Talladega Nights and the Restoration Movement

If THAT title doesn’t get some hits, I don’t know what will!

Bear with me, though. I’ve got an idea, and I’m curious about how it resonates with my dear readers.

In Talladega Nights, Ricky Bobby is fixated on the Baby Jesus. He seems to know that Jesus grew up, but all he wants to think about is the Baby Jesus.

“Look, I like the Christmas Jesus best, and I’m sayin’ grace. When you say grace, you can say it to Grownup Jesus or Teenage Jesus or Bearded Jesus or whoever you want.”

“Dear Tiny Jesus, in your golden fleece diapers with your tiny, little fat balled up fists. Dear Eight Pound, Six Ounce, Newborn Baby Jesus, don’t even know a word yet, just a little infant, so cuddly, but still omnipotent.”

“Dear Lord Baby Jesus, we also like to thank you for my wife’s father Chip, we hope that you can use your baby Jesus powers to heal him and his horrible leg.”

“Dear 8 pound 6 ounce Baby Jesus, or as our brothers to the south call you Jésus…we thank you so much for this bountiful harvest of Domino’s, KFC, and the always delicious Taco Bell. I just want to take time to say thank you for my family, My two beautiful, beautiful, handsome, striking sons, Walker, and Texas Ranger, or T.R., as we call him.”

“Dear Lord baby Jesus, lyin’ there in your ghost manger, just lookin’ at your Baby Einstein developmental videos, learnin’ ’bout shapes and colors. I would like to thank you for bringin’ me and my mama together, and also that my kids no longer sound like retarded gang-bangers.”

“Thank you, for all your power and your grace, Dear Baby God, Amen”

Okay, you get the idea.

MY idea is that maybe, just maybe, we in the Restoration Movement think about the church in much the same way that Ricky Bobby thinks about Jesus. We obsess over its infancy, when perhaps we should consider that it was meant to “grow up in all things” (Eph 4:15). Our ecclesiology takes as a foundational proposition that the church sprang forth on Pentecost like Athena from the head of Zeus, when no other major movement of God has happened this way.

Did Israel appear, fully formed, in Genesis 12?

Exodus?

Joshua?

Did Jesus appear, fully formed, in the Gospels?

No, we have this very challenging (to our understanding of Jesus) saying: Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Lk 2:52)

Maybe everything about the church wasn’t fully formed by the time the canon closed. It seems that things like the church’s understanding of slavery, women’s roles, and the purpose and authority of governments were still in flux.

I don’t know, but I fear that looking back, obsessing over, and trying to be exactly like the infant church would be like Israel looking back and dreaming of the days when they were on the wrong side of the Red Sea, scared and angry and pinched between an army and a wet place.

What do you think? Am I totally loony? Am I making sense?

in HIS love,

nick

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About Nick Gill

orphan-poet-adoptee-soldier-prodigal-servant-husband- counselor-desperate seeker after my Father's face "I feel my body weakened by the years as people turn to gods of cruel design. Is it that they fear the pain of death, or is it that they fear the joy of life?" - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Posted on 10 July, 2008, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Hey NIck,
    I’ve been away super busy with our little camp, but life is starting to get back to normal. As always your posts are thought provoking.

    Perhaps a distinction needs to be made between the inspired teaching of the apostles, which was infallible, and the understanding of first century Christians which was often flawed. It is good to follow the examples of primitive Christians in the good that they did (for example, 1 Thess. 2:14) and it that sense they can serve as models for us. However, The Model is Christ. Men were imperfect in the first century as they are today. Just read the letters to the seven chuches!

    May God continue to bless you,

  2. I think you’ve got a great point here. When I teach history, I caution students against trying to “freeze” societies or civilizations in a fixed point in time. Churches, too, are fluid beings, always with changes working on them, even if those changes aren’t always visible. Great piece (and yeah, great title!)

  3. Dear Gardner,

    Welcome back. I have indeed missed your input. I’m certain your camp work will bear wonderful fruit. We’ve had several conversions in the Holly Hill family this month, either at camp or after everything from camp settled in. 1 Cor 15:58!

    Your distinction is important, but I would suggest that it needs nuancing. As we always say in our bible classes, there are (at least) three questions we must answer about any NT passage.
    1) What does the passage SAY?
    2) What did it mean to its original audience?
    3) How does it apply to us?

    The inspired doctrine of the apostles consists of infallible answers to particular 1st century questions, situations, and challenges as the apostles were striving to promote the kind of maturation necessary for such passages as 1 Cor 13 and Eph 4 to be fulfilled.

    Indeed, THE Model IS Christ. BUT, in following that model… in being for our little corners of the world who and what Jesus was for Israel, somehow we must learn to honor and internalize and incarnate both Luke 2:52 AND Hebrews 13:8.

    in HIS love,
    nick

  4. Ray,

    I hope you will become a more frequent commentor/contributor to this Fumbling journey I’m on.

    Fumbling family, meet Ray Kimball. Check out his blog in the roll over there. He’s been there and done that, and he’s been my dear friend since I hid in his barracks room at the Academy because things were getting super-hot for this ate-up plebe over in the G-1 company area back in ’91. Tomorrow or Saturday, I will share my thoughts on his article, “Mission First – What Both Candidates Get Wrong.” Until then, know that he is one of the good guys.

    What you’re saying, Ray, is the one and only thing I took away from all my Differential Equation / Calculus / Prob and Stats classes. Calculus tries to model reality, in which events are never discrete and static, but always connected and dynamic. There are no closed systems in reality.

    Churches, denominations, and (I assert) the church universal are no different. That is why I believe a band of God’s people looking forward, reading Scripture in community with humility and integrity, respecting and honoring history (while neither revering or ignoring it) is the kind of company that will remain on the move, traveling light, living the mission of God.

    in HIS love,
    nick

  5. I’m with you, Nick. Our story captured in the word “restoration” looks too much in one direction. Restoration as a model has failed, though many will continue to promote the wrong-headed agenda. A better model is Wright’s 5 part story, where we find our selves in the fifth part. Creation, fall, Isreal, Jesus, the church (or what I’d describe as new creation). We get some info about the beginning of the 5th part (Acts, etc.) and hints about the way the 5th part ends (Ro. 8, Ep. 1, Co. 1, Is. 11, Re 21-22). Thoroughly informed about the past and aware of the future, our mission is to improvise in the present. It’s informed improvising. Rather than attempting to recreate something old by finding a pattern which can be legalistically followed, we need to living out the implications of our history and our future today. This respects the authority of scripture while rejecting misguided dogma. We don’t have to all look the same or work toward redemption in exactly the same way. But we do need to grow out of the same Foundation, and there should be some evidence of the future shining through in our efforts.

  6. I’m with you, sort of.

    To begin, as more conservative sisters and brothers often point out, we are not trying to be like the actual first century churches that existed, but like what God told them to be. That, of course, we all should already take as a given.

    Next, I think there is quite a bit to be said for listening to what God said to the first churches. Their problems are our problems. Not much has changed. We should take those basic principles and build on them.

    Finally, I embrace church history, good and bad, without trying to hop over the centuries and pretend as though nothing ever happened between the first century and now (or between the first and the nineteenth centuries). At the same time, I do not accept the view held by Roman Catholic friends and others that the New Testament teaching about faith and order was the seed, and that the monarchical episcopate and eventually the pope came about as a natural development, guided supernaturally by God. If I believed that, I’d be Roman Catholic still.

    Good post. I still haven’t seen that movie. I like the lead actor, but thought he was funnier on SNL than in any movies.

  7. Dear Adam,

    I really appreciate your participation in this Fumbling journey, and I definitely agree with your beginning idea. In fact, that is part of my problem with the opening metaphor of Tim Woodruff’s ‘A Church That Flies.’ He compares our dealings with the Restoration plea to man’s attempts to fly. He suggests that the birds themselves are the right original model, but successful flight only occurred when engineers stopped trying to imitate the bird’s FORM (ornithopters, etc) and started applying modern science and technology to imitate the functions which the bird’s forms are perfectly suited. Then you get beautiful, graceful, useful airplanes.

    And sound pollution.
    And air pollution.
    And hijackings.
    And an entire industry held hostage by petroleum interests.

    Neither the ornithopter image nor the airplane image suits what God is doing, because we are not supposed to be dead imitations of a living creation of God. We are to be, for our communities, what Jesus was for Israel and what the early churches were for their communities – among other things, a radical summons into the with-God life that affirms truth and goodness when it encounters it, and confronts image-of-God-marring evil when it encounters that.

    So indeed, we are to be LIKE what God told them to be. But we must be different because our communities have different needs. The basic principles, I believe, are the identity and mission of Jesus Christ, which we must learn to incarnate in patient, loving, and still prophetically challenging ways. NT Wright says we must learn to be symbol-makers and story-tellers, as we invite people to join us as we follow Jesus.

    I agree with the latter half of your disagreement with the RCC, but I think I tend to agree with their thought process. I believe they fundamentally misunderstood the identity and mission of Jesus, and so they fed bad information into the right process. I do not believe the monarchical episcopate and the pope came as God-superintended developments, but that is because I think the idea of Jesus elevating Peter to Chief Apostle is deeply eisegetic and misses the whole point. Jesus wasn’t one of the Twelve, to be replaced when he left. Nor was the Twelve a quorum out of which his replacement would develop. The Twelve were a prophetic symbolic creation, like Jeremiah’s underwear and Ezekiel’s model city. Notice how rapidly they fade into obscurity after the Resurrection, and how minor is Peter’s role in the developing church. It is Paul and James, neither a member of the Twelve, who take the lead.

    Like our use of Nadab and Abihu to paper over the real reasons for division in the Restoration Movement, Matt 16 is used as a proof-text to support what had already happened. There is no indication whatsoever historically that early students of Scripture said, “Hmm, we need a Pope because Jesus promoted Peter!”

    It is not the idea of the continuing maturation of the identity and mission of the church that the RCC example refutes, but rather the use of Scripture to approve what we’ve already decided to do. That is a warning that I do indeed take to heart myself.

    in HIS love,
    nick

  8. Give me a few days to read and catch up on your last two blogs, had some family ilnesses and life bunmps come up. I will indeed get back with it Bro!

  9. Have no fear, Trent… you’re in our prayers.

  10. Yes, you are making sense. On a slightly different spin, at our church in Portland we actually showed an edited for church version of that clip during worship. The preacher talked about how we tend to see Jesus how we want to see Him, instead of just how He is. It’s funny that we love Christ for loving us and accepting us, but we struggle with doing the same thing with him. Here’s the edited for church version: http://www.youtube.com/user/8thAveIdea

  11. CHERYL! Welcome back, dear heart. I’ve missed you here.

    That is SO cool! Thank you!

    I think our problem is that we DO love Jesus for loving us and accepting us, but he wants to reshape us as well, and we don’t love that so much. It is MUCH more comfortable to reshape him into our image than to let him reshape us into his.

  12. Wow, that is a great post! I think many times those of us in the RM treat the Bible as a instruction book, a manual. That’s stupid! Hebrews says the Word is living and active, but when was the last time you came alive reading the instruction manual to your new DVD player. Chances are you haven’t even looked at, it’s in a drawer somewhere- waiting maybe that is exactlly how some of treat our Bibles!
    Anyway, thanks for your thoughts, may be all work to continue to be what Christ would want us to be.

  13. JD,

    WELCOME! I promise everyone, I do not pay for comments like that! 🙂

    Thank you, and your point is WELL-TAKEN indeed. How often have I heard the Bible called something like “our instruction manual for salvation” when I guarantee that 90% of the people in the audience have never read a single instruction manual in their lives. No WONDER their Bibles gather dust!

    Riffing off of that, it bugs me when the audience gets blamed for being bored with biblical preaching & teaching. I’m too quick as a teacher to pat myself on the head for my teaching style & method, and blame the listeners for not caring or not being “open to the Word.” I’ve got to find ways to breathe out the Word that resonate with those around me.

    Anything short of sin to introduce people to Jesus.

    Fear is not an option.

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