Has my theology changed? Have I suddenly become "seeker-friendly" or "soft on sin?" Has my view of God changed?
Well, I hope my view of God has changed in the sense of growing! But I'm still against a "seeker-friendly" gospel. And I'm still convinced that God wants holiness—witness one of the books I'm extracting from right now, Called to be Holy.
So what's caused the change in emphasis? As I pondered it prayerfully, I realized it is (to use a good German phrase) my Sitz im Leben—my cultural surroundings. While we lived in Indiana, we were surrounded by a cultural christianity that was comfortable flying a flag instead of a cross on their church buildings. Patriotism and Christianity were in bed together; "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven" was the slogan and God was on our side because we are the good-guys—no matter what we did!
That's not true here. Grand Marais is a different world. Christianity is marginalized; the arts and touristy stuff rule—along with a good dash of New Age and American Self-Help Religion. There are five churches (all small) in town: Congregational (UCC), Lutheran (this is Minnesota, after all!), Roman Catholic, Baptist, and Evangelical Free. Most of our interaction with Christians here is from the latter two. And the prevailing theology among them is that penal substitution is the be-all and end-all of atonement.
Please don't misunderstand what I am about to say! They are wonderful people and truly love Jesus and we love them dearly. They want to see God glorified and see people come to know him. But, because of the heavy emphasis on penal substitution—and not in a carefully defined way, but in a "mad God" way—they are struggling to get through life. Their hope is to hang on until they die—to survive until glory brings them home. To keep God from zapping them all the time, looking over their shoulder to make sure the whip isn't about to fall. OK, I'm exaggerating (what, me? exaggerate?!) But, seriously, if that isn't a formula for defeat, I've never seen one! So, that's why my emphasis has changed. I'm talking more against an "atonement-only" gospel, or as Scot McKnight calls it, "soterian Gospel," and less against other things. Those are still important to me, but not as relevant right now. Just an