Last night I was talking to a hungry young “seeker” who has been coming to “Coffee and Theology” for four weeks now. After class each week he patiently waits for everyone from the study to leave so that he can sit down and drill me with questions. He is not antagonistic and has no intention of showing how much he knows. I appreciate his quiet, patient demeanor. However, make no mistake about it, this guy, who cannot be over twenty-three, has thought through the issues with vigor. He will catch you off guard. This is not him trying to be a wise guy. He really knows what needs to be asked. I get the sense that he can spot a phony from ten miles away. Really, he is just a postmodern seeker who has no time for naiveté. I get the sense that if he gets any more cliché, trite answers-that-rhyme, he will just seek truth elsewhere (think “it’s training time for reigning time” or “the Bible is Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth” and you will be in my boat). I get the sense that he will only seek truth in a place where he can tell that people have truly wrestled with the issues.
Chuck Swindoll taught me to do everything I could to be real. Now, sometimes I don’t know which end is up in my own life, so I cannot always define what “real” is in every circumstance. However, the point is that the time for polished answers is gone. The time when every point in the sermon starts with the same letter is history (although, I admit, I still do this sometimes!). The time for feeling the pressure to answer every question is no longer on the calendar. People want you to be real. They can spot a fake. In fact, if you have too many answers, they may get up and leave. Isn’t that odd? We don’t like people who know it all. We don’t like those who immediately respond to sincere questions – those we have wrestled with for years – with a response with a red bow on it. We like things to be a little messy. We like things to be cracked. We like things to be bare, raw, unfinished, and imperfect. Kind of a “nude” theology.
Notice, I changed from the third person (“those postmoderns”) to the first person (“we”) mid-paragraph. Why? Because I am the same. I have quite a bit of postmodern blood flowing through my system. No, not in the sense that truth cannot be found. No, not in the sense that all roads eventually lead to God. No, not in the sense that hell is not a bad place to go. But in the sense that I get quite suspicious when people think they have all the answers. Know-it-alls need Jesus too, I know. However, it is harder for me to carry on conversations with pretty-boy know-it-all fresh-out-of-seminary theologians, even when it does actually seem like they know it all! Continue Reading →