I have been reading through Deep Church the last few days.  I must say up front I really like what Belcher is doing.  Of course, the fact that I am likely going to finish the book in two days and the fact that it has made its way to the top of my neurotic pile of "must read" books tells you I think highly of Belcher’s project.  However, it is not just what Belcher is saying, but the irenic posture of his writing that I greatly appreciate.  As I read I can’t help but think that I have suspected over the past few years that a book like this was needed, but in diving into Belcher’s writing I find myself finally realizing what it was I suspected needed to be done.  He has truly filled a need, but beyond that has pushed a conversation stuck in stalemate forward with hope, grace, wisdom and creativity. 

That being said, I want to simply note some points of the book which touch on spiritual formation concepts.  I think this may be helpful for us as spiritual formation is strangely enough often disconnected from a robust discussion of ecclesiology which is truly the centerpiece of Belcher’s project.

So, I offer this quote for reflection and dialogue.

"I understand that a certain cooperation of the will is required for Spirit-led Christians to develop godly habits.  This is part of working out our ‘salvation with fear and trembling’ (Philippians 2:12).  But if this is not balanced, perhaps superseded, by the doctrine of transforming grace, what I call ‘grace ethics’ (God’s grace in our lives is what gives us the power to change and live the kingdom life), we will produce two types of people-(1) those who are burned out and cynical because they could not live this way, or (2) those who have become proud or arrogant because they think they pulled it off on their own.  Ironically, once the latter figure out they can pull this virtue ethic off on their own, they will start thinking they can change the world through their own efforts, and we move right into social gospel reductionism." (Belcher, Deep Church 119)

Belcher is responding here to what he perceives to be a truncated view of the atonement found in the writing of Brian McLaren.  That being said, the concern is that kingdom living is emphasized as the centerpiece of the gospel to such a degree that the atoning work of Christ to empower such kingdom living is missing in the emerging church trajectory.  In Belcher’s mind this reductionistic approach to the gospel leads to legalism.  I would tend to agree with Belcher on this point. 

So, do you see this missing component of what he calls "grace ethics" in your church?  Do you find that he is correct regarding the kind of people this produces?  Do you find that your church downplays the atoning work of Christ and that is one reason for this error?  Or, do you find that while emphasizing Christ’s atoning work the impact this has on a kingdom way of living is missing? 

What are your thoughts?

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2 Responses to Thoughts from Deep Church

  1. Beat Attitude says:

    I think all Christians will experience this struggle, because it’s a primary way that the devil attempts to downplay the most important factors of the gospel.

    Our unregenerate natures always veer towards self-satisfaction rather than Christ-satisfaction. When we fail to self-satisfy, we feel empty and guilty, and when we succeed we experience pride and arrogance. Satisfaction in Christ (and what He has done for us) results in humility, gratitude and peace when we fail OR succeed. This is what it means for your life to be “hid with Christ”…you are protected, and carry a Davidic disregard for looking after your own interests.

    God desires our obedience to be fuelled by love, and the fountain of love is found explicitly in the gospel. Kingdom living is not a motive, it is a result. If we set our sights on anything less than the glory of God in the face of Christ, then we set our sights too low and we are then free to attach the same old unregenerate motives to the highest-sounding ideals. This was Jesus’ problem with the Pharisees.

    If our motives are not rooted in the very person of God, then when we stand at the judgement seat and our so-called “achievements for the kingdom” are read out, God will say “depart from me. I never *knew* you”.

    If our efforts in ministry are to reveal the depths of the gospel for us and those we preach to, then we will witness the fruits of the spirit, which will be recognisable as kingdom living.

    The church survives, despite our unregenerate ways, despite wrong emphases in our teaching, despite pride and guilt… because the holy spirit is working in us to this end alone: He is revealing the glory of God’s gospel, shining the light into our darkness, and helping us to take hold of it.

  2. Jamin Goggin says:

    Beat Attitude, thank you for your thoughts.  I like your emphasis on "satisfaction in Christ." 

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