His story disturbs me. I have tried to think this through, and have read Sudduth's account. In analytical thinking, I cannot just say "The Bible says ..." because he just rejoinds with "The Gita says ...". So I must try to understand him immanently. I notice the following features of his account:
Note: The Harrison song 'My Sweet Lord' is one of devotion and starts with the backing of 'Halleluhah', which led some Christians to use the song as worship of Jesus. But the song moves to a backing of 'Hare Krishna', and Harrison meant it as a worship of Krishna.
I see echoes of the nature-grace ground-motive in Sudduth's reasoning. Especially in his near-absolutizing of devotion-love for God above all other things, and seemingly making it the Justifier of his shift in faith-allegiance. Things like justice, technology and economics are downplayed. Maybe NGGM (or what Mark Greene calls sacred-secular divide) is the underlying problem.
Sudduth's discovery of personal devotion to, and joy in, God can be applauded. It is a dimension of salvation that can tend to be underplayed in Calvinistic Christianity, which focuses on the dimension of what Romans 8 calls 'no condemnation'. Many reformationals rejected the Charismatic movement and still look askance at Pentecostal Christianity and also at the experiential Christianity found in Methodism a hundred years ago. But are they not a second dimension mentioned in Romans 8, around verses 14-17?
Did Michael Sudduth tend to downplay this second dimension of intensive devotion for, and experience of, God during his reformational Christianity? If so, his soul - nay! his whole being - would have been crying out for it, and, it is no wonder that when he discovered something of it in Vedanta Hinduism he would have been drawn to it.
So what are we to do? To downplay this second dimension on grounds that desire for it led Sudduth away from out Saviour? Not at all! We need to go beyond it to what Romans 8 indicates may be a third dimension, and which is found throughout the Bible.
Both 'no condemnation' and an intimate one-to-one relationship with God are important, as two dimensions of salvation, but there is a third dimension that puts them into a broader context of God's cosmic plan. If you read Romans 8, you will see that Paul felt it led into the blessing of the rest of creation - the purpose for which we are forgiven and filled with the Holy Spirit. See <../nv/romans8.html">argument about three dimensional salvation. The Living God revealed through the Bible that there is more than devotion to him or even forgiveness of sins: justice especially is important. This justice emerges out of agape-love if we recognise the essential interconnectedness of Creation: See explanation.
It should be said that Reformational Christianity does recognise the third dimension, in Calvin's claim that every sphere of life should be under the sovereignty of Christ. But does it tend to ignore the second dimension of personal devotion, relationship and empowerment, which alone enables God's people to fulfil his work in his world (fruit of the Spirit: Galatians 5:22-23)? Maybe Michael Sudduth's account can warn us who espouse reformational thinking to be careful that
I trust this might be of some initial help. If anyone is in Michael Sudduth's Facebook friendgroup, I am quite happy for what I have written to be sent to him.
Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 2010. But you may use this material subject to certain conditions.
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Created: 22 January 2012. Last updated: