I just finished the book Static, by Ron Martoia. For a more complete review of the book, please go see what Michael Spencer of InternetMonk.com has to say. His review was what compelled me to pick up the book in the first place, and I am glad that I did.
Martoia’s book is about deconstructing and re-contextualizing the gospel message for the post-modern world. His point is that the tried-and-true messages of repentence, sin, salvation, and the “ticket to heaven” first of all do not resonate with today’s post-modern generation (roughly speaking, Gen X and more significantly Y), and secondly are based more on our cultural Christianity than on the teachings of scripture.
Some of the things that really struck me about his book:
- He talks about the fact that while evangelical Christianity emphasizes the “Four Spiritual Laws” and the “prayer to accept Jesus,” the vast majority of converts come to know Christ gradually and don’t necessarily have a specific “date” of conversion. In fact, he seems to downplay the need to get someone to “make a decision for Jesus” to the point of unimportance. This resonates with me, as it was how I came to know Jesus. I can clearly see the “pre-conversion” processes which led me on the path to finding Jesus in college, and the gradual slide over a period of months from ardent skeptic to committed disciple. Even today I can see that my “conversion” is a continuing process. I can no more claim that I’ve “arrived” in my faith than I can that I have gotten as old as I will become.
- He emphasizes that when Jesus talks about salvation in the Gospels, he is not talking about a ticket to heaven. Instead, he is talking about the restoration of the shalom of the Garden of Eden. Salvation comes to individuals not by praying a prayer, but rather through a reception of grace from Jesus – be it through healing, re-integration into society, or whatnot. In fact, Martoia emphasizes the fact that Jesus does not call people to repentence, but instead simply loves and cares for them where they are at. The repentence comes as a natural response to that grace, and then sometimes only much later.
- He discusses that when Jesus talks about “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven,” he is not talking simply about some future kingdom, but rather his ushering in of the kingdom of God here and now. Jesus brings heaven down to us – we don’t need to wait until we die to experience it.
His main point in all of this is that we need to go back and read what the scriptures really said – trying as best we can to understand the context in which they were written – and then to take that understanding and re-contextualize it for post-modern people. Rather than focusing on a person’s sin and their need for forgiveness (something that many people today would not recognize), we can present the good news (or “newsflash” as Martoia re-christens it) that the king has arrived to heal the brokenness in our lives and in the world, and let people come to terms with issues of sin in time as Jesus draws them nearer to himself.
What I really appreciated about Martoia is that he did not cast off the traditional understandings from scripture – sin and repentence, eternal life in heaven, and so forth, but rather he shifted our vision to the stories that Jesus emphasized in his ministry. Yes, Jesus did on the cross for our sins, but that was simply part of the larger purpose he had in his ministry – the restoration of the kingdom of God – the garden of Eden – that we were intended to live in.
While much of what Martoia had to say was familiar to me based on some good teaching I have received in earlier parts of my life as well as the path on which God has been taking me over the course of the past few years, the way that he presented it was still challenging for my faith. There were some quite uncomfortable moments while reading the book, and some that I’m having to set aside for later thought. InternetMonk says this better than I could, and I wholeheartedly agree with him:
I appreciated his frequent references to his own struggles with these changes in understanding, because I’m still having them, and expect to have them for as long as I’m reading outside of the “safe and approved” box.
But I suppose if I never strayed off of the “safe and approved” list, I would have a much harder time shedding the old wineskins which prevent me from growing in my love for and understanding of God.