There is no such thing as pragmatic Christianity. Christianity is true because it’s true, not because it works.
We worship God because He is, and He is there; not because He happens to be what we’re looking for — what meets our needs right now. God does meet our needs, but He meets our real needs, not our “felt” needs. Our “felt” needs tend to be more closely associated with our wants, and God knows that what we want is not always the best thing for us. All it takes to learn that lesson is to raise a child through adolescence.
We follow Christ because He called us to, not because it’s going to feel good for us if we do. In fact, several times Jesus warned that those who followed Him would have a tougher road than those who don’t.
The danger of pragmatic Christianity is that it limits the mind to the practical. Truth is reduced to what works. The pragmatic Christian mind does not even try to reach beyond what it can grasp. We don’t need to have inquiring minds or the patience to contemplate and explore our world — we are too busy explaining everything. Instead of inquiring into God’s vast universe, our minds are already made up. There are no open ends. Instead of pulling up the planks of a platform of ideas to see what is underneath, historically and biblically, pragmatic Christians want all their ideas nailed down.
Walk into a Christian bookstore and look at how many books follow the premise of “this is what’s wrong with you and this is how we’re going to fix it.” Flip the book over and it will tell you how reading this book is going to make your life better. Imagine turning over a book and finding: “Read this book; it will make your life miserable!” Indeed, I have a friend — a pastor — who published a book titled: When Will My Life Not Suck? and the answer very boldly of him, is: probably never!
It may be that people, especially young people, might be finally tired of getting what they want. Some of them are deciding there must be more to life that just being happy. In a news interview I caught recently, an expert on Islam was asked why so many young people from all over the world are joining up with the Islamic State. His answer was basically that western culture offers young people a good time; the Islamic State offers them struggle, danger, and death. What would you choose?
I get this. Even though I’m not young anymore, I still want to go out in a blaze of glory, battling evil in the service of the King, not in a recliner in front of a TV.
If anyone is looking for adventure, they need not look any farther than Christianity. A little reading of the gospels convinces me that I already have this. I’m following Jesus, and Jesus never offered anyone a good time. For 2,000 years He’s been offering people the same thing: struggle, danger, and death, and most of us are already signed up. Read the fine print: you’re on the cutting edge of adventure! Stop fighting it, and go with it. Find out what you’re here for.
I read that book and had forgotten that I was going to have my 21 year old son read it. Very good book.
Had to add an Amen to this: “Jesus never offered anyone a good time. For 2,000 years He’s been offering people the same thing: struggle, danger, and death, and most of us are already signed up.” Yet the comfort I find in Him when going through those ‘struggles’ is amazing!
We are not in a self help religion but a help others religion which means it is not always blue skys and apple pie.
This came to mind as I read this Blog … A small group of us non-Catholic pastors have been going through St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises which includes this. I was struck by how “anti-my-theology” it is … I pray so often for an easier life for everyone and maybe I am wrong.
“The First Principle and Foundation”
… In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance
Before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice
And are not bound by some obligation.
We should not fix our desires on health or sickness,
Wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.
For everything has the potential of calling forth in us
A deeper response to our life in God.
Our only desire and our one choice should be this:
I want and I choose what better leads
To God’s deepening his life in me.
Very nice John – thank you for sharing!
Similarly, here’s an old and familiar “offering” for laymen and pastors alike:
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve;
I was made weak, that I might learn to humbly obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy;
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life;
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for,
But everything I had hoped for.
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.
That Anonymous person is pretty smart, eh.. LOL 🙂
Well said, John. You’ve been doing some thinking.
Wow my sister and I just got off the phone and I was telling her about the book Wild at Heart. You just gave me a summary about what we just finished talking about.
Amazing how the Holy Spirit works to bring things circular.
I have to share my crazy evening with you. I had an adventurous night!
It’s 2am and I’m still jacked up from all the commotion. This all happened in an hours time no joke.
It all started at 9:30pm I hear a really loud door slam next door like someone was having an awful fight. About 5 minutes later I hear what sounds like a cat fight outside my house and I realize my indoor cat is outside. I go out and find her bring her in. I grab my dogs and go to meet my friend for a walk. We meet a block down from my house and hear what sounds like fireworks going off. We can’t see them but they are fairly close by. They go on for 10 minute. We arrive at a park and sit down on a bench and talk about our day meanwhile a drone is buzzing around the park and the dogs are mesmerized while we are kind of wondering what’s going on. Ask my friend if she will call a friend of mine to calm him down about a package that he found addressed to a former tenant as he just moved in last month. He picked the package up and a vial fell out marked small pox. Within 5 minutes we hear sirens and I wonder if he’s called 911. The sirens end up at his apartments that are across from the park we are sitting in. They leave and the hazmat group shows up. A whole line of emergency vehicles are lining the street near my house. He gets taken in to have blood drawn to see if he’s been exposed to the virus and thank god he hadn’t been. My goodness the things that can happen in an hour are pretty incredible. It makes me want to go get involved in some crazy amazing things that make life full of LIVING. I’m tired sitting watching actors living adventurous lives on tv and talking about those adventurous lives to friends as if they are real. “Let’s Get To Living Our Lives On Purpose and Not on The Sofa.” Jesus Said Go and Let’s Go!!
Well that was certainly entertaining reading!
Reblogged this on the Truth Divide and commented:
I have nothing to add; thanks for this timely, and timeless word, John Fisher!