DON MILLER - Blue Like Jazz or Green Like Envy
Continuing on from yesterday we are taking a close biblical poke at Donald Miller's best selling book "Blue Like Jazz". What follows is a continuation of the article by Richard Nathan "Green Like Envy".
The Spirituality of the “Hip Christian”
“For me the beginning of sharing my faith with people began with throwing out Christianity and embracing Christian spirituality, a nonpolitical mysterious system that can be experienced but not explained. Christianity, unlike Christian spirituality, was not a term that excited me. And I could not in good conscience tell a friend about a faith that didn’t excite me. I couldn’t share something I wasn’t experiencing.”
“I told him that I thought mystical power came through faith in Jesus.”
A false dichotomy. Miller’s statements reveal his ignorance and confusion about just what it is to be a Christian in a historical, orthodox sense. Not only does he abandon reason and Scripture, he creates a false dichotomy. He presents the only choices as a hypocritical, commercial Christianity and a hip mystical spirituality. And in the process, he totally misses the true Gospel.
In fact, Miller basically says that truth can be compared to story and that Christianity makes sense because it’s like a story, i.e., like fiction. He not only compares his version of Christian “spirituality” to the elements of fiction, he introduces Pelagianism again. Once more we see Miller’s understanding of “truth” revolves around himself.
“The elements of story began to parallel my understanding of Christian spirituality. Christianity offered a decision, a climax. It also offered a good and bad resolution. In part, our decisions were instrumental to the way our story turned out.”
But he doesn’t stop there.
“Now this was spooky because for thousands of years big-haired preachers have talked about the idea that we need to make a decision to follow or reject Christ. They would offer these ideas as a sort of magical solution to the dilemma of life. I had always hated hearing about it because it seemed so entirely unfashionable a thing to believe, but it did explain things. Maybe these unfashionable ideas were pointing at something mystical and true. And perhaps I was judging the idea not by its merit but by the fashionable or unfashionable delivery of the message.”
It’s hard to tell whether he’s talking about TV preachers with pompadours or is just putting down preachers in general, but in either case, he ridicules preaching. He’s basically saying that he decides something is truth not by Scripture but by the way he feels about it—if it’s “mystical”—i.e., feeling-oriented—it must be true.
This is the thinking of the Emergent Church, which elevates story into revelation and truth. Miller is comparing the truth of the Bible with the elements of a story and determining truth by story.
“The last element of story is resolution. Christian spirituality offered a resolution, the resolution of forgiveness and a home in the afterlife. Again, it all sounded so very witless to me, but by this time I wanted desperately to believe it. I felt as though my soul were designed to live the story Christian spirituality was telling. I felt like my soul wanted to be forgiven. I wanted the resolution God was offering.
That last comment is the closest I see him admitting to sin.
In his search for truth, Miller measures by himself: his reaction, his need, his decision, his entertainment, and whether it’s mystical and magical because he likes things that are mystical and magical. Nowhere does he talk about objective truth: the Bible, sin, God’s wrath and judgment upon sinners, or the reason that Christ had to die.
Unfortunately, Miller only mirrors what’s happening in the Church today: Experience is considered more important than truth. And since the modern view is that basically there is no truth that applies to everyone, then “freedom” becomes license (“anything goes”).
The Freedom of Real Christianity
“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’" John 8:31–32
False freedom. Miller is an insecure, self-centered man (as he freely admits in his book) who wants to be a literary success, and he is using a certain worldly technique where you let it all hang out. But he exhibits an incredible ignorance of true Christianity and conveys disappointment with a limited experience with the Christian community. He puts down evangelicals in a very ignorant way as though his warped and stereotyped view of them is all there is to the Church. There’s no awareness of the larger Body of Christ or what it means.
I sympathize with his disappointment in the kind of legalistic perfectionism that has been strong in evangelicalism because it tends to produce bondage and hypocrisy instead of true freedom. But what he offers is far from true freedom. He has turned from legalism to antinomianism. (The term means “against law.” It describes the state of rebellion against God’s laws and standards of life.) He is leading his readers from perfectionism to lawlessness—and the greatest tragedy of all is that he’s missed the Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel, which brings true freedom from the bondage of sin and Satan.
Continued tomorrow - A Spokesman for Romanticism (or Imaginative Paganism)
Go On To Part 5
Go Back To Part 3
Go Back To Part 1