I’ve been blogging through the first couple of chapters of Paul Metzger’s book Consuming Jesus. So far, Metzger has been raising some familiar concerns. The evangelical church isn’t what it should be.
Critiquing evangelicalism is not rare or particularly hard. But Metzger targets something unique: consumerism that fosters race and class divisions. This is an area I haven’t seen explored before now.
In any case, Metzger’s criticism “is not the angry and cynical attack of an outsider; rather, it is the criticism of one who loves the evangelical church’s historical values of piety and holistic outreach and mission, but one who longs for reform.”
So what do we do about this? This is where I appreciate Metzger’s direction. It’s easy to drift to pragmatic or structural solutions to problems that actually run much deeper. Metzger suggests that we look elsewhere for the solution to evangelicalism’s problems:
The “magic” of Christ’s saving work runs very deep – deeper than any one atonement model can delve. Christ’s atoning work cancels out individual sins in addition to defeating the fallen principalities and powers in order to build beloved community. Jesus has provided the necessary condition for living authentically in community. This chapter investigates the deep magic of Christ’s atoning work, which serves as the foundation stone for breaking down divisions between God and us and between us and others – including consumer divisions between different races and classes – and making us all one.
According to Colossians 2:15, Christ conquered fallen powers while on the cross. These powers include “angelic beings, institutions, and ideas or systems of thought…When angelic beings, institutions, and ideas become autonomous, they become fallen powers.” Examples of fallen powers include “the Roman Empire and its rule of retribution, pharisaical religion and its legalistic distortion of Israel’s election, and the American enterprise and its demands for individual self-fulfillment and consumer preference.” Jesus has confronted and conquered these powers.
Jesus’ resurrection reconfigures life and its priorities so that God’s people can die to the yuppie dream and live anew to this nobler vision of reality. Although the consumer church is a fallen power, it can be transformed when it is consumed by Jesus so that it may bear witness as a kind of first fruits of Jesus’ new world order.
The rest of the book addresses how Christ’s atoning work leads to restructuring three areas:
- the Christian life
- the church
More to come in each of these three areas.