Now that we are in the throes of the digital age, it is safe to say that (at least for now) this is what the future looks like. Doctors conduct arthroscopic surgery using tiny cameras, scientists grow human ears on the backs of mice, a googolplex of angels dance on the head of a pin. Yet somehow, when it comes to the way we actually look in the year 2014, the digital age recedes and it’s as though everyone under the age of 35 just walked off the set of a Coen Brothers movie. Go to any urban center from Portland to Brooklyn and, if you squint past the tattoos and iPhones, you could be looking at America circa 1930.
Through a superficial glance at history it becomes painfully clear that Reason alone cannot lead people to be good. Why? Because our ability to reason is radically flawed and limited in scope. Here in Germany we have the Holocaust as a glaring example. But it happens everywhere. Look at “wonderful” ideas such as the Crusades in Europe, the enslavement of Africans in America, the Cultural Revolution in China, the Rwandan genocide, or the recently uncovered North Korean atrocities. In the face of such a vast moral abyss, the doctrine of total depravity, though at first glance seemingly depressing, actually comforts me. It explains the human propensity toward evil. Human beings are not good at the core. If they were, how could we end up such a mess? Most people certainly aren’t as bad as they could be, but the fall affected our beings in their totality. Every aspect of who we are as humans is broken: our bodies, our emotions, our sexuality, and our thinking.
Shock feels like judgment even if it’s not intended to. It seems to express a lack of empathy; the listener simply can’t understand me otherwise he wouldn’t respond like I said I had a third arm under my shirt.
In church circles this is especially true. Many church people grew up sheltered from real ugliness. For many, the moralistic and legalistic upbringing made many sins seems both distant and unthinkable (not all bad). They are out of touch with the difficulties so many people face. Many Christians have the prevailing attitude toward a lengthy list of sins of “I could never do that.” Well, that attitude splatters all over someone who shares their story of sin, mistakes, pain, crime, sex, substance abuse, divorce, infidelity, or whatever. The Christian’s subtle surprise or overt shock speaks volumes of judgment.
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One of the most important subdivisions of theology is Christology, which is the study of the person and work of Christ. Within that field of study, when we want to get at the aspect that is most crucial, the aspect that we may call the “crux” of the matter of Jesus’ person and work, we go immediately to the cross. The wordscrucial and crux both have their root in the Latin word for “cross,” crux, and they have come into the English language with their current meanings because the concept of the cross is at the very center and core of biblical Christianity. In a very real sense, the cross crystallizes the essence of the ministry of Jesus.
That’s right, the quickest way to become a better teacher is to slow down.