last two weeks, as I read Bob Sorge’s discussion on quietness and confidence in The Fire of Delayed Answers,
I saw where the discussion was at
least partially headed – the theological chasm that has divided evangelical
Christianity for a long time.
last week what a difficult time we had finding a church when we moved to
St. Louis from Houston. We had been attending a non-denominational church in
Houston. We were in our mid-20s, and were something of innocents when it came to
theology wars. Sorge would say our church in Houston was in the “confidence
camp” – the camp that emphasizes “the availability of God’s promises and power
to those who believe.” We ended up joining a church in St. Louis that Sorge
would say was in the “quietness camp,” which emphasizes the sovereignty of God.
is probably the right word, although we never heard anyone in our church in
Houston refer to the theological debate between the two. Later, when we joined
a “confidence” church in St. Louis, again we rarely if ever heard about the
church we joined in the quietness camp, however, was anything but quiet. Here,
the debate was a living, breathing thing. The confidence crowd was simply
wrong. Flat-out wrong. And it was discussed a lot. Sunday School classes. Small-group
Bible studies. Membership classes. Training for deacons (I stepped away from
this training when the book we were using went way off the deep end about “confidence”
churches; it didn’t help to be told that this was a standard, widely accepted
problem was that what we were hearing about the Christians in the “other camp”
simply didn’t square with what our experience had been in Houston.
had walked into the great divide in the evangelical church, and we were
ill-equipped to deal with it. We didn’t even know there was a divide.
uses this discussion about quietness and confidence as a lens for a discussion
about the kingdom of God. Is the kingdom something you select, or does it
select you? And there it is in flaming technicolor: free will or predestination?
am not drawn to this debate. I’m aware of it: I’ve read about it; I’ve even
studied it. But it’s never drawn me in, on one side or the other. (I’m also not
drawn into the debate over human origins; there might possibly be a
connection.) Perhaps that explains why I can be comfortable in churches on both
sides of the question, except when they go overboard (like our first church in
St. Louis). I understand that people can become quite exercised about it, but I’m
not one of them. (And this may well reflect my own Lutheran upbringing.)
turns to the words of Jesus in the gospels of Luke and Matthew.
Luke, Jesus says we must receive the kingdom of God as a little child, and note
the word “received.” That means it’s given to us; we don’t make the choice. (I
hear cheers from the quietness camp.)
Matthew, Jesus suggests the kingdom is taken, and taken violently (likely where
Flannery O’Connor found the title of her story “The Violent Bear It Away”). Unless
you think the two gospels are on different sides of the question, Luke also
expresses the same idea of taking in “Seek and you shall find.”
which is it? Quietness or confidence? Receiving or taking?
says that Jesus simply answers “Yes.”
by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading The Fire of Delayed Answers. To see more posts on this chapter, “Waiting
for Delayed Answers.” Please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.