You can understand how people become jaded in the aftermath of scandal, and the damage always seems to be compounded when moral collapse occurs within the church. When our trusted religious leaders fall, the betrayal feels more personal.
We were committed members of a Charismatic/Pentecostal church that was torn apart by the sin of its leaders. My walk of faith began with a traumatic experience where I saw the most drastic consequences of incomplete theology play out. I know that I was affected deeply, and you can only imagine what it must have been like for my parents after twenty years of ministry and investment at The Cathedral.
But I moved on. Dusting myself off, I took a few salvageable shards from my upbringing and continued to press onward in my Christian walk.
Over time, I began to think that my theology had become well rounded. I considered myself as having moved on from the affective Charismatic tradition to the “next level” doctrinal clarity of Reformed teaching. But there was a new problem: The more I distanced myself from the “emotional side” of Christianity, the more I embraced intellectualism instead of Christ. I had written off my old tradition entirely instead of incorporating the good in it.
I became a functional fatalist. Espousing a cold “what will be will be” nonchalance, I found that I now had trouble believing in the relational aspects of Christianity. Valuing God’s sovereignty over His fatherly affection, I had trouble believing in God’s interceding disposition towards His people. I mistook intimacy for sentimentalism and rejected it. Although my theology had “adapted” in response to my experiences in the Charismatic church, it was still incomplete, and therefore my worship was also. Like an unbalanced seesaw, by mindset had reversed position, and I was feeling the nauseating effects.
Let me tell you from experience: the jaded armor of fatalism isn’t the armor of God. Sure, it makes you “tough,” but there is a difference between automatically resigning yourself (and the world around you) to the worst-case scenario and actively believing in God’s intervention. Resignation kills worship; hope brings it alive.
Hardness is not strength. Callousness is not Godliness. Resignation is not endurance. We are called to “take up the whole armor of God,” and “having done all, to stand firm.” 1 We are called to “pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” and to persevere, “making supplication for all the saints.” 2 The disposition of callous, stoic, quasi-faith does not lend itself to such an expectant, prayerful posture—the worshipful positioning that we are actually called to. You can’t just “stand firm” without doing anything else.
And here lies the potential for the slow death of spirituality in Reformed Christianity. If we gradually become fatalists, we will eventually lose our belief that God will answer our prayers at all. And it’s often too insidious to recognize when the mindset has set in. We are desperate to defend ourselves against the ills of the “fix-everything-for-me-now” Prosperity Doctrine that has crept into the Charismatic church, but at what cost?
Once you become a fatalist, your Christianity loses its urgency, and the social implications of your faith become deemphasized. Evangelism is something that God will do without you anyway. Service ceases to seem important, since God will redeem the fallen world in the future, regardless of the progress that is made in the present. Corporate worship is bereft of expectancy and desire for God to definitively reveal more of Himself. Prayer becomes a ritualistic falling on the sword instead of a desperate call for the help of an ever-present, ever-caring Father.
When pain and suffering came my way, I prided myself on my ability to remain unshakeable. But what I thought was godly resilience was actually worldly disengagement. What I thought to be “joy in all circumstances” 3 was actually a shoulder shrug, a “whatever.” Maybe this goes without saying, but “whatever” has no place in worship. “Que sera sera” is not the correct response of the Christian to a troubled, hurting world. Our joy becomes full when we acknowledge that our pain is significant before finding godly contentment despite it. When you write off suffering as inconsequential, you rob God of glory and the opportunity to intervene in your heart or in the situation. Fatalism is not contentment.
When we cry out, God answers. God’s primary call is not for us to be tough and silent. The day is not won with grit and the clenching of the jaw but with trust. The ultimate good news is that when we were weak, God showed Himself to be strong. 4 Even (and especially) after we have been saved, this holds true. God meets the worshipper who is crying out for help and rejects the worship of the one who stoically celebrates their own endurance and strength.
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