We are a church that embraces at its core a radical idea that we cannot save ourself. We believe that our fundamental longings cannot be met by either fervent religion OR fervent self-actualization. We hold to the humble notion that humanity as a whole needs to be rescued. Yes, there is much that is good about our culture, about our altruism, about our philanthropy, and about our alleged ‘random acts of kindness’, but at the end of the day, when left to ourselves, they all fall way short of reconciling us to the One who made us. At the end of the day we know we don’t have what it takes to overcome our guilt or our dissapointment or our craving or our fear.
Tim Keller writes well about those who face this reality of deficit and turn to either fervent religion or fervent self-actualization. He says neither gets us the result we seek:
“The story of Jesus tells us that our root problem is not just failing in our obediance to God [not being good enough…] but in RELYING on our obedience [being really, really good] to save us. Therefore, the gospel is a ‘third way’– neither religion NOR irreligion.
The religious person may say, “I am doing the right things that God commands” and the irreligious person may say, “I decide what is right and wrong for myself.” But both ways reject Jesus as Savior (though they may revere Him as ‘Example’ or ‘Helper’). Both ways are strategies for self-salvation– both actually keep control of their own lives.” [Keller]
In religion we coerce God into saving us by doing what we think He wants– in this we get the worst of fundamentalist, self-righteous Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Through irreligion we keep control by just doing what makes us happy– with the result that we take the impossible, inconsistent posture of believing we can make decisions that only affect us. Neither religion or irreligion fixes the most profound gaps in our heart.
What is it about Jesus’ story that keeps us from narrow, rigid legalism and moralism on the one hand, and from incoherent hedonism and relativism on the other? Why are folks so quick to margianalize and dismiss Jesus? Why are we so attracted to religious or irreligious fixes? What is the attraction of control?