Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Faithfully Dangerous?

I stumbled across this half-finished post today. I think I started it about a year ago. So today I'll finish it.

Faithfully Dangerous. What's in a name? I guess I thought it was artsy and cool... My favorite band, Over the Rhine, on what is arguably their greatest album, Good Dog Bad Dog, has a great song called "Faithfully Dangerous." That's where I first heard the phrase.

And then I suppose I thought it made me sound kind of raw and authentic. Willing to say hard things. Willing to wrestle with real questions and be vulnerable to my friends and family... my ministry partners. I like the idea of being dangerous... What man doesn't want to be be thought of as dangerous? And faithful too... Faithful to his wife, faithful to his children, his friends, his colleagues... and above all, to his God. Faithfully dangerous. Nice.

Then it was all about the Journey, capital J. Readers of this blog are probably sick of reading about the Nightingales and their big leap of faith... But I discovered that to be faithful to the call of Jesus was dangerous! Your life could change. You might have to leave what was comfortable - friends, job, schools, life... and leap into the unknown. There were times it really did feel dangerous. Sometimes it still does.

Today. What does it mean today? I recently wrote about intellectual honesty and being willing to ask questions that we're "not allowed" to ask. I just started grad school, and we're wrestling through issues like the authority of scripture... Not whether it is authoritative, but how it's authoritative. Just last night I was so excited to read (in Craig Evans's Fabricating Jesus) that our faith is not dependent upon "mistake-free" scripture. I have seen too much of people twisting and turning scripture, trying desperately to "make it all work" together... explaining away the obvious contradictions, trying to prove things that really can't be proved. It's so refreshing to remember that the Apostles preached Christ crucified, risen and coming again. They didn't even HAVE the scriptures to try to defend! Our faith, our hope, our very lives are built on the reality of the risen Christ who is present among us and who is all about renewal, restoration, transformation and salvation! So... am I "allowed" to question and doubt the inerrancy of the scriptures? Maybe the better question to ask is, "Am I being formed and transformed by the Living God through the scriptures?" The answer to both questions is, thank God, yes.

And I suppose to some folks, these are "dangerous" thoughts and ideas. I get that. They used to be dangerous to me too. What I never want to do, though, is to have doubts and questions and just stuff them. I think every time I do that, a part of me dies. God is big enough to deal with my questions, my doubts, my fears. That's what I mean by intellectual honesty. How many wonderful Christian people out there have nagging doubts about their theology and doctrine, but they don't ever give voice to those doubts? They never wrestle with them, read about them, hear from the "other side" about them? What if our faith could grow deeper, richer, more faithful simply by being honest about who we are, what we believe, what we doubt and what we're learning?

My prayer, even as I wrestle with the "dangerous" issues, is that I would always be faithful to the God who gave me this mind and this curious personality. I believe we are even more faithful in our honesty than in our (deceitful?) "doctrinal correctness."

And what of other kinds of "dangerous"? Intellectual honesty and challenging rigid orthodoxy is important, but so are other ways of challenging the status quo. It's Andrew Marin, daring to bridge the gap between the LGBT community and Evangelical Christians. It's Eugene and Minhee Cho, daring to dream big and trust God to change the world through their One Day's Wages movement. It's Soong-Chan Rah, calling powerful institutions to racial righteousness. It's Shaun King, going absolutely nuts on Twitter, totally risking everything to see justice and healing in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. It's Anjelah Johnson, trying to be the best comedian and actor she can be while living a Christ-honoring life. It's everyday believers, getting out of our comfort zones, getting to know the neighbors, caring for one another, doing something, anything... daring to be inconvenienced for the sake of the gospel of Jesus.

God, help us ALL to be faithfully dangerous. For Your glory...

And now, back to Over the Rhine. Lyrics after the video.

Faithfully Dangerous
words and music: Linford Detweiler

Your paint dries, the canvas smiles,
With two eyes you lift yourself up.
Stroke your skin, there are teeth marks to be sure.
Maybe we're best close to the ground.
Maybe angels drag us down.
I wonder which part of this will leave the scar.

Dip your hands in colours while the young night flutters in on you
And finger paint me pictures of all you see.
No matter what they say, you'll always be
Faithfully dangerous, lost and lovely, so beautiful to me.
I'm not too blind to see.

Red is blood. Black is sky. White's the dove that longs to fly.
You set it free and it beats its wings in me.
It leaves us at a loss for words. Is that me now in your arms?
We cradle together and fall down on our knees.

Let the whole world drift downstream. We'll always be different.
Swim the silent slipstream inside of me.
No matter what they say, you'll always be
Faithfully dangerous, lost and lovely, so beautiful to me.
I'm not too blind to see.

Red is blood. Black is sky. White's the dove that longs to fly.
You set it free and it beats its wings in me.
It leaves us at a loss for words. Is that me now in your arms?
The heart that beats is yours inside me.

Red is love. Black is night. I'm drunk with angels taking flight.
The heart that beats is yours inside me.
The heart that beats is yours inside me.
The heart that beats is yours.


Heather said...

Hey, Matt.
It's funny... (may i be completely, bluntly honest?). Sometimes it's easy for me to perceive popular people as shallow. And being a pastor, you're automatically "churchy". You go to christian conferences, read christian books, dive head-to-toe into a denomination, and sometimes spiritualize things on Twitter (wait for it...). I admit, every once in awhile I get skeptical and am sometimes apt to write you off. I'm sorry, I know I sound like a total bitch! I really do respect you, honest!

I just have been going through this monstrous spiritual journey the last several years that has completely rewritten my beliefs and convictions, and it's difficult for me to look at churchy things and not get queasy or snotty. This post, though, makes me feel good. It reminds me of your struggle with the elections, and the way you've wrestled with your convictions about homosexuality, etc. It's true, you do ask actual hard questions; and not only that, you're brave enough to let your convictions change. That's big stuff, and I applaud you. I also bask in the knowledge that I'm not alone in the things I've been discovering on my journey. Whenever I try to explain my journey, I invariably sum it up by saying, "God is bigger than my questions."

It's been so freeing to me to realize that God's not afraid of my poking and prodding. He doesn't avoid my questions, because He has the answers; also, He wants me to ask. How amazing is that?? It's amazingly amazing to someone who, from an early age, has pushed many-a patient person over the edge with her relentlessness.

It's crazy, the things we (a.k.a. modern American christians) have come to believe about God. Often, not only do I fail to see the reasoning for it, but I see evidence in Jesus' life for the believing the opposite. Being open to this realization has turned my beliefs upside down.

Everyone needs to start asking questions - not to be contrary, not to be sensational, but to find the truth. I'm encouraged when I find out that someone is struggling. I think it means that God is opening their eyes in a beautiful, real way.

Matt Nightingale said...

Heather, I'm so glad you commented. You absolutely do not sound like a bitch. :) I think it's funny that you said, "May I be completely, bluntly honest?" YES!! That's what I really, honestly want for all of us! The freedom to be honest.

Jesus says that the truth sets us free, right? I know that verse is taken out of context a lot, but I think the way we often use it has a lot of truth to it too... Addicts have to "get real" before they get better. It seems to me that any transformation story has a moment of real honesty. A place where we jump out of hiding or denial and into the light.

I also think that we sometimes believe one thing but "believe" another. Like we act like we believe something or try hard to believe something when on the inside we don't. We just can't for whatever reason.

How can we grow if we don't get honest about those things?

And by the way, you don't have to respect me, but I'm glad you do. I respect you too.

Thanks for writing.

Randall Wilkens said...

Hey, Matt!

Thanks for your “faithfully dangerous” comments! I agree that when there are troubling questions we shouldn’t be afraid to ask them. So here’s my question: If there are mistakes in the Bible, how are we to know what’s accurate and what isn’t? As you mentioned, the apostles’ preaching of Christ crucified, risen, and coming again is central to our faith. But if there are mistakes in the Bible, how do we know that’s not just another one? After all, a resurrection seems really, really far-fetched.

My point is that I’m not sure it’s really possible to find a Bible with mistakes (in its original writing, translation issues aside) truly authoritative. The line between what’s accurate and what’s not then becomes arbitrary--decided by us as human beings instead of by God. If the sun standing still in Joshua 10 is unacceptable because it contradicts proven science, then why not reject the story of the resurrection too? That’s the logical outcome of this line of thinking, if we’re intellectually honest. And in fact, that’s the very line of thinking that has caused many intellectually honest people to reject the faith. The ultimate logical conclusion is there’s no resurrection, and without the resurrection you don’t have the Christian faith.

I definitely know what you mean that some of the apparent contradictions in the Bible can be troubling. Some of these problems were raised in the online forums of my seminary classes, and many of the student responses questioned the accuracy of scripture. I would read their responses and say, “You know, they’re right. This is a really troubling contradiction.” But then, time after time, when I would go to the Bible itself and read what it actually said, the “contradictions” would always seem to have an explanation or at least become insignificant in the context of what God was actually speaking through his Word. And I would find my mind and heart repeatedly set at ease, just from opening the pages of the Bible and reading them.

So while I think the hard questions are always important to ask, it’s even more important that these questions are never asked in isolation from studying the Word of God for what it is. I know from experience it’s easy to get caught up in discussions and forget to look at what’s actually written there. But when we turn to the Bible I think we will be constantly surprised by its truthfulness and by its ability to put our questions in perspective, even if it doesn’t always answer them.

Sorry I’ve gone on for awhile here! Thanks for letting me share in the discussion! Blessings to you as always!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin