It’s the American way of religion (I’m not willing to actually call it Christianity), having your own personal Jesus. He’s whoever you want him to be, ready when you are, your own frozen, ready-to-microwave savior. That is what we’ve preached for years, isn’t it? “For God so loved you …?”
How about this one: God loves you so much that if you were the only sinner on Earth, Jesus would have died for you. Is that so? Not that God would have let you burn, but do you think perhaps He’d have a different plan for “individual” issues?
Sometime in the last month or so I got this little e-mail newsletter from CT / Leadership Journal with a link to an article by a theology professor named John Suk, from their Out of Ur blog, on this very issue. His main assertion is that the language of a personalized religion is actually using the language of secularization, and as a result we are making Jesus less like God and more like us. He asks:
Is this possible? Do many Christians have a personal relationship not so much with Jesus, but with something in their heads, with something that they’re comfortable with, a social construction driven by their need to go easy on themselves?
Ouch. However, if the shoe fits…
One of the results of the emphasis on our own personal Jesus is that it all too often gives way to our own personal disappointments, when our own personal genie-in-a-bottle won’t give us all of our 3 wishes. Do you know people who have “lost faith” for this very reason? I do. Not that this is the main reason to question the American personal-pan Christianity; the main reason is that the Bible doesn’t actually support this perspective.
Caveat: I am not poo-pooing any notion of a personal, individual aspect to Christianity. That would be stupid. What I am trying to get across in this series of “personal” posts is that any understanding of the personal aspect of Christianity must be first seen in the context of the universal, covenantal, corporate nature of Christianity.
There are, in fact, very important personal aspects to Christianity, which were, at best, marginalized during the “state-church” eras, as well as in many of the established churches during the 1st half of the 20th Century. Certainly the “personal” evangelical movement was helpful in reestablishing some of these things, but as is often the case, the result has been error to the opposite extreme, in part, I think, because it removed the personal aspect from the broader, covenantal nature of the church & theology.
Next I’ll try to put some of the personal aspects of faith in context, so stay tuned …