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Wednesday

I AM: The Language of Christianity, Part 2

Exodus 3:14-- God said to Moses, "I AM who I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

Wow, what a powerful passage that speaks to the depths of who we are in Christ and the nature of God.

Last week we talked about the language of Christianity and how we refer to others. Our conversation often creates a polarizing "us" verses "them" relationship with those we deem different from us, even though God has proclaimed "them" to be quite the same. This mindset becomes a problem not only because it's hurtful, but also because, on a much deeper, theological level, it undermines the truth of God we say we're standing upon.

The postmodernist movement insists (and that word is ironic, isn't it, considering the movement's rejection of truth) that there is no such thing as absolute truth. There is no such thing as God or reliable morality, really, outside of the ever-shifting perspective of the people in this world. That might sound convenient for avoiding hurting people's feelings, but the reality is, this is very scary. And not just from a Christian perspective. It's scary when you need solid footing for any kind of moral or humanitarian or environmental claim. It's scary if you're a woman in an abusive marriage, if you're a slave to human trafficking, if you're Buddist under the threat of terrorist bombings, or if you're just a Pit Bull, forced every day into dog fighting.

Postmodernism might seem convenient, but the rejection of truth ultimately breaks down any kind of compassionate cause. After all, who are we to insist what is right, what is moral for another person, another country, another society? Either we are extremely egotistical to assert our own feeble notions of the world over everyone else, or we simply let these situations be and do nothing. Because, like it or not, outside of God, you have no ground to make any kind of humanitarian claim. Yes, you can certainly be moral. But it's always a shifting ground. What is socially acceptable one minute may be rejected the next. Hello, Hunger Games.

Therein, we run into a problem: Where do we locate the source of morality? From what source do we arm ourselves with the tools needed to fight against the evils of the world? Rhetoric and conversation? That's always changing. Our own consciences? But what of the discrepancies?

Ultimately, the only satisfying answer to what it means to be human and to preserve human dignity is a theological one. Perhaps not necessarily Christian (which is where faith comes in), but theological, nonetheless. Without absolute truth, we have nothing when it comes to true compassion. Nothing but hearts that are breaking over the state of the world--of the hurting--with no reason why.

There is a reason why.

There is a reason why you were born, why you have lived, why you are living. 


There is something you can do to change the world. Right where you are.

When Moses asks God to identify himself, wondering how he will ever explain this sudden appearance of the pure presence of the Almighty to the Israelites, how does God answer? How could He? What phrase or name or definition or description could He possibly give that would help Moses understand the fullness of His presence?

The answer? I AM.

This verse has always bothered me. I felt like God was using a cop-out, honestly. I wanted more detailed answers. I wanted more explanation. But as I began to study postmodernist thought, I began to understand. God's answer to Moses was the most powerful thing.

Often, because we live in a postmodern moment, we make the assumption that everything we know exists as the opposite of something else. Some examples (and I used a few of these last week) are hot versus cold, dark verses light, ugly versus pretty, Christian verses sinner, gay verses straight, male verses female, liberal verses conservative, and the list goes on and on...

This kind of thinking has leaked into popular Christian teaching. We consistently hear Biblical (and unBiblical, for that matter) concepts crafted as negatives, rather than a positive motivation toward which we should be striving. What if we changed our way of thinking to how we might love God more, rather than worrying over boundaries? What if instead of fearing the law, we feared the One who overcame it?

Do not have sex before you're married.
Do not commit adultery.
Do not gossip.
Do not steal, or cheat.
Do not watch or read anything compromising.


But what about...

Wait patiently and honor God, your spouse, and yourself. Live a life of purity.
Be faithful to the vows you have made.
Encourage one another as God has encouraged you.
In everything, live your life as unto the One who gave life to you.
Fill your mind with good things, for out of your heart comes your very being.


The problem here is that we begin to believe evil actually has some power over our lives and our identities. We believe the lie that our faith is just another thing that exists within a binary, but in this case, it's good versus evil. Even if "good" comes out on top of the equation, we still have a problem. A big one. Within this structure lies the assumption that evil has a pure presence that can in some way compete with God, with holiness. But this perspective is inconsistent with Biblical Christianity. Remember the verse from Exodus?

God is. He is pure presence. He is truth. He is living.

Evil is not.

There is truth, and there is the perversion of truth. There is no such entity as non-truth.

Next Wednesday, I'll get into more specifics about how this concept can shape the way we think about God-- and ourselves-- on a more personal, practical level. So be sure to come back for the next part of the series.

Have you ever caught yourself thinking in this good versus evil mentality? How can this be harmful?



6 comments:

  1. I love this, AShley! There is so much truth in your words and it is so refreshing to see that there are young adults who buck against the postmodern thought and really think through it to find the truth.

    Thank you! You have blessed me today.

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  2. So glad you stopped by today, Sherrinda! I appreciate you!

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  3. Loved this Ashley. I agree completely. Couple ideas:

    The common paradigm today is Christians are the evil people whom judge while 'normal' good people don't judge. This, of course, is a ridiculously false premise when scrutinized. EVERYONE (or practically everyone) judges. We just draw moral lines in different places.

    Why were the Nazis wrong? Why is human sacrifice wrong? Why is murder wrong? Practically everyone judges these as wrong. I find it sad yet funny that so many people judge Christians by saying that Christians shouldn't judge. Personal opinion: If your first statement of debate is self contradictory then why should I take your philosophical ideas seriously at all.

    I had the same reaction to the 'I am' statement. It felt like a cop out to me. But upon reflection I realized it is one of the deepest statements ever. God is the only being whose existence does not depend on anything else, so the description 'I am ' fits God's ontology perfectly.

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    1. Mr. Pappal, thanks for commenting! I like what you said about God's existence being independent of anything else--I think that's really the core of the issue. Postmodernist binaries often work well with human-made relationships, like language, which I think is the appeal of the worldview. But anytime a deeper truth is reached for, it must be self-sufficient in order to stand, which only God is. Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. I love this Ashley...you are a gifted writer! This gave me so much to think about! The perspective of good vs evil! Instead of just thou salt not commit adultery, strive to love your spouse! I always thought the same thing about Gods response to Moses, but I Am was perfectly fitting because He is all, He is the truth! Anyway...awesome...can't wait to read more!

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    1. Thank you, Sarah! You are so sweet to stop by and comment! :) Hope you are having a good 4th of July!

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