Wednesday, April 14, 2010

CSFF Tour - Lost Mission Day 3

We haven't had a tour like this for a while!

The CSFF Tour is finishing up discussing the new book Lost Mission by Athol Dickson. It has provoked a wide range of responses, from praise to "couldn't get into it" to "can't recommend it." The writing is almost universally praised, but the style sometimes threw people off. Others had some questions about issues raised in the book, or agendas being promoted. There's a lot to consider, and I can't sum it all up. Be sure to go to Becky Miller's page where she keeps track of all who have posted.

I've even had a hard time narrowing down what I want to discuss, but beforewarned:


One of the issues brought up very prominently is immigration. Two of the characters are from Mexico, and they cross over illegally. One of them comes feeling a holy call to preach, and the other needs work to save up so his family can buy a little restaurant so they can support themselves in their own village. Both of them have noble reasons to come, but they do it by following a coyote across the desert. Another character is a pastor who opens a ministry to the Hispanic immigrants in the city, without differentiating between legal and illegal immigrants.

Athol Dickson gets a little comment in about the "artificiality" of borders, and he may be more sympathetic to one side over the other, but on the whole, I thought he showed issues as they are. Some illegal immigrants go about their business to support themselves or their family. Some get drunk and cause significant problems and suffering. And the rich businessman who rails against illegal immigrants has a Mexican servant for his house for years.

Some of the debate on the tour has been whether it is okay for Christians to do something good by breaking the law - the old "ends justifying the means" argument. I don't want to be a relativist or utilitarian in my thinking, but I can't help but think of missionaries who work in closed countries as "tentmakers", working in their trade so they can share the gospel unofficially, or those who smuggle Bibles into lands where it is forbidden. Certainly there are people who shouldn't be here, and I'm not equating coming for work to gospel work. I just can't seem to think of it as a purely black and white issue.

I always end up thinking of this:
" 'When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.'" Leviticus 19:33-34

Others on the tour have noted that if one really feels called to preach in America, they could work on getting here by the "proper channels", and that certainly is true. No denying that, but waiting 7 years for red tape makes for a poor novel!

Another interesting issue is the contrast in faith. In Alejandro's time he works with two fellow friars. The head abbott is very legalistic, doesn't show grace to the Indians they're trying to reach, and seems to horde worldly goods. The other friar is well-received by the Indians for the way he integrates with them, but ends up leaving his heritage to "cross over." Then Athol cleverly duplicates this in two of his modern day characters, the wealthy Delano and poor preacher Tucker.

At first glance Delano is the obvious self-righteous character, as he sits in his mansion looking down on those "illegals" and other immoral elements that he feels the church needs protection from. Yet Tucker has his own brand of self-righteousness, as he becomes hard to the wealthy gringo churches that won't help him reach out to the downtrodden. Both become examples of what we should avoid on either side of the spectrum.

A self-described "prophet" once told a group I was in that the Lord doesn't believe in "balance." There is the Kingdom way, and the devil's way, and that balance was a Greek or Eastern ideal that shouldn't be in the church. Certainly he is right in that I always want to walk in God's ways. However, I am a fallen sinner that routinely screws up, and sometimes the balance in tension that Christianity has developed over time (free will vs. sovereignty, grace vs. law, love vs. justice) is the only way we can keep from getting too off track. If anyone knows how to perfectly stay in His will, let me know - I'll be the first to sign up!

Well, if you couldn't tell, Lost Mission was a provocative book! I will go on record as saying it is in a good way, making people think about a variety of issues. I could go into more, but who's going to read this as long as it is anyway! If it intrigues you, check it out. I think you'll be glad you did.


  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughtful comments on LOST MISSION, Jason.

    For what it's worth, I absolutely DO think God cares about balance, in fact I think balance is essential in a Christian's life. Justice without mercy is injustice. Grace without law is licentiousness. Etcetera. Imbalance leads to evil every time. ("You should have practiced the former without neglecting the latter...") But I think the way to stay perfectly in balance--perfectly in God's will--is not by TRYING to be balanced. Rather we can only stay in balance by LOVING.

    Put differently: we are not here to obey the Lord; we are here to love Him. If obedience was God's main concern, He would have created a race of robots or zombies, but He created us with freewill instead, precisely because His main concern is that we love him. Love then leads to a willing obedience. ("If anyone loved me, he will obey my teaching.") And obedience which is not first motivated by love is legalism.

    But there's an irony at work, because of course the very love we have for God, comes from God. ("We love because He first loved us.") Which gets us back to balance again, except this time it's the importance of remaining firmly balanced in the middle place between free will and predestination. It's not "either/or" but rather "yes and yes."

    Jesus explains the one way we remain in that balanced middle place when they ask Him what we must do and he says, "The work of God is to believe in the One whom He has sent." That's all we CAN do. We believe. Even that is a gift. ("I do believe. Help my unbelief!") But we believe, and He then gives us love, and with His love comes the passionate desire to love Him back, and in loving Him, we find ourselves living lives of natural obedience.

    Wow. Sorry for the long comment but your post really got me thinking, obviously. Thank you for that.

  2. I'm with Athol as a believer in balance. I often comment that so much about God teaches us this. He is not just one thing. Jesus was all God but also all Man, for instance. God Himself is One, but Three.

    In that vein, I have a slight disagreement with how we can stay balanced. I think we do so by trusting and obeying. Of course trust and obedience are integral to loving God. Jesus said "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments."

    I think there's a tension between these two that keeps us in balance. Trust with no obedience has people worshiping smudges on window panes that look like some icon, even while they curse the guy who elbowed them or cut in front of the line.

    But obedience with no trust has people pulling their coattails close as they step over the homeless man sprawled in the church doorway.

    I guess what I'm saying is, to be balanced we can't neglect any of God's council, and when we do, we have to confess, repent, and step out again, thankful that we have the arms of Jesus beneath us to put us back on the beam again.