The following program is a presentation of
Grace Communion International and Grace Communion Seminary and is made possible by generous
donations from viewers like you. On this episode of You’re Included, Dr. C. Baxter Kruger explores the view that God is harsh and unapproachable, and that Jesus is the
one who saves us from this harsh God. Our host today is Dr. J. Michael Feazell Well, it’s nice you could be here again
today. C. Baxter Kruger: Good to see you again, Mike.
The last time we got together, we talked a little bit about your book The Great Dance,
but one thing I wanted to focus on this time is a lady that you quoted from C.S. Lewis
called Mrs. Fidget. And you mentioned: “One of my favorite characters in C.S. Lewis’
writings is the lady by the name of Mrs. Fidget.” This woman so characterizes not only somebody
we all know, probably, but also ourselves in so many ways, that she’s a great character
to talk about…. On page 78, for those who want to pull the book out and start reading:
I’m thinking of Mrs. Fidget [Lewis writes], who died a few months ago. It is really astonishing
how her family have brightened up. Mrs. Fidget very often said that she lived for her family.
And it was not untrue. Everybody in the neighbourhood knew it. “She lives for her family,” they
said; “what a wife and mother!” She did all the washing; true, she did it badly, and
they could have afforded to send it out to a laundry, and they frequently begged her
not to do it. But she did. There was always a hot lunch for anyone who was at home and
always a hot meal at night (even in midsummer). They implored her not to do this. They protested
almost with tears in their eyes (and with truth) that they liked cold meals. It made
no difference. She was living for her family. For Mrs. Fidget, as she so often said, would
“work her fingers to the bone” for her family. They couldn’t stop her. Nor could
they, being decent people, quite sit still and watch her do it. They had to help. Indeed
they were always having to help. That is, they did things for her to help her to do
things for them which they didn’t want done. And you say, the problem of Mrs. Fidget was
not marriage, not relationships, not motherhood – the problem of Mrs. Fidget was the way
she saw herself. Let’s talk about that. … Identity. I talk about it sometimes in
terms of the “I Am NOTs” –believing “I am not special,” “I am not included,”
“I am not good enough,” “I’m not worthy,” “I’m not important,” “I’m not beautiful,”
“I’m not saved,” “I’m not reconciled,” “I’m not adopted.” We have those whispers
within us. They ultimately have their origin in evil, where they come through people. We
believe we’re not special, and then we have to find a way to become special. I believe
I’m not important but I will find a way that I can become important – and that’s
what Mrs. Fidget does. I think she’s a perfect illustration of
so much that goes on in our life. She chose an ideal of motherhood and that, if she could
attain that ideal, then she would be special. She wanted it to look like she really cared
about her family, but in the end, what she really cared about was she attaining her ideal
of motherhood. Lewis is brilliant in how she sees the whole family is actually brightened
up after the woman died because she was putting so much pressure on them to help her fulfill
her idea of motherhood, which had nothing to do with real relationships at all – it
wasn’t what her family wanted. So it’s – I am not, I can be, if I can
get this.. and then you can fill in the blank in how we take people and maybe even whole
denominations, or nations – into our “I am not” and our “self-salvation” scheme.
It can get really messy and lots of stuff can be poisoned.
Relationships is what the gospel is all about, not doing stuff, list of rules, all that sort
of things that we like to impose on ourselves to help ourselves feel better… measuring…
we like to measure how well we’re doing – we forget all about the fact we’re talking
about relationships – whole purpose of life in the restoration that we have in Christ
is for restored relationships. Real relationships which means you encounter
the other person in what they want, in what they care about is important to you, not just
what you want them to care about but what they actually care about, where they are in
their journey. That’s what the way Jesus met us in the incarnation. He’s come to
become what we are to meet us where we actually are in our journey.
The Mrs. Fidget story helps us with another problem that comes out of this conversation
which is the whole vexed discussion of universalism, because here you have a woman who actually
IS special. She actually is loved – by the Father Son and Spirit – she is included.
But since she doesn’t know it, and she doesn’t believe it, then she’s going to invent an
alternative kingdom and demand that her children participate with her in her wrong-headed kingdom
– which is going to poison them and eventually kill her, and destroys.
So is she included? Yes. Is she important? Yes. Is she adopted? Yes. Is she special?
Yes. Does she know it? No, and because she doesn’t, she goes out to create an importance
that she can see, which is an illusion, which brings poison into the equation.
Mrs. Fidget-ism can continue on for all eternity – theoretically speaking. It seems to me
like this is what we all do. Sometimes I think of sin as looking dead at Jesus and saying:
“Jesus you’re wrong about your Father, you’re wrong about me, wrong about the human
race and about our being included. So Jesus, what I want you to do stop believing what
you believe about the Father and the Holy Spirit and about who we are – change your
mind, which is repentance, and I want you to believe in me and in my vision.” We do
that with God, we do that with our husbands, our wives, our family, our friends, our churches.
We are always imposing our agenda over the top of what’s real, that is present but
we can’t see it – we can’t receive it yet. So Mrs. Fidget is multi-layered, as she’s
used in that book; we can go in lots of different directions with it.
It reminds you what Jesus said when he’s talking about forgiveness, which is often
taken as a condition for salvation, that if you will forgive your brother then God will
forgive you, and if you have not forgiven your brother, God will not forgive you. But
that’s really a statement about relationships, like you’re talking about.
How can you be forgiven and not try to forgive others – it’s like people ask me about
universalism, about the sheep and the goats, and I’m like – hang on a minute here,
people that ask about the sheep and the goats as if this is a huge issue are really telling
you that they’re goats, because I don’t know any sheep that care about people being
excluded or not included in that sense. The sheep hear the voice of Jesus and they
love it and the people who are forgiven by the Father they have their souls baptized
with hope – they want everybody to experience this. And so the sheep wants all the goats
to be included and to see it, to experience it. We just get it convoluted. Jesus has brought
the Father’s forgiveness to us as we know it. He who is forgiven much, loves much. The
one sees how much they have been loved and forgiven now has capacity for mercy and compassion
that flows out of them. That’s the way I look at that passage.
A lot of people see God as angry at them or at least withholding any kind of love for
them until they’ve measured up, until they’ve done enough good stuff. This idea conflicts
with the God we find who’s revealed in Christ in the Scriptures. How does a person go about
holding two totally conflicting views of God together?
The entire world – especially the Western world – has two different doctrines of God.
One is Greek philosophy – that God who is distant, removed, totally detached, unapproachable,
other-worldly, not interested, we’ve taken that into the world of legalism and add legalism
to that detached… This God is watching us (as intrinsically bad) watching us and keeping
tabs but he doesn’t really care about us, as much as we are keeping his rules – that’s
built into the fabric of the fallen man and through Greek philosophy it spread itself
across the whole world. So the rules come first, he makes rules and
they need somebody to keep them and so he made us.
And we’re just completely distanced. And he’s up there unapproachable. Then you discover
in the face of Jesus the Father-Son relationship and the role and the place and the beauty
of the Holy Spirit in that relationship and you realize that the incarnation is shouting
to us that God is not unapproachable – he intends to be known and to share that Trinitarian
life with us. That why he became human. I snagged this book a minute ago from your
library because of what Irenaeus says in the early church – he says: “Our Lord Jesus
Christ who did through his transcendent love become what we are, that he might bring us
to be, even what he is in himself.” One God is infinitely removed, unapproachable,
not interested, excepting rules and regulations. The other God is: I’m coming to become what
you are because I want you to share in what I am. So you’re going to get to be sons
and daughters with me and my Father. You’re gonna get included in my anointing in the
Holy Spirit. You’re gonna get to be a part of my relationship with all creation. So you’ve
got two different Gods running in our minds and in our hearts from the very beginning
in the West and most people don’t even think about that.
I’ve known a lot of people even combine those two in a sense of taking that false
view of God as a distant uninterested or unapproachable God and actually project that onto the Father
and Jesus is the good guy who fixes and patches things up and he keeps the Father in the background
so that… *As long as we hang with Jesus we’re okay,
but if he goes to the bathroom from the playground, we’re toast, because the Father really doesn’t
like us. But Jesus twisted his arms in some way so he might get us in the back door, as
it were, and that’s exactly what we’ve done. We’re taking Greek philosophy, and
in some of the Christian tradition, we twisted the Trinity to fit that, and we don’t even
know that’s what we’ve done. At this moment in history I think there’s
some untwisting that’s happening – starting with the figure of Karl Barth in the last
century. And people like J.B. and T.F. Torrance and with Moltmann and Colin Gunton, and now
Alan Torrance and Trevor Hart – these and lots and lots of people who are saying, ok,
we want to participate in the untwisting, we want to divorce from Greek philosophy.
We don’t want to participate in that darkness anymore. We want the Christian tradition that
stands on its own merits and this is what we believe. And we’re willing to roll the
dice to see where it comes out. If we’re thoroughly faithful to Jesus as the Father,
Son and the Holy Spirit, where is this going to come out?
We’ll find ourselves right back with the early church. I read that passage last night
to a group of folks here in Los Angeles (a younger generation) and they said to me, “never
heard that… in all my years in the church I never heard anyone talking…” I said,
that’s the biggest picture. If you start off with this other model and this God, and
you overlay Jesus coming on that, it’s all about sin, and it’s all about somebody’s
getting punished and Jesus stands in our place, and by the way, we’re supposed to love his
Father. The bigger picture is: the Father sends his Son because they have decided that
we’re going to be given a place in their relationship. And Jesus comes to bring us
to be what he is in himself. Not just to give us a gift (like he came to give us a new coffee
cup) – what he came give us is himself, in his life with his Father and the Holy Spirit.
So you’re untwisting this legal stuff and you’re now seeing why the early church was
born and why it went around the world – is because the message was not: God is holy,
you’re a sinner, you failed, Jesus picked up the tab. The message is: The Father, Son,
and Spirit set their love upon you from the foundation of the world, and Jesus has come
and found you and he’s sharing himself and all he is and has with you. And in order to
do that, he’s died and rose again and ascended. Yeah, the way it comes across a lot of times
is that Jesus comes to pay the penalty for our sins. So he pays the penalty, we’re
absolved, we got a legal document, as it were, that says: ok you’re not guilty now.
That we can hold in God’s face. Yeah, or just feel good about it: “Well,
I got off the hook and I’m so glad and now I’m ok.” But then, we’ve got to start
keeping the rules because the rules still are the most important thing. We got all of
those past sins forgiven – but the rules are still there, we’ve got to keep them
and now the Holy Spirit will come and he will help me keep these rules and if I don’t
stop keeping them enough, then I’d actually get into the kingdom, where I’ll keep them
perfectly. But still it’s all about the rules.
We keep moving the bar. The Holy Spirit comes to us to help us share in Jesus’ life. And
what was Jesus’ life? He says, “I only do what I see my Father doing. The Father
loves the Son, he shows him all things he himself is doing. I don’t have my own agenda.
I’m not here to do just whatever I want. I want to participate in what the Father is
doing.” So it’s relational. It’s relationships. Jesus says, “I don’t call you slaves,
because slaves don’t know what their master is doing. I’m calling you friends, brothers
and sisters, because I’m showing you or disclosing to you everything that my Father
who shows me everything he’s doing – he shares with me, because I want you to participate
in our relationship – in our way of relating, in our way of living life in that relationship.”
Jesus didn’t come to give us new laws, he didn’t come to give us a fresh vision of
God. He didn’t come to give us new steps to joy. The astonishing fact staring us in
the face is what Irenaeus was saying in the early church – is that Jesus came to give
us himself, and in giving us himself, he’s giving us his relation with his Father and
his anointing with the Sprit and his relationship with all things throughout the cosmos. That’s
who we are, and we are to work this out in concert with him in relationship with him.
We would do way more than keep the law in the process.
We don’t need a law for friendship, do we? I mean, is there a friendship law? We’re
able to be friends because we actually care about each other, we care about participating
with each other and we care about being together in a way that’s productive. We adjust our
wants and our desires because we care about each other. You don’t need a set of rules
for that. If you wrote down a set of rules, you could make one. But to sit down and try
to follow that in order to create a friendship, doesn’t work. You can look a friendship
and say, hey these are things that happen in friendship. But it doesn’t work the other
direction. To me, Christianity is about (and this might
sound somewhat cliché, but it’s beautifully simple) Christianity is about walking with
Jesus. It’s about being interested in what he’s doing and what he wants, more than
we are of what we want. Instead of me looking at Jesus saying, you’re wrong, you’re
wrong, you’re wrong, you need to change and believe in me, we say to Jesus: I don’t
want to see things the way that I see them anymore. I don’t want to see God the way
that I see God. I don’t want to see people the way that I see people. I don’t want
to see creation, I don’t want to see myself… I want to see God and people and creation
– with your mind and in your faith and in your wisdom and clarity, Jesus. I want to
participate in your way of seeing. He says, come walk with me. Walk with me and
I’ll help you see what’s really real and what’s really going on. That produces friendship.
Because immediately when you get two or three people that are saying: I don’t know how
to do this. But what we want is to participate in Jesus. Then there’s a point of connection
that’s profoundly deep and then they become brothers in the practical ongoing and sisters
in the practical ongoing way whereby we’re bound together – we care about them too,
because we all care about Jesus, in sharing in him and not imposing our own ideas on the
world or Jesus, the Father, Son and a denomination or whatever.
He actually did that first. His interest in us was selfless. He came, showed his interest
in us by taking up our cause, becoming one of us and creating the room – the space
for that relationship to happen. This is where you will see, in the future,
the unravelling of that whole notion of penal substitution, where Jesus supposedly goes
to the cross to suffer the wrath of God that was intended for us. I just don’t see in
the New Testament that Jesus suffered the wrath of God. I don’t see that he suffered
the rejection and abandonment of the Holy Spirit. If you read the New Testament, you
read the Gospels and you say, why did Jesus die? Then he tells you: “I’m going to
Jerusalem, the Jews and the Gentiles are going to go and conspire together and they’re
going to kill me, and I’m going to let them do it. On the third day I will rise again.”
If you see from the beginning of the Bible, the point here is the Lord is saying: “I
want a relationship that is real with the human race so that in this relationship I
can share with them the very life that I experience with the Father and the Holy Spirit.” Jesus
is stepping into that and so he’s going to find a way to have a relationship with
us as we really are in our brokenness. Otherwise he’s not accomplishing the dream – which
is to share with us his Trinitarian life. So, how is he going to do that? He’s going
to do that by allowing himself to be crucified by the human race and he’s going to bear
our scorn. He’s going to allow us to make him the scapegoat, and to pour our rage, our
wrath, our anger on to him and he’s going to take it. He’s actually going to submit
himself to our wrong-headed judgment and to our religion (which he totally disapproves
of). He’s going to submit himself to it and he’s going to die in the arms of our
bitterness. In doing so, he’s establishing a relationship with us in our very worst and
he brought his Father and he brought the Holy Spirit with him.
That’s why adoption is not a doctrine. Adoption is what he is. Jesus has included the angry,
vengeful, murderous, resentful human race in his relationship with his Father – that’s
adoption. Not the pristine version that we can dress up on Sunday. Jesus has included
all of us in our very worst in his relation with his Father and in his anointing in the
Holy Spirit. So that is where the whole thing gets untwisted
and back in line with the early church’s vision of the Trinity and the incarnation.
That is too beautiful for words. I mean, the Father, Son and Spirit deliberately submit
themselves to our judgment, even though it’s bone-headed and completely backwards and upside
down and wrong. But they do that in order to meet the real us as we are, to share their
life with us. That’s the heart of the gospel. So that’s what we are to do with other people.
We’re to embrace them and meet them where they are and share the truth with them. I
don’t mean that put ourselves in abusive situations as Jesus did. I think because of
what he did, we can move forward. But I don’t mean that as a pattern of, “ok therefore
I’m supposed to go, stir up trouble and let people just crucify me because that sound
like a good way to meet Jesus or participate with Jesus.” I mean that we embrace people
where they are, we accept them as they are. It’s not our position to judge them or to
clean them up. Our job is to meet them where they are and
accept them in their brokenness and to tell them who they really are – which is back
to the truth that will set Mrs. Fidget free… is “Yes, you are accepted just as you are.
So you don’t need to invent this ideal motherhood and you don’t need to impose this vision
of yours on your family. So you don’t need to destroy relations in your family because
of your own need here.” You begin with “you’re included.” You begin with “I am acceptable,”
“I am special” because Jesus came and found me.
So how do we look at the difference between believers and unbelievers?
Well, the first distinction is not that believers are in and unbelievers are out. Jesus has
embraced the human race and indeed the entire cosmos in himself. He is the one in and through
and by whom it was created. Now he’s stepped into it and he’s brought his relationship
with the entire cosmos together in himself. He has given us a place in his relation with
the Father and with the Holy Spirit. That’s who we are. That’s our identity. We don’t
make that so. Whether we believe it or not believe it, doesn’t change the fact of who
we really are in Jesus. He’s done this in beautiful and sovereign grace.
So now the question is: Where are we in our journey of understanding that, and that’s
where the distinctions like – not inside, outside – but the distinction of believer
and unbeliever become important. Because there clearly are people who are raising their hands
saying, “Jesus I don’t want to see things the way I see them anymore. I’m still fumbling
around and my life may not look any better on the outside than the person who says, ‘I
don’t want anything to do with Jesus.’” But there’s a difference in terms of orientation
of what they’re doing. The best I’ve ever heard anybody saying in my travels is, “Lord,
I believe. Help my unbelief.” I’ve never heard anybody saying, “Well, that’s the
way it used to be until I got saved, or I got the Holy Ghost. Now I don’t even have
to pray about my own belief” — we’re struggling.
Believers are people who know that Jesus is the answer. We just don’t know how? We don’t
know what it really means yet. That’s where we grab each other’s hands and say, let’s
walk with him. Unbelievers are people who are looking somewhere else to experience their
salvation, but it doesn’t change the fact of who we really are and what’s happened
— it changes our experience. Mrs. Fidget invented a legendary idea of motherhood and
imposed it on the whole family, so much so that it killed the family, and when she finally
died, they were relieved because they could be themselves.
So the distinction between unbelievers and believers is important as long as that doesn’t
mean inside-outside. (That’s the way it’s been used many times in centuries is that,
we are the true church, we’re the true faith system – you’re outside till you do it
and jump through the hoops here; you’re not included.) The gospel message is that
the Father’s Son has come and he has received us into his world. Whether we see it or not,
this is what’s happened. Now, where are you in your journey to understand that between
becoming a true unbeliever, towards a true believer. There’s way gray there. Lots of
people want it to be black and white: “Here’s how you can tell. This is it.” Every time
we draw a line in the sand, we hurt people and ourselves too.
Union and communion, is that a similar… Union and communion is a great way of talking
about the difference, because union is what is. Jesus has established us as joint heirs
with himself. He has come and found a way to connect with us, to relate to us, and that’s
who we are – who are people who belong and who are united with Jesus Christ.
Communion is as we begin to see this more and more, saying, “Jesus, I want to walk
with you. I see something good here about me and you. I don’t know what it means,
but I want to walk with this. And oh, by the way, there’s some other people; we’re
going to walk with them.” That opens the door for deeper and deeper communion, which
is where we are participating actively on our own rather than blindly. Even though when
I say it that way, it still sounds sort of Christian arrogance because there’s so
much of Jesus going on in the world whether people see it or not.
That’s how we can understand the fact that sometimes unbelievers seem to be better friends,
more loyal, more faithful, kinder than members. You will see the love of the Father, Son and
Spirit as it’s manifesting itself in people out here who are “unbelievers,” you either
see that as the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, or you find yourself in a position
where I’m now have to have this Christian love and it has to be vastly superior to the
way this father loves his children. Or, I don’t really have it.
The real truth is that, the Father, Son, Spirit’s love is being shared with everyone on the
planet and it’s trying to come to expression through our unbelief, and wrong belief and
through our hopefully-sometimes-getting-close-to-being-real belief. It’s expressing itself. Once you
see that, then you can begin to see what’s going on inside of people, because Jesus is
that big. We’re not going to meet Jesus face to face and scratch our heads, and say:
“Jesus, you need to forgive me because I really, really over-estimated you. I just
didn’t realize how small you are. I thought you were bigger.” That’s not what’s
going to happen. When we meet Jesus, we’re going to say:
“Man, I’ve grossly under-estimated your place and role in the whole scheme of things.
You are the one who knows what love is. You are the one who shares your love and your
burdens and you for care with the whole human race and I see it everywhere trying to come
to expression, but we’re all broken and blind, and sadly, we all keep poisoning it,
but you keep sharing it and you keep working with us and we’re going to get to see who
we really are in terms of Jesus.” I don’t think anybody right now would qualify
as a believer. Jesus is the true believer. The rest of us are: “Lord, I believe, help
my unbelief.” Then you got people who are saying: “Oh I don’t want anything to do
with this just yet.” Most of the time you got that, is because of problems that has
happened through churches, of abuse and things like that, through parents… Most of the
time, when I talk to people about Jesus being the Father’s Son who has come to share his
life with us – people don’t have a real problem with that, except religious people
who want this hard line in the sand or in the dirt between those that are outside, those
that are inside. It’s a huge question. Sure, if Jesus were not our life and were
not our righteousness, we won’t have any anyway. Same with belief, if he were not the
believer, what would we have? We wouldn’t. And if Jesus (Calvin says this
on his commentary on John 1:4) “In him was life and life was the light of men…” Calvin
says that if Jesus were to detach himself from the human race, the entire human race
would disappear. So would everything.
Everything would be gone. Everything is upheld by him.
That’s the way we started: where are these people who are creations of Jesus, who are
included in Jesus’ faith and courage and in his parrhesia and his life and his anointing
in the Spirit – where are these people in their journey to understand that? Where are
they? Well, they are all unbelievers and believers in all kinds of things. The Holy Spirit is
someone that straightens out this mess, and helps us come to know who we really are by
coming to know who Jesus is. That’s the light.
The light is always shining: Jesus is the one who’s done this. This is who he is.
And as we come to see him and know him, we’re coming to know more about who we are. Then
that changes the way we are relating to one another, like it would change the way Mrs.
Fidget related to her family. If she knew who she was and how she was loved, then this
whole world of illusion, the pressure to create this and maintain this world, to give her
some sense of identity, goes away. So now she’s in a whole different place with her
kids, she can actually care about them, in what they want. If it is cold meals that they
want, then she’d derive great joy in giving them cold meals. And if they don’t think
she could do the laundry they could ship it away. And they won’t get suck in to her
neediness and her world of brokenness and trying to find some semblance of meaning.
She’s free then to give her life for them — and that’s the way the kingdom works.
It’s beautiful. The simplicity of it but then, man, you start pulling on that thread,
the whole world comes undone. You’ve been watching You’re Included,
a production of Grace Communion International.