I went to Status last night at Discovery Church for the first time in weeks. I went because my sister told me that A.J. was back in town from L.A. and would be speaking. His teaching style is definitely one of the main reasons I started going to Status last year, so I was excited to hear him speak again. Josh Loveless does a phenomenal job, but there’s just some nuance or slightly tilted facet about the way A.J. processes and expresses things that really resonates with me.
He talked about the relevatory pattern of God being funnel shaped. First, He created the universe and our world. That in itself speaks volumes about God attempting to have a “conversation with humanity” about who He is. All of creation started out as a conversation. Then eventually, He reveals more of Himself in the Torah, the Jewish Scriptures. This points more to the precision of God’s nature and what kind of people He wanted to create. Then there’s the living Torah—the living Word—Jesus Christ himself. Again, the funnel narrows and we receive a more precise picture of who God is. This concept of progressive revelation is not new to me, but it certainly was refreshing to hear the metanarrative of God described in these simple and honest terms.
As A.J. discussed the text in John 1—including railing at how many average Americans fail to see how Grecian culture has penetrated our construct for thought processes—we live under assumptions based on Greek philosophy and we don’t even realize how deeply these old Greek dudes have influenced Western civilization (which, incidentally if you’re into that sort of thing, you should check out Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey—great book on the history of philosophy and how it has shaped the modern/postmodern evangelical church).
One of the ways we have appropriated Greek culture is our embrace of the “either/or” mentality. In Western culture, we accept that if there are two options, it is “either” this “or” that. It cannot be both. In Hebrew culture however, it is perfectly natural to assume a “and/or” mentality. But because we are influenced by the Greeks, it is difficult for us to accept things like the fact that light is both a wave and a particle. It’s got to be either one or the other, right? Which is why it is also difficult for us to accept Jesus being both God and man. And the Word being both with God and being God Himself.
Our apparent acceptance of things being plausibly one and/or the other is a new phenomenon, generally the result of philosophical laziness rather than real engagement with the issues at hand. And you’ll find that the embrace of inclusivity of all worldviews (tolerance) actually excludes every other stream of thought, because pretty much every other stream of thought claims to be exclusive…
A.J. also spent a few minutes discussing John the Baptist. To be honest, John the Baptist has always freaked me out a little bit. Let’s be honest. The dude ate locusts and honey and wandered in the desert and screamed insults at religious people and offended pretty much everybody so much that some spoiled princess wanted to chop his head off at some birthday shindig. He also is the one who said, regarding Christ “He must increase, I must decrease.” That is a tough thing to say and actually mean. I have always found it difficult to relate to John or to want to be remotely like him.
But A.J. reminded us that John is described as a “witness.” I hate how this word has become trivialized and sod over with layers of triteness and cliché. Honestly, I feel embarrassed using that word, especially when we toss it around like “it will hurt my witness” or “he’s got a good witness” as if “witness” were some trinket or Tamagachi that you can pull out if and whenever you wanted. But the fact is, the reason “witness” sounds distasteful to me is because I’ve forgotten the meaning of the word. A witness is not just someone who casually says, “oh yeah, I saw that.” Nor is it someone who overspiritualizes what it means to “share Jesus” with people.
In a court of law, a witness had an experience in the reality of the moment, and therefore can communicate that to the people who need to hear it. The Christian life as experiential. This is when we move from philosophy into the reality of life… when knowledge translates into an attitude, a way of life.
So in Acts 1, when Christ says “you will be my witnesses,” in a way he’s mirroring John the Baptist’s mission. He’s telling us, “you have had this incredible insight into the precision of who God is—namely Me. All those hours I spent with you, showing what God really is like and what kind of community He wants to create…This is reality. This is your experience. And you are going to enter into a conversation with the rest of the world about me, helping to finish out a task that started at the creation of the world.” This is what John was called to, and this is also reflects my own part in this metanarrative–or epic story, as my good friend Josh would say.
I have started to become apathetic to things up until recently. My whole world has been turned upside down in a lot of ways these past few weeks. Actually, A.J. sounded fairly cynical and jaded about a lot of things during the rest of his message. I think if I had been in a different frame of mind, I probably would have been annoyed at his attitude. But I appreciated his honesty and refusal to gloss things over. A lot of crap—and terribly tragic things–have gone down in the past few months in L.A. and it was clear that things are not going well. There is a lot to be sad and broken about. But he drew attention to the human experience… if we don’t feel alive we’re not living. He said “I’d rather feel pain than be numb.” Garden State moment…
Americans in general are so insulated and consumed with so many things that are not important, and I will put myself at the top of that list of guilty names.
It helps to hurt.