice of deaths. I will choose a death of unbelief, more correctly a kind of super-belief that affirms and lives by a faith that there is nothing beyond me, or, I will embrace a cross and a real death both in history and present reality that carries me by a kind of super-belief through and beyond that death into a new life.
There is a default principle at work in me in this new life. It is mine by a genetic predestination I do not understand. There has been a seed planted in me. It moves inexorably to life, then more life, then abundant life. But it is not my life. I live by the life of another. I am in the second Adam.
In Adam I will run, I will hide, I will shift blame.
In the second Adam I will not run, I will not hide, I will not shift blame.