Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Girl In The Amish Dress

I went to Camp Barakel for the Labor Day weekend family camp. This is a yearly ritual that we've enjoyed as a family since my kids were very young. At family camp there are chapel services. The best part of any chapel service was a testimony given by the speaker's son. The speaker is a natural storyteller and his son has inherited his skill.

He told a story of going to Shipshewana, IN where there's a lot of Amish-themed stuff. Also, it is not unusual for a young, single man to notice an attractive young lady. And the speaker's son told the story of seeing an Amish girl in a shop who caught his eye. He spent some time wondering how he might make this girl's acquaintance and just happened to notice when she finished work. As he watched, he discovered the Amish girl wasn't Amish at all, because she walked up to a car and tossed her Amish dress into the trunk. Turned out she wasn't Amish at all.

He made this a metaphor for the person who wears his Christianity like that Amish dress, but he does not make it an essential part of his character. I liked this a lot at the time and I still do.

But there is an assumption that I made at the time that NOBODY can take for granted. Phoniness is always bad. Sincere belief is not necessarily good. Suppose I sincerely believe in Ba'al or Molech: one of those human sacrifice demanding Pagan deities. That's bad, too. Still with me? Suppose I sincerely believe in a monotheistic deity commonly referred to as Allah. That's less revolting, but it is not Christianity.

When J. Gresham Machen confronted theological liberalism in the 1920s, and later when Francis Schaeffer confronted religious existentialism in the 1970s, they condemned an object-less faith in faith. Christianity doesn't work this way. Christianity makes specific truth-claims about God and Jesus.

For one thing, God is holy. This means two things: God is morally pure and God is transcendent. That morally pure business does not mean he subscribes to all the cultural norms of Baptists like me. It means God embodies everything in the Ten Commandments--the entirety of the Law.

The Ten Commandments are not something the Pharisees could keep, so they substituted their own traditions that they thought they could keep. I think this was a subtle form of idolatry--replacing the God that is for another more amenable to them. Baptists like me are at risk of doing this, too. And so, I expect any normative statement made by any Baptist preacher to be grounded in God's law. If you start telling me to do extra stuff, I'm skeptical, because I don't want to be that kind of idolater.

You see, when God tells me to do stuff, He's obligated to help me. If some Baptist preacher tells me to do extra stuff, I've noticed that God doesn't help me. And Baptists measure status by the extra stuff we're reputed to do.

And then there's Jesus. I'm a sinner, because I've broken God's law. I stand condemned by God and my dead works will not merit anything with God. My only hope is Jesus Christ, his sacrifice on my behalf and his righteousness imputed to me. Jesus is more than the "Get Out Of Hell Free" card, but the life-principle of my every worthy action in this life in this world. I'm not only Justified by faith in Christ alone, I'm Sanctified by faith in Christ--his life, his righteousness, right now. It is the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit that makes me straighten up and fly right.

Conversely, there is another gospel that the apostle Paul speaks of in Galatians 1:8-9
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

Let's think back about that girl in the Amish dress. Phoniness is always bad. I think that the apostle Paul says right here that sincere belief in another gospel is accursed. I'm anxious that we retain the real gospel and reject another gospel.

It's my opinion that the real gospel is centered on the merit and righteousness of Christ imputed to the individual. It's also my opinion that another gospel will be predicated upon human effort; lacking the Holy Spirit it relies upon psychological manipulation tricks to spur people into action. You can read about it here.

The girl in the Amish dress is a great story because it exhorts us to sincere belief. We need to question ourselves and our beliefs. Do we believe in the gospel that the apostle Paul preached, or do we believe in another gospel? Make sure it is the former and make sure you're sincere about it.

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