Thursday, 24 May 2007

The Christian Pragmatist

I broadly consider myself an Evangelical Protestant with sympathies toward the more intelligent, theological Charismatic (if that isn’t a tautology) end of the church. We have been through a time of great upheaval in the Christian circles in which I have moved and I have sensed and seen a good deal of disillusion. In reflecting on these things I have begun to recognise a real need in my own life and surely in the life of the ordinary Christian for a true biblical Christian pragmatism.

There has been a good deal of hullabaloo about the dramatic and the immanent in the working of God in our lives and I am aware of a dangerous romanticism surrounding the experiences we are supposed to be having in these days. We have lost sight of the sound biblical need to simply persevere. Christians still suffer disappointments, struggle with temptations, and suffer the normal sometimes-dreadful consequences of being human in the 21st Century. Christians can struggle with guilt because they are not overcoming and triumphing when what is required is perseverance.

When I became a Christian I was thrilled to learn that my salvation has three elements, i.e. I am saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved, indicating clearly a process of sanctification and offering ‘more to come’. The emphasis these days seems to be on the first part of the process and the immanence of God to the exclusion of the process through which we are going and the goal to which we press. As Paul put it, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or are already been made perfect but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view" (Philippians 3:12-15)

There is a call here for a Christian pragmatism that has been obscured by the excitement of event-based and phenomenon-driven Christianity. After many years my heart goes especially to those who find themselves struggling with the frustrations of every day life, disappointments and loss, temptations to sin and the all-too-prevalent feeling of guilt at living all-too-ordinary lives when everything tells them that they ought to be ‘overcomers’, ‘more than conquerors’, ‘soaring’, etc. etc.

Now I am not one to discourage the overcomers amongst us and I praise God for those who inspire us with their lives and triumphs. But I do feel that we ought also to praise God for those who persevere, those who ‘press on’ but are all-too-aware that they have not yet obtained these things. There are times when we know triumphs and times when we know discouragement and disappointment. My concern is that in those times we should be people who don’t give in to giving in, that we persevere and take comfort in the simple fact of our perseverance.

"Do not judge me by the heights I have attained but by the depths from which I have climbed"

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