by Andi Shaw
I took on this opportunity because I have always been the type of person who observes the world and turns a critical eye on everything. I saw problems and was never content to just accept them. I grew up in the church with my parents. My dad has been a church worship pastor or apart of the worship team for as long as I can remember and my family has always been active in the church. Being immersed in the church as I was at a young age, I saw a lot of the politics going on behind the scenes. My family left my first church when I was seven because of the politics that caused discontent and problems in the church. That was when I first realized that the church was not perfect. I still understood God to be perfect so I just learned not to associate the two directly. The church was a human institution to me, not the body of Christ that God intended it to be.
Now, I am not anti-church. The church is human, and once understood to be, we can understand how to proceed. “Religiosity,” as Andrew Farley, author of The Naked Gospel calls it, is a human invention. God never meant for us to follow a religion. We were made for a relationship. Farley strips away all of the religion around Christianity and tries to break it down to “Jesus plus nothing.”
In the chapter, “We Don’t Marry Dead People,” Farley continues to strip away the layers and layer of ideas, rituals, and misconceptions that Christians have toiled under for years. He promised to shake the reader up and propose ideas that would maybe offend and challenge, and he does just that.
I don’t know how much time of my life has been spent worrying about whether I’m “on the right path” or whether I’m “walking with God.” I had youth pastors and head pastors that told me I should read my bible daily, pray all of the time, attend church and youth groups and get involved in children’s ministry and on and on. Growing up, I equated my spiritual life with these things. Reading my bible daily was the ultimate ritual that I thought would rank me right up there with the very spiritual people. And I would, for maybe two-three weeks at a time, get into the habit of reading my bible daily. I’ll tell you, it did help my life. Some nights I would be eager about cracking open the Word before I went to bed. Other nights, I would want to just go to bed, and think about how I should just read it in the morning (then I never would). As soon as I missed a day, however, I would get discouraged. After two or three days of slacking on it, I would beat myself up over it. Farley makes it very clear that this isn’t what God wants for us to do at all.
“What does it really matter if we’re expert scholars in biblical studies and know nothing of displaying true life?” (p. 175)
Wow. That hit home for me. Where was my display of true life while I was worrying about reading a passage every night?
So now what? So God doesn’t mean for me to beat myself up over rules. So do I not do the things I thought I should? Of course not. God wants you to read His word and go to church and all of that, but we will not find restoration of life in any ritualistic, religious activities, like Farley says. He expounds on his idea that the “New”, meaning the new life in Christ, is all we need. We won’t find fulfillment otherwise. Fulfillment and restoration is found through and in Christ and the New life in him. When God resides in us, we are fulfilled and we will want to read His word, go to church, and worship Him as a result.
“The very core of the New is that through Christ we receive what we lost through Adam, namely, the literal presence of the divine.” (p. 189)
I think that sums it up pretty well right there.
Farley addressed another problem that I have struggled with, although I’m only just realizing that it was a problem at all. This is the struggle between surrendering to Christ everything and maintaining my personality, my hobbies, me. It turns out that it’s not a problem at all. As Farley puts it, Christ enjoys us just as we are. God created our personalities, gave us our interests, made us unique because that’s how He wanted us.
These ideas of “Jesus plus nothing” are what Farley expounds on. In the chapter, his idea that you don’t marry dead people is to explain how you are not in a relationship with the dead teacher Jesus. Your relationship is with the risen Jesus. One can study the rabbi Jesus for a better understanding of who He is, but Farley points out if one wants to emulate someone and follow someone, we are not following the dead Jesus. We are following the risen and fully alive Jesus, and meant to be fully alive in Him.
I am still in the process of digesting all that Farley laid out. Not all of it is sitting well, but He meant to challenge preconceptions and norms that we were raised with in the church and around other believers. I would suggest reading the book with a very critical eye and an open mind, ready to take in the information and chew before swallowing.
About the author:
Andi Shaw is a junior at CSU Long Beach majoring in International Business because God has given her a heart for the impoverished in third world countries and business skills to be utilized towards helping those God puts on her heart. Currently, God has placed a project on her heart to raise money for building wells in Africa, called Water4Wells.org.