Thursday, August 26, 2010 | By: Zachary Bartels

More Than Questions

I recently put together a new web page to serve as an outreach tool for my church. You can check it out by clicking on www.morethanquestions.com. Or, if you’re super lazy, you can just read some of the text below.



These days, it’s cool to look for God—just as long as you don’t find him.


Today, our culture is all about “being spiritual, but not religious;” all about eternally seeking the Divine, but never claiming to have “found God.” The answer, we’re told, is to just keep asking the questions. From movie stars to academics to corporate gurus, the wisdom du jour tells us that, when it comes to spiritual things, the journey is important—not the destination. We value having the conversation, not reaching any conclusions. Looking within ourselves, not without. We’re into doubt, not certainty. In fact, if you think you really know something about God, you’re doing it wrong.


Churches have even begun to echo this spiritual fad. We’ve moved beyond the dogmatism and exclusive religious claims of ages past, and into a more flexible, organic spirituality—one more suited for today’s world. We’ve embraced the best aspects of the world’s faith traditions while rejecting the antiquated, narrow-minded elements of organized religion. After all,every religion teaches basically the same thing.

We’ve spiritually evolved.

So, why are people feeling emptier than ever?



Maybe we’ve missed something. Something big.

Maybe we weren’t meant to float from spiritual fad to spiritual fad, patching together a god of our own design. Perhaps we were intended to land on some answers. Perhaps God created us with some destination in mind, not just an aimless journey. What if he intended for us to actually find him? If that were the case, would you want to know?



Well, if you do, you’ll have to head over to www.morethanquestions.com and check it out. Hurry, the suspense is killing you. Literally, it’s slowly killing you.

 

26 reader comments:

chamblee54 said...

Do you have a link for the "wisdom du jour"?

Jacob said...

Your line,"We won’t hit you with some Papyrus font slogan" made my day. Very nice. I know some people who need to read that and Lord willing will be passing it on. I don't think any of them are in Lansing though. I have a question though, on the picture with the smiley face and all the religious symbols, what religion does the top one correspond to? The little man.

ZSB said...

Chamblee, see any college sophomore's blog.

Jacob, the little man, I guess, just represents man-centeredness. That graphic is the logo of the Unitarian Universalist Church, but with the oil lamp in the middle replaced with a smiley face.

Jacob said...

Oh wow. I'd never seen that before and didn't know it was their logo. I thought you had made it. I figured it might've meant works-righteousness, he's stretching and striving and doing his best to try to reach Heaven! But yours sounds more right.

chamblee54 said...

Do you have a link to "any college sophomore's blog"? A specific post that addresses these issues would be helpful.
Think of this as being a paper to be submitted for one of your "multiple degrees". You need to show where you get your information.

ZSB said...

No, I don't need to cite specific examples when I'm anecdotally describing a general cultural phenomenon on my own blog. That's where you're wrong. Well, that's one of the areas where you’re wrong.

But if you must have a specific example of that kind of empty, vague, "all about the journey" spirituality, check out http://bohemianbloggess.blogspot.com/ or http://www.randybuist.com/ or http://chamblee54.wordpress.com/ or pretty much any episode of Oprah. Or read The Secret or The Shack or anything by Deepak Chopra

ZSB said...

Oh, and I am turning over a new leaf here and making a solemn vow to no longer feed the trolls. All attempts to derail comment threads with irrelavent or semi-relavent tangents will be deleted. And this is for everyone: I'm glad my words got your mind whirring in a different direction, but the proper place for those spin-off thoughts would be your own blog...

chamblee54 said...

I looked at the UU website (http://www.uua.org/) and they said the logo of the UU church is the chalice. I don't know where those other symbols came from.

ZSB said...

I found the above graphic on the site http://www.discoveruu.com/

randy buist said...

Hi Zach,

Thanks for the shout out regarding the state of my faith in Jesus Christ! You mentioned my blog: randybuist.com

Perhaps your evaluation of my faith isn't too 'right on' as we've never met. Perhaps you faith is spot on with a Cornerstone degree and being an author and all.

Perhaps we should meet over a beer and discuss the biblical text. How about visiting emergent west Michigan some month or hanging out at Founders this Wednesday night for a heartfealt and honest conversation.

In Christ.

ZSB said...

Hey, Randy...
We've never met but we have interacted at some length on a number of blogs and on facebook and, if memory serves, via e-mail.

My mention of your blog was not an indictment of your faith. Or an "evalutation" of your faith. I was using your blog as a representative of emergent blogs everywhere. You should be honored. The notion that "the journey is more important than the destionation" and that we should concern ourselves with "deeds not creeds" are common sentiments on emergent blogs, including your own.

I am offering what I believe to be a better alternative to that worldview. However, (unlike some of my fellow young, restless reformed types) I don't doubt your faith, its sincerity, or even its efficacy. In fact, I said as much, even in one of my more reactionary, harsh, and intemperate posts...

Unfortunately, I no longer live in West Michigan and I hate beer, but I would not be surprised if our paths crossed at some point.

All the best,
Zach

randy buist said...

Zach,

If our lives are faithful to Christ, we don't need to worry about the destination. On the other hand, if we live for the purpose of getting to heaven, then we're really following Jesus for our own sake rather than pursuing the things of the kingdom.

Paul writes, "For me to die is gain. For me to live is Christ." He also wrote, "Follow me as I follow Christ." The journey was incredibly important to the Apostle Paul if we take these words literally.

I'm not in the mood for harping. I just think that when you're true to the biblical text, you will find that our lives, and the deeds of our lives matter greatly to the biblical writers.

Your alternative worldview doesn't seem better if it isn't true to the biblical text. That's where I land as an emergent follower of Jesus.

ZSB said...

I am not suggesting that the "journey" is unimportant...only that the greatest journey in the world is useless if it ends in destruction. Jesus warned over and again that, regardless of how much we enjoy this life, how many good deeds we do, or how well we love God and love others (i.e. how well we keep the law), destruction awaits those who do not repent and believe the Gospel. Therefore, the worldview I am putting forth (which is the historic Christian faith) is infinitely more biblical than the kind of end-run funny-play that we see men like Brian McLaren doing with the text of Scripture.

The trend in emergent circles (more and more with every passing month) is to presume to stand over the Scriptures, rather than making ourselves subject to them——according to the intent of the human and divine authors. This is why I land as a decidedly un-emergent, confessional, orthodox Christian.

randy buist said...

In contrast thought, evangelical faith in America has largely forgotten that faith is a journey. John Bunyan's "Pilgrims Progress" isn't the way the church understand's faith. In addition, there isn't much room for people who are searching for the ways of the kingdom within this way of thinking.

While it can be fairly argued that some people who are searching for Yahweh seem to be moving in the wrong direction, we also need to remember that God is sovereign. We can do all we want to 'save' people, but it isn't our works that move the Holy Spirit into the lives of individuals.

For all those who are calling 'wolf' toward emergent land, I find it startling that the 'young reformed guns' are so concerned. A sovereign God leads. Period.

Instead of settling into the role of alarmists, it would be more helpful to walk alongside people who are searching, who find themselves on a journey. If they are indeed searching, then the doors to the kingdom will be opened at some point. This is how the kingdom works.

To make the claims of being 'un-emergent' and confessional places you above anyone who may be searching. From my perspective, the biblical text calls us to walk in the midst of those who are seeking God.

It's a far more exciting way to experience God than from within the church doors shouting 'sinner' to those who have yet to be found.

ZSB said...

I find it very ironic that you try and spin things so that it's the emergent camp that embraces God's sovereignty...

I'm already getting bored by this—the same old circular emergent "conversation" rehashed for the billionth time—but...

• I don't know anyone in the circles I travel who "shouts 'sinner' from the church doors to those who have yet to be found." This is a straw man argument. I do know many (including myself) who proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus name. Ya know, like Jesus commanded us to do.

• You wrote, "For all those who are calling 'wolf' toward emergent land, I find it startling that the 'young reformed guns' are so concerned. A sovereign God leads. Period." One could easily make the same charge against Jesus, St. Paul, and St. John, who warned about wolves in sheep's clothing, commanded us to be on guard against false prophets, and advised us to watch our for the leaven of the Pharisees, etc. Should they have just comforted themselves that “a sovereign God leads. Period...?” Of course not. Because it's not one or the other; you're building a false disjunction here. God is sovereign, and we are to be on guard against those bringing another Gospel (see Gal 1). It's not an either/or situation.

• Re: all this stuff about people who are seeking God and how we need to tip-toe around, doctrinally, so as not to scare them off: "There is none who seeks God; no not one." (Rom 3:11-12). The one who is seeking is Jesus Christ, who seeks men's souls (Luke 19:10), and the means by which he saves them is the proclamation of the Gospel. That's what's at stake.

• You wrote, "If they are indeed searching, then the doors to the kingdom will be opened at some point. This is how the kingdom works." Nope, that's not how the Kingdom of God works. Not according to God's Word and the faith handed down once for all to the saints. What you've described is how the Kindgom works according to the Pelagian Heresy, but not the Kingdom as Jesus taught it and the Church has historically understood it. Salvation is a monergistic work of God alone. (Cf. the aforementioned sovereignty of God).

Otternam said...

Randy, You said: "To make the claims of being 'un-emergent' and confessional places you above anyone who may be searching. From my perspective, the biblical text calls us to walk in the midst of those who are seeking God."

Can you describe what this looks like?

Otternam said...

Oh, and Randy, you picked the wrong guy with whom to drink. Too bad I'm not in GR any more, I'd meet you at a real bar like Viceroy and we could have a great convo.

Otternam said...

Wait, Randy, we *have* had drinks together before...

randy buist said...

Zach,

You want to be right with your understanding of God that you can't allow people to stand where they are standing. In other words, you picked a fight with the guy who visited a Unitarian church. You claim to be above the emergent crowd because they don't follow Jesus Christ...

But in so doing, you loose the ability to talk with people who don't know the ways of the kingdom. Showing people the ways of the kingdom is done with gentleness, respect, goodness, kindness, and honesty. (or so this is my reading of the biblical text).

Finally, I need to be completely honest. I'm tired of Cornerstone& GRTS students and graduates claiming to be Calvinists. The school is a baptist seminary that is trying to get out of the ruts of its historic baptist theology.

I'm not against the place, but I am against its graduates claiming to be Calvinists. Come on. Be honest about the school you attended.

Wheaton graduates claim to be evangelicals. Bob Jones graduates acknowledge its a really conservative school. Hope/Western & Calvin graduates acknowledge the Calvinist & reformed traditions of the school. Then why do GRTS students & grads claim to be Calvinists?

It just lacks a ton of integrity... perhaps I should let the unitarian guy who just wants to enjoy God call you out on this....

Otternam said...

Randy, what would you call a Fuller/Calvin attendee?

ZSB said...

You said...
You picked a fight with the guy who visited a Unitarian church.

When did this happen??? The only reference to the Unitarian church was the graphic that I pulled from their site. Who is the "guy who visited a Unitarian church" and when did I "pick a fight with him?" None of my readers is Unitarian that I know of.

You said...
You claim to be above the emergent crowd because they don't follow Jesus Christ...

When did this happen??? I am accused here of two things: claiming to be "above" emergent people and claiming that they do not follow Jesus Christ. When did either of these things happen?!

You, sir, are making false accusations. How loving. How tolerant.

You said...
But in so doing, you loose the ability to talk with people who don't know the ways of the kingdom.

Wow, that's another really serious charge to make. So you're telling me that my whole life's calling and vocation, which is preaching the Word of God to Christians and non-Christians alike is a waste, because I don't have the ability to explain the "ways of the kingdom" to people who need to hear it. Wow. Is this the kind of "heartfealt and honest conversation" you wanted to have with me at Founders? Fortunately for me, your accusation is again unfounded. God has gifted me mightily to proclaim the Gospel and I have seen many unbelievers come to faith. Again, you are making false accusations. This doesn't seem like the touchy-feely, "letting people be where they are" kind of ethos you keep promoting so strenuously and self-righteously...

You wrote:
Finally, I need to be completely honest. I'm tired of Cornerstone& GRTS students and graduates claiming to be Calvinists. The school is a baptist seminary that is trying to get out of the ruts of its historic baptist theology.

HAHAHAHAHA!!!! If you knew even the slightest smidgen of Baptist history you wouldn't make such ridiculous statements. Baptists are historically Calvinist. Have you heard of the 1689 London Baptist Confession? Have you heard of the Southern Baptist Convention? Do you know of John Gill or Charles Spurgeon? Have you heard of the particular Baptists? Are you aware of any church history that pre-dates the current human fads, trends, and Oprah-speak that you follow? Maybe you're familiar with John Piper and Al Mohler? "You're Baptist, not Calvinist..." Thanks; I needed a laugh this morning.

I can't believe I just spent six minutes answering all this nonsense. I think Wittmer was right and your comments really are self-refuting. As such, I am officially done with you. Not because you're emergent, but because you're what one might call "an accuser" (or, in the Greek tongue, a "diabolos").

And a hypocritical accuser at that. While all of your words pridefully indicate that you are leaps and bound beyond me and my brothers, spiritually, because you are so very kind, humble, understanding, etc., you jumped into my comment feed spewing so much pent-up venom, I'm left wondering where it all came from. I hope you figure it out some day.

All the best,
ZSB

Ted Kluck said...

Randy,

I never do this (comment on blogs), but I've got to jump in here, and then immediately jump out again (read: I won't be reading responses or answering emails on any of it...).

Full disclosure: Zach is a great friend and a business partner and this is me, at some level, coming to his defense.

Context: We're both bored with/tired of the "Emergent vs. Calvinist" conversation, and I sense that you are as well. In fact, I've been blissfully unaware of what has been going on in either "camp" for the better part of the last two years. I also think there's plenty to critique/lampoon in the Calvinist camp. But all of that said, I do think his More Than Questions website is spot-on and full of the gospel.

Let me share a story with you: We (Zach and I) had lunch in East Lansing last week and as I was preparing to leave he grabbed a sheaf of job applications out of his car, which he was preparing to walk around and deliver on behalf of a kid in his church who was unemployed and dealing with family issues. In the years that I've known Zach, I've seen him open his home to his congregants, protect at-risk kids in his congregation against physical and emotional harm, and generally be the kind of guy that you and I would strive to be vis a vis "reaching out" and "engaging the culture." He does much more than stand at the door of his church and "shout wolf."

Here's the thing: You guys disagree. People disagree. It happens. To a certain degree it's what makes the book industry interesting. But this thread has gotten boring, as is so often the case with this discussion.

Respectfully Submitted and Then Forgotten About,
Ted

Otternam said...

Randy,anything else you want to talk about before we close the door on this thread? I'm still up for more discussion, but please keep the postmodern deconstruction to a minimum. When you make claims about certain graduates due to the college they attended (and erroneous ones to boot), you move past the naive into the realm of the absurd.

We love you Randy and we plead for your repentance and pray for your disbelief- we just can't allow you to speak such error unchallenged.

Choose your path wisely.

randy buist said...

I love it when people make up names on the net with hidden real faces ...

Zach,
remember I didn't start this thread by claiming you acted like a college sophomore... And I've lived in the kingdom a decade or so longer than you... I'm just saying Yahweh and the ways of the kingdom have taught me a few things in 44 years.

ZSB said...

You said:
I love it when people make up names on the net with hidden real faces ...

Who is doing this? Ted and I have used our own names and quite public personnas on this thread. And I'd bet you green money that Otter, whom I've known for 15 years since my freshman year @ Cornerstone (and whose real name is incredibly close to "Otter") would gladly direct you to his facebook page, real identity, etc....ya know, if you had answered any of his attempts to enter into "dialogue" with you, rather than just ignoring him.

Your claim to superior wisdom based on your being in your forties while I am in my thirties is a virtual tapestry of logical fallacies. Instead of laying them all out, I simply refer you to the Scriptures, which uniformly show us that age is no guarantor of wisdom (see Eli, Caiphas, almost every king of the Northern Kingdom who reached old age, for a start).

They also make it pretty clear that you can spend decades looking into yourself and what you find will not necessarily have anything to do with YHWH. Having compared the things that McLaren, Jones, et. al teach with the Word of God, I can say with confidence that YHWH has nothing to do with them, other than to be saddened, angered, and diminished by them.

ZSB said...

By the way, if you read carefully, God is the object of the last sentence above, and the teachings of McLaren, Jones, et. al are the collective subject.