I was sick last week. That was not fun. While sick, however, I purchased Benjamin Corey’s Undiluted on Kindle for 1.99. While ill, I read his book. That was fun.
This book is not necessarily an academic foray into historic and theological Christianity, although it makes some fine points. Corey’s book gets to the heart of following Christ, namely examining the radical nature of Jesus’ message. The story that carries Corey’s exposition of Jesus’ message is his own story into Christ, then to seminary, and beyond.
Corey’s journey to seminary resonated with me deeply. Corey entered Gordon-Conwell with fundamentalist beliefs, but didn’t leave the way he came. Seminary deconstructed his theological walls and partitions while all the while keeping his focus on Christ unchanged. As he studied and read, he began seeing more and more disconnect between his original understanding of the faith in fundamentalism and his new found perspective through seminary level study. Corey described how unsettling it is to have everything you believed questioned with most of it being thrown out. I know this, too.
I entered Gordon-Conwell with a certain idea of what God wanted me to do. Boy, was I wrong! The Lord quickly shut the doors I desperately wanted open. I ended up graduating from another US seminary. This seminary did wonders for my soul, but not necessarily in a good way. During my time at a confessionally reformed seminary, I became a theologically educated jerk. In no way would I ever say I was the typical seminary graduate. The way I turned out is indicative of my heart’s condition, not the quality of education or the heart for Christ demonstrated by the professors. It is apparent I was interested in merely knowing the right things and figuring God out.
While it may sound unbelievable, I really did want to figure out God. What’s worse, I presumed I did upon graduation. I was so certain my theological rationalism was truth that I would verbally attack all those who were in disagreement with me. I didn’t realize it then, but my faith was terribly diluted. It looked nothing like the radical message of Christ.
Only years after graduating did the foundations of my theological idolatry begin to crack. As various questions were raised, my answers became less and less certain. I finally reached the painful point where all of my dearly-held beliefs were on the operating table. Most of them didn’t survive.
I’m glad they didn’t.
The faith I was teaching students and living at home was diluted. Sure, it had elements of the truth, but was nothing so radical as Jesus prescribed during his earthly ministry. I seemed to emphasize study and maybe a little prayer, but none of the other alms or good deeds were even attempted. Outside the discipline of prayer (which was nearly nonexistent), no attempt was made to fast, contemplate, etc. I didn’t seek to love the disenfranchised. I was rather un-attuned to the cries of the marginalized. My faith was diluted.
Corey’s book comes at a point in my life where I’ve gone through a theological realignment. Old ideas have died off and new ones have replaced them. Jesus is more lovely. The faith is more mysterious and beautiful. More things are less certain, but God is certain more real and undeniably good. Corey’s book is an encouragement that I’m not alone. Sure, I know others have experienced a similar journey. I’ve even talked with them, shared meals with them. But, here is an author with a wide audience who has put ink to paper and shared his journey. Knowing he’s out there is encouraging, but because he has written and others have read this book, I’m encouraged to know I’m in good company.
Corey’s main thesis is simple: the Christianity of today is watered-down. While elements of the real faith are scattered about, the essence of the faith is diluted. Christ is tame. Christianity is easy. All you need to do is walk an aisle, sign a card, or even easier, raise your hand while every head is bowed and eyes are closed. But, that’s not at all what the faith is about. The faith is about a transformation from the old man, Adam, into the likeness of the New Man, Christ himself. This is not done instantaneously. This is a life-long grind, a daily struggle to set aside my own selfish desires in favor of Christ’s cosmic reconciliation plan. Christ’s plan includes more than my own individual salvation, but the salvation of the cosmos. The return of Edenic shalom from one end of God’s universe to the other. That means in ever sphere of our lives, with whomever we encounter, we are to be about the business of not making converts and notching our belts, but transforming lives.
If you are interested in an engaging read that centers on the concept of radical, Christ-centered Christianity. This would be a good option. I’ve been encouraged. I am not alone.