Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Madwoman: A Parable--With Apologies to F.N.

A certain madwomen went from church to church in many town across the United States. She only entered evangelical churches. "Whither is God?" she cried. Where is the evidence of God's presence in your midst?" She was greeted with jeers and taunts: "Are you mad? We are the church! Do you think we could lose God?" And so they ridiculed her, without a second thought. "Our attendance is growing every week. God is obviously at work."

Undismayed, she answered, "I seek God, the God of fire and grace, the God with wounds, the God who turns everything upside down, the God who summons repentance and faith to move mountains. I must find the God of the Holy Book. I must find a holy people." But her divers interlocutors were unmoved: "We have no need for such a judgmental and extremist deity. Our God is our comfort. We have contextualized God. What else could we do? It is the twenty-first century, after all. You are insane and off of your medication!"

She thundered back in tones that frightened many, "A contextualized God is no God at all! Let God be God, though everyone a liar!" This was too much for the evangelical churches. Many further scorned her by saying, "What woman could be a prophet of our God?!" She was forced out of all the churches or escorted out by police who warned her to desist lest she be charged with disturbing the peace. She always peacefully left, never physically harming anyone or anything. But she lamented, "Woe to those who say, 'Peace, peace' when there is no peace. Woe to those who have domesticated God. Woe to those who have reinvented God in their own image. Woe to those are a sleep in the storm and do not know how to repent. Has not the church been untethered from God? Where is it moving now? Away from God, toward other gods who destroy their worshippers? Is it not spinning endlessly, blown by every wind of popularity--away from the holy, away from the serious, away from the sober, away from the truth?"

They laughed at her poetic explosions and congratulated themselves on their piety. "You have been reading the wrong writers," they screamed. I come too late," she cried. "Truth decay takes time; bone rot takes time; compromise takes time; cancer takes time. And then time escapes--and it is too late. Or is it?"

The madwomen went from church to church, undaunted by her rejection, yet weeping bitterly as she went. "What are these churches," she mused, "if not the sepulchers and tombstones of God...?

But she spoke to her soul again and again: "I must keep looking, watching, praying. But hope deferred makes the heart sick."


Pilgrim in Progress said...

"Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I seek God! I seek God!” — As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? Is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? Emigrated? – Thus they yelled and laughed. The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him – you and I. All of us are his murderers." (Nietzsche)

Doug, great post. I have always been struck by how easily the madman's words could be applied to the Church in America today. Nietzsche points out that belief in the Christian God has become unbelievable. As you note, in too many churches the person of God and the knowledge of God has been watered down to the point where belief in the true God has become either unbelievable, unknown, or forgotten. While Nietzsche's solution is the Ubermensch, you and I would argue for repentence and a return to true Biblical Christianity.

amazitha said...

I am that woman. I heard a sermon yesterday about the resurrection and eternal life (comfort, safety, disembodied spirituality in "heaven"), about the resurrection vindicating Jesus's authority (which means inerrancy of Scripture, gospel as rescue from hell). Nothing about turning the world upside down, filling the earth with God's image bearers, nothing about repentance from our true sin, pride and self-sufficiency--nothing about picking up our crosses and layiing down our lives to build the kingdom.

I am going mad. Pray for me. I am only a woman and I have no voice. My church just ordained a 23 year kid who now is permitted preach but I can't even speak even though I feel the prophetic power of the Spirit.

What encouragement do you have for women in evangelical churches who have no voice?

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...


The sexism in the church is scandalous. Load up on the truth. Read Rebecca Merrill Groothuis's books, Women Caught in the Conflict and Good News for Woman. Consider joining a Bible-believing church that honors women.

amazitha said...

Hmmm. I dream of leaving the church, but I respect my husband and don't want to dishonor him. I've withdrawn from women's ministry, but I lead youth group (girls, of course :) ). One of the pastors is in my small group and I'm directing my comments and questions to open his eyes to the whole of scripture instead of a chopped up systematic theology. It's amazing to see the "aha" moments he has, and who knows where this will lead? (No pun intended).

I know there are thousands of women like me who want to walk in full fellowship without a sacred glass ceiling over their heads. They can't leave their churches because their families are so entrenched.

My prayer life is a constant breathing in and out of prayers for the whole Church--for a holistic gospel for women and men, and for the new way of being ushered in by the Resurrection.

Kevin Winters said...

What do you mean by a "contextualized God"? What would it mean to have a non-contextualized God?