Contextualization: “When we enter a culture,” writes Tim Keller, “we should be looking for two kinds of beliefs. The first are what I call ‘A’ beliefs, which are beliefs people already hold that, because of God’s common grace, roughly correspond to some parts of biblical teaching. Because of their ‘A’ beliefs, people are predisposed to find plausible some of the Bible’s teaching (which we may call ‘A’ doctrines). However, we will also find ‘B’ beliefs … beliefs of the culture that lead listeners to find some Christian doctrines implausible or overtly offensive. ‘B’ beliefs contradict Christian truth directly at points we may call ‘B’ doctrines” .
Love and Authority: In our culture, what the Bible says about God’s love is welcome (an ‘A’ belief). Even nonbelievers love to hear Bono say things like, “I think I know what God is. God is love” . This is an ‘A’ doctrine, a direct quote from 1 John 4:8. What the Bible says about God’s authority, however, is unwelcome (a ‘B’ belief). Many verses in Psalm 119, for example, celebrate God’s authority and word, e.g., “I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me” , or “I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end” .
Floating: How can we speak compellingly about ‘B’ doctrines in our culture? Keller says, “We need to ‘float’ ‘B’ doctrines on top of ‘A’ doctrines.” That is, we need to show that ‘A’ and ‘B’ doctrines are equally true and interdependent. In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis floats God’s authority on God’s love: “You asked for a loving God: you have one … not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way … but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds … provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.” In other words, God is love, but His love is not dispassionate. He uses His authority to guide us and make us into fully flourishing human beings.
Prayer: Lord, Your love and authority are complementary, not contradictory, for you love us passionately. We confess, however, that our hearts often ask the same question that the serpent asked in the garden, “Did God really say …?” We question the loving quality of your commands. Reform us and incline our hearts to perform your statutes forever, to the end. Amen.