Friday, July 11, 2014

My Love/Hate Relationship with the Nothingmores

The study of ultimate truth, and the unyielding quest for human significance and meaning-making is the most profound journey one can undertake. For me, being a pastor is about taking that journey very seriously and candidly, while also helping other people to engage in the same journey. Unfortunately, in an effort to help people get going, we pastors sometimes make the mistake of becoming nothingmores.

I have spent years (literally) trying to wrap my mind, my heart, my soul, around truths like “Trinity,” the “God-Man,” the nature of “canon,” and employment of “Sacrament.” The struggle to understand, to grasp, to experience; has been a struggle yielding much reward, and joy. I’m still reaping a rich harvest in the grain-field of basic Christian understanding.

One of the problems with Christianity is the paradoxical nature of the most basic truths. They are difficult to grasp. How could God love a creation so deeply flawed, when He can’t stand imperfections? How could Jesus be the very enemy of sin and evil— yet love evil, sinful people so much that He volunteered to die in a rescue attempt? How could such a loving and powerful Being, once victorious, entrust the rescue of the world to people like Peter, Paul, you, and me?

The answers to these questions need to really be considered. They require spiritual fitness. A life lived in the presence of God is not for the weak or faint of heart.

Pastors, however, tend the flock of God. The flock of God is full of weak and fainthearted people. How do we help such people to endure their struggle with deep and profound truth? Unfortunately, sometimes we turn to the easy way: the doctrine of nothingmore.

The doctrine of nothingmore is how we make deep things a bit shallower. It’s how we make mind-blowing truth more digestible. After all, you won’t get a scared child into the lake without telling them, “Sweetie, the lake is nothingmore than your splash pool at home. It’s just a bit bigger.” And truthfully, while the child’s fears may be but at ease, and they may approach the lapping shore more confidently; the nothingmore actually makes the lake much more dangerous to the child. The child actually thinks the lake is as tame as splash pool.


Perhaps an example would be helpful. I've heard it taught before (I've even been guilty of it): “Baptism is nothingmore than a public declaration of a personal faith. Nothingmore than a sign of the work of God.”


Or again: “The book of Revelation is nothingmore than an ancient apostle having a vision of the future, and trying to describe to his ancient audience the incredible technology that he sees.”

Nothingmore? Nothingmore!

We, who steward the Word and Sacrament of God, perhaps have allowed the doctrine of nothingmore to drain the sacred Cup of its mysterious wine; stale the Bread of its sweet body; and vacuum out the Breath of scripture.

I think we should be aware that our reductionism is lending itself towards robbery. Not only are we robbing ourselves of a fuller understanding of the mysteries of God, but we rob the weak and fainthearted an opportunity to bravely plunge into the depths of His Presence.

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