What are the beliefs and assumptions of contemporary American spirituality? Why do so many people pick and choose religious beliefs based on that which makes them happy, rather than by evaluating truth claims?
Recorded before a live audience in Vail, Colorado, the hosts discuss these questions and more as they outline the characteristics of pluralism and the American Religion. They are joined once more by Greg Koukl, founder and president of Stand to Reason and author of The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important That Happens in Between. Join us for this edition of the White Horse Inn.
“The gospel is ultimately what is relevant in the sense that it answers questions, the very existence of which we suppress in unrighteousness. We obscure our humanness as much as we can because it reveals the image of God and God having an ultimate claim on us. The deepest instinct of being human that we continually cover over is really what the Gospel does address.
“When we turn now to Jesus’ external authority over the authority of the sovereign self, one of the obvious texts we go to is the Great Commission where Jesus says, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and to all the world preach the gospel, baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teach them to observe everything I’ve commanded and lo, I’m with you to the end of the age.’ Here he says, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth. You don’t even give your heart to me. You don’t even let me have my way. You already belong to me. Look, I have the keys of death in hell. It’s not in your hands. It’s in my hands. I am the one who possesses all authority in heaven and on earth.’”
Term to Learn
“Church as Counter-Culture”
Cultures enact and uphold certain ritual practices that act as liturgical formations of identity through imaginative means. Such ritual forces of culture are not satisfied with being merely mundane; embedded in them is a sense of what ultimately matters (compare Phil. 1:10). ‘Secular’ liturgies are fundamentally formative, and implicit in them is a vision of the kingdom that needs to be discerned and evaluated. From the perspective of Christian faith, these secular liturgies will often constitute mis-formation of our desires – aiming our heart away from the Creator to some aspect of the creation as if it were God. Secular liturgies capture our hearts by capturing our imaginations and drawing us into ritual practices that ‘teach’ us to love something very different from the kingdom of God.
By the same token, Christian worship needs to be intentionally liturgical, formative, and pedagogical in order to counter such mis-formation and misdirections. While the practices of Christian worship are best understood as the restoration of an original, creational desire for God, practically speaking, Christian worship functions as a counter-reformation to the mis-formation of secular liturgies into which we are ‘thrown’ from an early age. We must learn to consider Christian education (and worship) as a counter-pedagogy of desire.
(Adapted from James K.A. Smith, “Love Takes Practice” in Desiring the Kingdom, pp. 88)