A pastor serves as a kind of intermediary. He reads professional theologians and scholars, though he himself may not be one. He then communicates to people who have neither his training nor the inclination to read the technical works he does. He must translate some of that material into forms that touch the lives of mechanics, plumbers, programmers, housewives, schoolchildren, and retirees.
He needs to mediate between two worlds: not only the two worlds of the Bible and his contemporary culture, but the two worlds of sophisticated ideas and rat-race living. As I’ve learned and embraced ideas that the writers on this site share, I’ve asked myself the “so-what” question repeatedly. “What difference does this make to the average Christian? Will these ideas affect Christian living significantly enough to teach and preach this?” I’ve tried to avoid pragmatism in its worse forms, but I am concerned with practical value.
My conclusion has been that they make huge differences. Questions of loves, desires, beauty, worship, meaning, and tradition are not peripheral frills. They end up defining what we think love for God is, what we believe holiness looks like, what we believe the great priorities and practices of the Christian life should be. They shape much of church life, and even the form our Christian piety takes in a secular age.
Since I’m one who learns as he writes, and writes as he learns, for several years, I’ve been trying to convert the ideas of this site into a kind of practical discipleship manual for the church I pastor. Of course, some ideas cannot be presented without extended argument, but where possible, I wanted to take these ideas and write something that the average Christian or pastor could use as manual of discipleship, or a description of Christian spirituality, or even an explanation of sanctification.
What I hope to do is to post weekly (on Tuesdays) the results of that labour for the next while. Since this is a book-length treatment, it may be clumsy in blog-format (at around part 57, people can begin to lose the thread). Perhaps when it is all posted and edited, it can be compiled in one place. I hope though, that there will be enough coherence to make it useful.
None of the ideas here are particularly original with me. They represent the kind of thinking found in Augustine, Jonathan Edwards, C.S. Lewis, and others, though I do not claim a purist interpretation of any one of them. What I hope is that all Christians, even those unpersuaded by the ideas represented by the Conservative Declaration, may see how these ideas can present a practical, cohesive, and compelling vision of everyday Christian living.