Lesson 10: Two Christianities

Televangelist About ten weeks ago, I started using a theology of the cross in an attempt to understand the deep divisions in our church and society. I consistently found myself examining two different kinds of Christianity whose characteristics could surprisingly also be applied to the divisions in society.

One group described our relationship, whether with God or other people, as making a deal, the other as engaging in a love affair. Neither group expressed any appreciation for the other perspective, leaving the government paralyzed and the church witness severely damaged.

In the present situation, making a deal has nothing to do with compromising for the common good. Everything is focused on getting what you want. Working for terms that give you an advantage in achieving power or making a profit is regarded as intellectual achievement.

In this kind of Christianity, salvation is defined as fulfilling the terms of an agreement. You belong to a particular church, say a particular prayer, believe a particular doctrine, or perform particular acts. Because getting it right is foremost, you might make deals with the government to make your particular position public law This group adamantly opposes abortion, same sex marriage, and anything they regard as suppressing freedom of religion.

The other kind of Christianity believes in the primacy of love and uses it to critique all thought, belief, and action. Living in loving relationships with God and others supposedly enables believers to come to new understandings demanded by new circumstances. It warns making deals without love might lead to selling your soul. This group accepts legalizing some forms of abortion and same sex marriage. It also fails to see secret plots to close churches.

A theology of the cross certainly has more in common with this latter group. The crucifixion defines divine love with Christ giving himself unconditionally for humanity and the world. Although Jesus expresses feeling abandoned by all, he forgives those who abuse and kill him. Love understood here as compassion is willingness to suffer for another.

At the same time, this theology impels its advocates to continue seeking reconciliation with the other group. During the Reformation. the Church took sides that demonized one another and literally battled it out in a very similar dispute over law and gospel, works righteousness and grace. Then as now, both sides used governments for their advantage.

Right now, it is extremely difficult to know how the two kinds of Christianity can come together. However, because both perspectives appear in some form throughout the Bible, there are plenty of grounds for appreciating, discussing, and somewhat reconciling the two positions.

Next week, I want to examine more deeply love in a theology of the cross.

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