Stuff Christian Culture Likes

Stuff Christian Culture Likes

#32 Formulas


                                                                  [image via The Resurgence]


Christian culture likes to dissect prominent Christians’ lives and figure out how they do it. They study what their daily life looks like, how they balance family and ministry, how many books they’ve published, and how large their churches that they founded are. Then they make study groups based on this or preach a sermon series on it. It feels good to get it down in black and white so we can have steps mapped out.

Faith is uncomfortable and illogical but when you distract yourself with details then you don’t need it. Faith requires sitting in the discomfort, feeling tension and wrestling with God and it requires doubt, which is scary because then you question your own worth, your worldview and God’s very existence. This is not fun.



Human nature rejects gray areas and we would way rather have a goal to work towards so we can feel accomplished about something. A sermon series on a “successful” Christian or a Christian labled “arguably the greatest” at anything (preaching, church planting, parenting, serving, leadership) is pleasantly distracting and even inspiring but if Jesus didn’t need to die in order for that sermon to be preached, then it’s not a Christian sermon.


Formulas are at the core of Christian culture: distract yourself from the unsavory realities of faith and relationship and focus instead on projects and being “certain” instead of struggling with God. It really is a lot easier this way, but the price is that you can’t be a whole person.

*This post originially aired August 21, 2008 and warranted a repost, well, just because.

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posted June 16, 2010 at 12:25 pm

thanks for that definition of faith!! I needed to hear it :) I start second-guessing when mine doesn’t seems to be “working.” But if we get it down to a successful “formula” it stops being faith.
I love your site Stephy. As an ex pastor’s wife who has been “religioned,” judged, condemned and cast aside by the christian “brothers and sisters” who swore for so long that they “loved” me – it’s good to be able to come to a place where I know I’m not crazy!!!

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posted June 16, 2010 at 2:14 pm

I liked you plug in for “gray area.” When I went to a fundamental baptist church, I believed the christian life to be black and white, cut and dry. The older (and hopefully more mature) I get I have begun to find more and more gray area. I believe this is why it is so important to own your faith, don’t believe something just because someone told you so. Figure it out for yourself, nothing wrong with asking questions, but some things you just have to figure out on your own.
-Ha!! the reCaptcha anti spam word to post this is “not lukewarm.” Perfect!

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posted June 16, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Wow, I think this is my favorite post yet. Your definition of faith really comforted me, because it describes the place I’m at in my faith now. Black-and-white faith and formulas is the way I used to manage my Christian life–heck, that’s the way I used to manage my entire life. But the older I get, the more I’ve found that not only are there a lot of gray areas, but the answers to most polarizing questions is a balance somewhere in the middle.

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posted June 16, 2010 at 3:36 pm

I love this.

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posted June 16, 2010 at 4:04 pm

I echo kara. Wow, Stephy.

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Bill (cycleguy)

posted June 16, 2010 at 7:01 pm

Can I say that I despise formulas? Big time!

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posted June 16, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Is it just me, or is Charles Spurgeon ACTUALLY Darrell Hammond playing Sean Connery?

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stephanie drury

posted June 17, 2010 at 12:30 am

That’s not what your mother said last night, Trebek.

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Alastair Newman

posted June 17, 2010 at 4:41 am

I’ve been following your blog for a while now – thanks to my father-in-law StillBreathing for introducing me to it! You’re right on the money with this one.
I really struggle with someone at my church who insists on describing the Gospel as a “simple” Gospel. Well, perhaps it is for her, but not for the rest of us!
I love what Richard Feynman said about quantum mechanics: “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics”. So many words you could exchange for quantum mechanics in that statement. The more we try to put God, or faith, or the Christian life in a box, the more we miss the point…entirely.
Keep blogging. Love it!

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posted June 17, 2010 at 5:17 pm

It turns out all you really need to do to recapture the apparent success of these inspiring historical Christians is to replicate the conditions of their lives in every detail…the habits, the circumstances of their time and place, biology etc. Of course you’ll miss out on the details their fawning biographers and publicists tend to leave out, like the fact that some of them beat the snot out of their wives in private or took a special interest in the “formation” of the young lads and lasses of their congregation or secretly snorted a fifth of laudanum each day. Oh well, these formula books are certainly inspiring to the author’s accountants if nothing else…

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Silent K

posted June 18, 2010 at 2:15 am

I strangely resemble Spurgeon, this became apparent to me recently when looking at his photo on the jacket of Morning and Evening devotional- I wonder what his daily life was like…

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posted June 18, 2010 at 7:08 am

Who, who? Do tell; you’ve got my curiosity piqued. Or at least link me to a Wikipedia article.

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posted June 21, 2010 at 11:51 am

What the postmodern mind is aware of is that there are problems in human and social life with no good solutions, twisted trajectories that cannot be straightened up, ambivalences that are more than linguistic blunders yelling to be corrected, doubts which cannot be legislated out of existence, moral agonies which no reason-dictated recipes can sooth, let alone cure. The postmodern mind does not expect any more to find the all-embracing, total and ultimate formula of life without ambiguity, risk, danger and error, and is deeply suspicious of any voice that promises otherwise…. The postmodern mind is reconciled to the idea that the messiness of the human predicament is here to stay.
– Zygmunt Bauman in Postmodern Ethics page 245

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posted July 6, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Inter-Varsity Press has just come out a with a new book:
Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word : A Model of Faith and Thought
Yeah, do it like Jonathan did! Hold all those sinners over the flames of hell and tell them that God is going to cut the thread holding them at any time! What a formula!

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