In the church today there is a heresy that doesn’t yet have a name–or perhaps it does and I have not learned it yet. It goes like this: “Mankind is in search of meaning. In every person there is a God-shaped space. By looking within, by searching for one’s own heart desire, we will eventually find meaning. We will have an encounter with Christ. We will realize that the Christian way is the true way. Then we will walk in this way with peace, joy and a fulfilled life.” Let’s for the want of a better term call this heresy ‘personalism’–or perhaps it could be called “existentialist fideism” inasmuch as it calls for a kind of faith in one’s own inner ‘vision’ or ‘desire’.
Like all heresies, it’s not all wrong. It’s just that it’s not all right. Sure there is a God-shaped space in each one of us. Sure, the source and summit of all our desires is, in the end, the Christ who loves us. Sure, if we seek we will find, and if we search we will discover. If we ask we will be answered. However, what this new “existentialist fideism” does is places the human person at the heart of the search for God. It sounds nice and humanistic and all that, but it’s not really in the Bible is it? It’s not really the way of the saints. You don’t find God telling the patriarchs to “search their inner being to discover the light.” He says, “Obey me. Leave all, and go to the promised land.”
Jesus doesn’t tell the fishermen of Galilee to form a discussion group or to do group therapy in which you all discuss together where your inner journey is taking you. He stands up and says, “Leave your fishing nets and follow me. Do some wave walking. Come on. Do something. Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” This new personalism is very often subjective in it’s declared encounter with Christ, and as such it is unreliable.
I’m increasingly in favor of the simple transaction that the gospel and the church have always called for. “Repent and believe the Gospel.” There’s the basic encounter with Christ. A soul says, “God, I’m sorry for my sin. I want to do better and can’t unless you help me. Give me the power of Christ and I will follow him.” Within this simple transaction is all that is required. Not a lot of soul searching is needed. Not a lot of philosophical or theological discussion…not a lot of learning. Just simple obedience and humble acceptance of Christ. Just simple metanoia–turning from my own way to the way of Christ.
This is the only gospel I have to proclaim. It is the only gospel there is. I don’t know of any other. It’s the transaction I seek every morning, and within that transaction of repentance and faith I turn away from my self seeking and my tortured self examination and I realize I need Christ. Within that transaction grace is given and have the power to follow the Master.
Within this transaction the Sacred Heart of Jesus takes my heart in his and makes it one. Within this transaction my little life is gathered up into his cosmic life. In this simple transaction I am both lost and found.
This Great Transaction is the burning diamond heart of the Christian faith.
The rest is paper.