Beyond Cognition

I am realizing more and more every day just how cognitively driven my faith has been – the faith that was imparted to me has been. It was drilled into my head, usually subconsciously – the more you know about the Bible, the better off you’ll be. It’s almost as if I came to expect that there would be a test given at the gates of heaven and if I knew enough, I’d get in, but if I didn’t, there would be big trouble. Now, we would never admit this. We knew (again, cognitively) that we were saved by faith – but again, even this was just a matter of fact – cognitive knowledge.

And now I’m learning to see the Gospel as so much more than cognition. As a matter of fact, how much cognition is there? The Gospel, as Paul writes it, is simple: Christ, the God-man, came in the flesh, died on the cross, and was raised from the dead. If we could just focus on that! Why do we allow so much of the other stuff bog us down? That is the core of the Gospel. If a person is baptized as an infant, does that threaten the core of the Gospel? I don’t know that it does. In all cases they are acting in a desire to appease the God of the Gospel. Do some come closer than others? Sure. It is unsettling, it is confusing, but it seems to be more in line with the biblical story than where many Christian groups find themselves currently.

Shane Claiborne is on to something. He’s too radical for many folks, and they can easily miss what he’s on to. I have a great deal of respect for him and what he’s doing with the Simple Way project, but I haven’t sold my house and taken my family to inner city Columbus. I see the destitution there nearly every day, and believe me my heart cries out for there and we’ve had discussions about going down there, but I remain in my suburban comfort shell. But I think I see what he’s on to. His message is . . . “let’s stop talking, and DO something.” Do something. It is the message of the cross. It is a story invoking action. Hearing the Gospel we should be compelled to action. Instead, we have been compelled only as far as belief . . . as statement of fact.

I really believe that Shane Claiborne is what he claims to be – an ordinary radical. That is what more of us need to strive to be. Instead of just doing something, I hear too many people worried about the “red flags.” “This sounds like the social gospel, didn’t the liberal project fail?” “What about their soul?” “They’re just users, we can do more productive things with our money.” I would be more interested in these conversations as I think they raise valid concerns, but I’m unwilling to have them with people who aren’t doing anything – anything more than “being a good nice person.” Shame on us if we think that Christ came and died brining the kingdom of heaven to earth so that we could be nice Christian people. I am looking for examples of nice, Christian people in Scripture and I don’t see many there. I see radicals. Men and women who would die for their faith. Who would risk the security of their family for the sake of justice and mercy and kingdom ethics. The kingdom of God is at hand! I love Shane Claiborne’s statement, it’s one I have adopted into my daily thoughts and prayers, “Another world is possible.”

We’re not stuck with this one! We’re given this one, and as Christians it is our duty to make it look “on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus calls down heaven on earth, not us to a glorious place on high . . . but heaven on earth . . . now! Wow! (By the way, I’m pretty sure I ripped that rant off of Rob Bell in Velvet Elvis, so don’t call me a pirate here . . . ha ha). Go and change the world . . . I really and truly believe we can do it . . . we are just going to have to get uncomfortable, unsafe, and unsure.


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