Monday, August 17, 2009

Branches

I once heard someone defend our government's three-branch division using the Bible. In a curious case of proof-texting, the speaker stated that Isaiah 33:22 informs our Constitution. "For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us." I suppose, using the same method of stripping verses from their contexts, you could argue that Jesus Himself, as Prophet, Priest, and King, also prefigured our republic.

The problem is this: The government cannot save. (And proof-texting is bad interpretation.) The President, Capitol hill, and the Supreme court cannot deliver us from 'the present evil age' (Gal 1:4) and party politics. Like Paul, I want to call out, "O you foolish Americans! Who has bewitched you?" (Gal 3:1), but that, too, would be out of context.

Admittedly, my recent frustration has been fueled by Glenn Beck's Common Sense (which apparently is a Christian book because it is selling in my local Christian bookstore). And, to be fair (and balanced), some of my disapproval stems from overspending and short-sighted solutions to spiritually deep problems. Greed, gluttony, hate, and fear cannot be curbed with a quorum and Yes vote. Nor can mega-churches and self-help movements cure depravity.

Glenn Beck suggests we need more common sense in our country. I would not disagree, but I add that common sense does not save. Call me old-fashioned, conservative, or pithy, but salvation is found in Jesus alone (Acts 4:12). We need more Jesus and more people like Him. The early church fathers understood this well. Then again, they were not trying to establish a nation, but to resurrect it.

"I am the Vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me bears much fruit. For without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Crisis

"Are you on the clock or off?" I asked.

"I'm always on the clock," he responded. This is what you say when you're a man-in-charge.

I took this as a green light and began my interrogation.

"Tell me about leadership. How do you inspire people? How important is chemistry, democracy, and vision? How often must I repeat something before it sticks?" And so on.

Golf was our excuse for a conversation. While Grace College was raising funds, I was raising my leadership IQ with the guru of raising new leaders. His recent topic of interest was crisis, a term I know more from watching balding dads and studying Chinese writing (crisis = chaos + opportunity). According to social theory, crisis is the point where a system, organization, or unit has its viability threatened. Life or death; make it or break it; do your business or get off the pot.

I've heard people state that Christianity is in crisis. In a revised and updated book from the eighties, Hank Hanegraaff said as much.The thesis is simple: False teachers have put Christianity into a state of crisis.

Is this true? They've certainly started conversations, sold books, questioned orthodoxy and fought poverty with vigil. But have they bled Christianity of its viability? I would argue otherwise. My contention is that controversial teaching (i.e., heresy) has always quickened the pulse of the church, not squelched it. Jesus will not abandon His bride for the sake of a few bad minstrels.

Moreover, the viability of Christianity is greater than the sum of its teaching. Bible-teaching churches across the world are full of anemic, Spirit-quenched Christians. Evangelicals across the nation are submerged in porn, self-harm, and fear. Sermons and Bible study are an essential foundation to viability, but truth devoid of practice is pure theory. Crisis is when both orthodoxy and orthopraxis disappear (or, for Grace College, when orthopedics stop donating).

Finally, the social understanding of crisis is irrelevant to Christianity because the church is not a system, organization, or unit susceptible to the laws of Darwin. Only when it is treated as such--rather than an organic, begetting, Christ-centered community--does the words crisis enter the discussion.