At some point in history — particularly in the west — we started to see everything through the eyes of an engineer. This was extraordinarily useful when it came to building bridges or designing factories during the industrial revolution.
Everything that was logically figure-out-able (map-making, physics, math, etc.) took center stage. These were the only things that were deemed ‘true’. Stories, fairy tales, literature, poetry, art — these all were lumped in the ‘make-believe’ pile of human life and culture. Sure, they were nice — but they didn’t really matter. They were things you dabble in when and if you have time for a little bit of escapism.
We became obsessed with figuring everything out.
…including the Christian faith.
In order to maintain its ‘importance’, the church was in a fight for its life as it raced towards cultural validation to turn a thing that was based on a foundation of stories and parables into a thing that resembled physics.
The obsession of logic and productivity sucked every ounce of life out of the beautiful and redemptive nature of story-based faith turning it into a forced moralistic pseudoscience.
In order to meet the cultural atmosphere where it was, the Christian faith was ‘boiled down’ into a checklist of moralistic do’s and don’ts. In order to get there, it had to be based on ‘correct’ theory. Once we get the theory, we can hold onto it forever. It’s like the principles of sailing, it just… works.
This is fantastic — even necessary — when dealing with astronomy, but not so much when it comes to God and neighbor.
Turns out, pure logic and ‘right theory’ doesn’t apply to all of life (?!). Take riding a bike for example. If I was an engineer about it, I’d have my daughter read a book about how to ride a bike. I’d have her ‘understand’ the way gravity, inertia, momentum, and centrifugal and centripetal force works. After scoring over 95% on my lengthy bike-riding quiz, I’d put her on her bike, walk back inside for a beer, and she’d be off (that would be amazing, btw).
But there’s only one problem. IT DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT. HARDLY ANYTHING WORKS LIKE THAT.
Take falling in love, for example… We all want to find the instruction manual for it. Or playing the piano. Entering a hostage negotiation. Riding public transit in Chicago. Or walking on a slackline (do people slackline anymore or am I aging myself?).
These things are learned by first seeing someone else doing them, encouraging us to do them, giving us the means to do them, and helping us in whatever limited ways they can. The rest is up to us living into these things and these things living into us.
This is super important when understanding how Christianity got to where it is in much of our culture. We took this beautiful, interesting, redemptive, socio-political leveling force built on stories and poems and we made it utterly boring and pedantic by turning it into a rulebook/blueprint of ‘right’ morality.
This is what we can attribute to the collapse of Christianity over a couple of centuries in the West.
Since these ‘right’ morals were established, parishioners were expected to be following the checklist perfectly before they even sat in the pew. How dare anyone come to church unclean in spirit. Church was exclusive to only the most accomplished moral engineers. We were supposed to already learned this puritanical blueprint through our parents and teachers already.
What a failure for something that was intended to help us find ourselves on the receiving end of an act of communication that helps us discover more about ourselves than we knew already. This is both a terrifying and soul-awakening endeavor. This profound, counter-cultural gospel message is something that the church is supposed to help us hear throughout our lives meeting us at whatever stage we‘re in.
The Christian faith isn’t supposed to be about how to ‘get it right’. It’s supposed to be about ‘sitting in the presence of someone doing something to us internally over time (which can’t help but spill over into how we live externally).’ Church is supposed to be a sanctuary where we discover a renewed meaning and way to relate to God and life internally rather than grasping a pre-set external equation or set of rules and commands.
This isn’t limited to faith or religion. It’s applicable to any kind of deep learning of any kind (yep, including advanced levels of physics and engineering it turns out).
This post was previously published on Grace Incarnate and is republished here with permission from the author.
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