Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Category: a year of living christianly

A Knee-Jerk Reaction to the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel

I made the mistake of skimming the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel while I was setting up for a completely different video. If you ever wanted to hear me in angry preacher mode, here’s your chance.

As you can see, the statement got me all worked up. This is my unprepared response, so take it with whatever grains of salt you need. I may say more on the statement if I can bring myself to get into John MacArthur’s headspace.

If you’re a believer, read the statement for yourself and ask if these affirmations and denials are what the gospel is about, or if the church is inventing gnats to strain from their camel pie.

An Anxious Evangelist

I am anxious. Especially around other people. You should see me at Costco. Actually, you shouldn’t. And if you do, stay out of my way because I may have a panic attack or run you down in a frantic attempt to escape. I dread nothing more than encounters with others.

In college I became an evangelist. My first time handing out tracts I almost passed out. It never got easier, but I kept doing it anyway. Sketchboard Evangelism. Open air preaching. Intentional friendships with shopkeepers and strangers in Ontario and Sindh with an eye to sharing my great and glorious salvation. Absolutely terrifying. But there was a script / story / drama that gave me the power to rise above myself:

“They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11:9

The fear didn’t hold be back because I believed Christ was the only one who could heal the nations, and if the knowledge of him filled the earth, all hurt would end. My own anxiety was nothing compare to the eternal weight of glory that was promised. It helped me do difficult, powerful things.

I still want to work for a story that brings healing.
But the script is no longer simple.
I don’t think a single way is possible.
The gods, being greater than us, are not likely jealous.

I do, though, miss the script that made me do the things I “knew” I couldn’t do.

A year of living christianly with Ruth

I invite Ruth the Christian to join me in my year of living christianly. We sat down to talk about spirituality and how our past informs our present–but then my microphone stopped working and most of our talk was lost.

I present the remnants: Chasing the sun, burying birds, and making sure your daughters get educated.

A Sub-Cosmic Quest

Part of the power of the christianly life is the belief that it’s a quest that cannot fail. I was part of the company of the arbitrarily beloved, tasked to the Kingdom of God, and indiscriminately inviting everyone to the journey,

From Destruction to Glory
Death to Life
Hate to Love
Self to God

What’s the big story I’m trying to cast now? Can the year of living christianly reach for something beyond an experiment? I probably can’t cast the path as the high-fantastical cosmic quest it was, but it’s still a quest.

To cultivate the spiritual fruit–
from love to self-control–
against such that there can be no law.

To deny the spirit of fear,
and accept
the spirit of love and of power and of a sound mind.

To work toward an impossible kingdom
where wolf can dwell with lamb,
children lead lions and cattle,
and no one has to preach because we already know.

And maybe even to figure something out about that peace that passes understanding these old traditions keep talking about.

Christianly Cultivation and the Five Years’ Fallow

A new video where I talk about Jim Elliot, spiritual cultivation, and what it’s like to be fallow after plowing and harrowing for Christ.

 

 

So now I’m making videos

 

 

Partly because it’s often easier to talk about spiritual matters,
than type.

Partly because I like the sound of my own voice.

Partly because it’s a bit like preaching,
and preaching is christianly.

Partly so I can buy a sexy looking logo
and microphone.

And because when you write about things you think a certain way,
and it’s different from when you talk about things.

The God-Shaped Whole

(I’ve been slowing down on the blog posts because of other projects. Gonna have a new thing starting up soon. Stay tuned.)

I still love the Bible. Heck, I still have a thing for reformed theology, and the precise and careful application of a christianly spirituality. Evangelical Christianity features powerful mythos, ritual, and ethics.

But it also features a slow-to-anger-abounding-in-lovingkindess God who considers religious pluralism to be so heinous as to warrant occasional genocide and eternal hell.

And if God, who is love,
is willing to eternally immiserate
the overwhelming majority
of sentient beings
over a defect they cannot remedy
without His direct intervention

well, that could certainly mess up a person’s idea of love, couldn’t it?

If it were swallowed whole.

I’m thinking about the ex-evangelical hashtags and the harsh, brazen, and deeply important stories and conversations attached to them.

#ChristianAltFacts
#EmptyThePews
#HowToEvangelical

There’s a lot of people hurt by the church–not just by the people, or specific conflicts, or isolated incidents–by the whole thing of it because Evangelicalism is a whole life. If you’re unsure what could be wrong with the church, please read some of the threads with these hashtags. And if people seem unduly agitated about the faith we hold dear, consider what could have made them that way.

Christianly Spiritual Disciplines

You will hear from the pulpit that the Gospel is simple–so simple a child can understand. You’ll hear that Jesus wants nothing from you but belief, that all the work has already been accomplish through his life, death, and resurrection.

Just as I am thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve.

It’s theologically accurate (according to those who consider it accurate), but it’s not the full picture of the Christian(ly) life. After regeneration comes growth in grace and knowledge, conformity to the image of Christ, slow transformation into the ideal version of oneself. This happens by the work of the Spirit, through the spiritual disciplines. The disciplines are how Christians abide with Christ.

Some Christianly Spiritual Disciplines: 
Scripture (reading meditating memorizing)
Prayer (habitual liturgic fasting)
Worship (private public artistic)
Agape (love without condition)

From a secular point of view the disciplines exercise certain cognitive mechanisms that seem to help people overcome obstacles and thrive at life. Quite a few studies suggest interesting benefits from habitual mediation, for example. There aren’t a lot of studies on the effects of Christian disciplines. I think “eastern” practises appeal to the secular west because they don’t carry the baggage of being part of the religion of our forefathers.

Also, you don’t need to believe in Buddha to do Anapanasati.
Maybe you don’t need to believe in the Christian stories to partake in their disciplines, either.

I like the idea of sanctification–slowly but surely growing into a wiser and more virtuous version of myself. I often wonder if this transformation is the essence of spirituality. I sometimes hear people disparage those who don’t chose a religion but still call themselves spiritual. I don’t think you need to be religious to be spiritual, but the runner trains for the race, working daily to refine and empower their performance. Surely some discipline is involved in any spiritual path.

Morning Devos: Moses and Resistance

In Exodus chapter 4, Moses has Pressfield-style Resistance. He saw the impossible: the unburnt burning bush. It was a perspective-widening experience that changed how he sees everything, and he knows, more or less, what he’s supposed to do next. But he’s afraid and doubting.

Doubt 1: They will not believe me (my contribution won’t be respected or validated and thus will not matter)

Stick into a snake (and back again)!
that cool thing you do where a thing turns into something else–you’ll be able to do it again

Hand all leprous (and back again)!
that time it looked like it was all over but then it got better–that happens too

Water into blood (it isn’t coming back)!
failing all else, pouring your heart out onto the sand should be convincing

Doubt 2: I am not eloquent (i’m so dumb when i talk it’ll invalidate my whole thing)

Who hath made man’s mouth?
the complex wirings and intricate circumstances that have arisen to form your supposed deficiencies are part of the same system that makes up even your most treasured conceptions of self

I will be with thy mouth.
trust the soup

Doubt 3: Send by the hand of whom thou wilt (i can’t think of any other excuses at the moment but just please not me)

The Levite your brother can speak well. #angerkindled
you don’t have to do it alone but you do have to do it

“OK”

And Moses took his wife and sons,
and set them upon an ass,
and he returned to the land of Egypt
and took the rod of God in his hand.

Morning Devo: Habakkuk and Colonialism

We have an overwhelming tendency to read ourselves into the good guys of our myths. We identify with heroically flawed characters like Peter and Paul before Judas. We’re Jacob instead of Esau. We’re Job, not his three idiot friends. But sometimes the text is just so jarring we can’t help but apply it to our own selves.

Because thou hast spoiled many nations, all the remnant of the people shall spoil thee; because of men’s blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein. Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil! Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people, and hast sinned against they soul. For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it. Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity. Habakkuk 2:8-12

The house that is built on oppression and the spoiling of other nations sits under the judgement of God. Even though I don’t believe, it unnerves me. Colonial legacy is a blinding log in the eye of the Christendom. It hasn’t been thoroughly repented of.

On that note, here’s some angry-sounding ska to start your weekend: