Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: fundamentalism

He Who Loves

     I read, many years ago, that real, lasting happiness is only found in the worship of God. John Piper calls it Christian hedonism. I latched onto this idea immediately. I had just become a Calvinist and Piper was one of my heroes. Not only that, but the concept looked sound, according to the Bible, which I viewed as a sort of instruction book for life at the time.

     So I set about trying to find happiness in the worship of God. I was told, and I believed, that the two most important ways of touching God were reading the Bible devotionally and praying.

     I gave it my all. I got up at six every morning to spend the first dark hour of the day ‘alone with God.’ I said prayers and wrote prayers and sang prayers. I tried all the spiritual disciplines. I fasted once every couple months. I preached in churches and on street corners. I studied old and new theological books. I did it all.

     None of it worked.

     Oh, I had some good times. Prayer would sometimes lift me into a deep level of connection with the divine. The Bible, especially the words of Jesus, would sometimes enrich my soul and wake up my spirit. But those times were exceptional. Rare. Adrenal, not coronary.

     It became hard, so I tried harder. I did street evangelism and vowed to become a missionary to a scary Muslim country. But that made things worse.

     I was not a hypocrite. I was honest. I honestly thought that true happiness could only be found in the ‘Christ centered’ life I was living. And that was my message as I preached in the churches and streets of Peterborough, Toronto, Welland, and, eventually, Pakistan. But I wasn’t experiencing it. I promised others that they would, and I made them believe I was. But I was mostly empty.

     I don’t know when it changed. I don’t know when I started drifting away from the evangelical Calvinism I had so loved. But I eventually came to a startling realization.

     He who loves, knows God.

     Connection to the joy-giving source of life does not come from reading holy books a certain number of times. Spirituality is not measured by how many prayers you utter in the dark mornings while the world sleeps so sinfully. It does not come through sermons or songs or having the right theology or going to the right churches or temples or mosques. It comes from love.

     And not just a general love. Not the effortless love that everyone has. Not the love that is willing to protect friends and family. It comes from the powerful, Christ-borne love that strives to protect enemies. The love that is never willing to punish, but to forgive and reconcile an infinite amount of times. The love that paves the narrow road that leads to life.

     And then what happened?

     When most people talk about their Christian journey, they usually emphasize their struggles. How they still fight against depression and sin and their commitment to live a Jesus life. How they still can’t seem to hold into the joy of God in a consistent way.

     I don’t talk like that anymore. Because my happiness is finally real. I found it buried in a field, and I went out and sold everything I had for it. I took it home and put it in my heart. I no longer experience long periods of darkness and depression punctuated by flashes of joy. Now it’s long, extended flashes of joy, once in a while punctuated with down-time. It wasn’t religion or Christianity or positive thinking that changed me. It was love. Just love. It makes many of the old songs I sang in my fundamentalist Sunday School so much more powerful than I could have ever imagined:

And I’m so happy,
So very happy,
I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart.

Steven Pressfield on Sin

     To combat the call of sin, i.e., Resistance, the fundamentalist plunges either into action or into the study of sacred texts. He loses himself in these, much as the artist does in the process of creation. The difference is that while the one looks forward, hoping to create a better world, the other looks backward, seeking to return to a purer world from which he and all have fallen.

     The humanist believes that humankind, as individuals, is called upon to co-create the world with God.

     – Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

The Bestest Newest Product on the Market!

If you’re like me you’ve had your special moments of frustration with that best of Books. Maybe you accidentally found yourself in James or one of the synoptic Gospels and you read something that did not in any easy way seem to mesh with good, old-fashioned Evangelical theology. If you were a good Christian you had an evangelical study Bible that tried to help neuter the offending passage, but deep down inside you could feel something was still off. Some voice inside told you that when you interpret something in a way that negates everything that was spoken, it’s bad somehow.

Well not to worry for I have found an answer that will save fundamental evangelicalism from its current state of decline! Forget having a study Bible to merely explain away the anti-evangelical things that some Apostles say! Say hello to the brand-new Theological Conformity Bible!

No longer will we be embarrassed about lines from the Apostles who hadn’t read the Pauline Epistles nearly enough. See how the TCB renders these verses:

Hebrews 6:1 – “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity in sounding and defining the depths of eschatology, unpacking deep Trinitarian doctrine and word studies about how ‘World’ doesn’t always mean ‘World’.”
1 Peter 1:17 – “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s doctrine, conduct yourselves with confidence during your time of exile, because your doctrine is probably right.”
James 2:24 – “You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone (Ha! Just kidding guys!)”

And, of course, it’s not just the Apostles, but Jesus himself has uttered some words that, at first glance, do not really line up with an evangelical way of thinking. But with a few innocent tweaks we can make it all fit nicely:

Luke 18:18-25 – “And a ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Pray this prayer with me: God, I know that I am a sinner. I know that I deserve the consequences of my sin. However, I am trusting in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I believe that His death and resurrection provided for my forgiveness. I trust in Jesus and Jesus alone as my personal Savior. Thank you Lord, for saving me and forgiving me! Amen!”

Matthew 7:12 -“So be sure to spend a lot of time reading your Bible and going to church and listening to sermons, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

John 14:28 – “If you had loved me you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is co-equal and co-eternal with me and the Holy Spirit.”

Matthew 22:36-50 – “‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall get the doctrines of the Trinity, atonement, eternal state and end times right. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You will make sure your neighbour gets them right, too. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.'”

Matthew 25:31-46 – “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep form the goats. And the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For you accepted Jesus as your personal savior and said a prayer to that effect. You held the doctrine your preachers preached and maintained an unquestioningly evangelical outlook on life. You are orthodox in your views on hell, the end times and the Trinity.’ Then the righteous will say, ‘Hurray! We knew it would be like this!’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For your prayer of conversion did not mention substitutional atonement and you questioned aspects of evangelical theology. Your views on hell, the end times and the Trinity were a little off as well.’ Then they will also answer and say, ‘Nuts.'”

I anticipate this new Bible being a great hit. To order your own copy, please call 1-800-485-3787.