Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Church and Her Issues

A couple of days ago blogger Peter Walker posted his response to the question, "What is the single most important issue facing the church in 2008?" I respect Peter Walker...I wouldn't read his work otherwise; however, I occasionally disagree with his viewpoint, as I do in this instance.

I'll give him more credit than myself though, because I did not have a ready answer...not because I didn't have ideas waiting for such a topic, but because the question begged two more:

1) What does church mean? Does it include the Catholic Church? I assume we are talking about the church univeral, but even that is ambiguous.
2) What is meant by issues? Walker answers the questions as if issues refers to flaws in the church. After reading his response, I felt that issues should refer to challenges facing the church if we are to assume that the church is to be outward focused (willing to sacrifice and die for others) and that the Holy Spirit will allow the church to survive.

Anyhow, my response will answer the challenge facing the church, church meaning any group that accepts the substitutionary atonement through Christ who was fully human, fully divine, and God's son.

Short and sweet, here it is:

Post Modernism, as sexy as it is, is erroding the universal acceptance of absolute truths. According to scripture and tradition right is right, wrong is wrong--a kind-of right or kind-of wrong cannot exist in the church at the basic level, and should not exist in the deep theological bedrock girding the fundamental beliefs (but it does, i.e. denominationalism). This idea of absolute truth has been accepted at the manipulitive eschelons of our society, thus it is now being accepted by nearly everyone. I am sure at some level, I too buy into it.

The church must not allow this ideology to permeate its heart, soul, teachings, functionality, and expression of Christ's love. The Church must find away too interact with this spirit of the age without falling prey to is sexy demeanor. The Church must continue to teach every truth held in scripture tactfully. Some will be offended, it is inevitable. Paul knew that the Gospel was a stumbling block, but he also said in Corinthians 6:3 to give no offense lest the gospel message be blamed. It will be tempting to only give watered down sermons and messages and leaving out the topics that have only become politically incorrect in the past 60 or so years, but in Love, I don't think Christ would have done that.

I don't think that that we need to build something new and trust the Holy Spirit to sustain it, as Walker says. The Holy Spirit guided the steps of a Jewish sect into a "church" over centuries, and I do not want to forsake 2000 years of His work. I think the churches response to this challenge requires very little internal change, but does require a little empathy in becoming all things to all men.

I think many in the emergent movement would agree. Take for example Jacob's Well, a church in Kansas City, Missouri. Jacob's Well statement of belief (online) is simply the full Apostle's Creed. No fancy hip terse statement full of words like community, campus, or trendy...just the tradional, ancient, affirmation of the Gospel. I applaud the church, and their pastor, who serves on the board for Emergent (Tim Keel).

What do you think the most important issue is?


Kenni B said...

This is something I've been thinking about recently with Campus Life.

I have lots of kids dealing and experimenting with homosexuality. Part of me says not to touch it with a ten foot pole, but I love my kids and Jesus loves my kids and I wonder if He would have just ignored it.

Nate Watson said...

Wow...what a tough question you pose. Jesus was the epitome of love, but he too spoke of judgment. (Mark 16:18) But Jesus never dealt with (as far as we know) the issue of homosexuality, although he did depend on the law, and we know what the law said.

Kenni B said...

People (gays especially) are so quick to say, "Jesus never said anything about homosexuality..." insinuating that He was OK with it. But, Jesus said himself, "I have not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets....but to fulfill them." Jesus took some of the laws of the Old Testament and made them HARDER to steer clear from. Suddenly it wasn't just the ACT of commiting adultry, but if you even LOOKED at a woman in lust you ALREADY committed adultry with her.

To top it all off, John 1 tells us "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God....The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us..." Jesus IS the Word of God. Jesus IS the Bible in a skin suit. He can't simply dismiss half of Himself, so how can anybody think Jesus was suddenly gonna say, "Just having sex with men is just fine with Me?"

I can't believe that God would create someone with a desire such as homosexuality, knowing they could never please Him in such an act. Yet MANY gays/lesbians claim they WERE born that way. Is homosexuality no different than any OTHER sinful desire we're born into? Just something we need to deny in ourselves the same as I must deny my desire to sex it up with a girl outside of marriage?

2Pete said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
2Pete said...

Nate, great thoughts and I appreciate your grace in disagreement. I'll bet we agree on more than my baby/bathwater rant might suggest. Particularly, I would like to stand corrected by one of your comments in particular: WE (Christians) shouldn't be building anything. God, through the Holy Spirit, should be building something in us and out of us.

I wrote "We have to build something new,..." but isn't that the problem? Building something new? The next big thing? (hip and kitschy) It'll never fly if it's our efforts. I got ahead of myself there. The Church, as the Body of Christ, must function by the direction of the Godhead.

But I do think we (the Church - holy, catholic and universal... whatever that means - it's a monster we don't need to touch here) need to look to the future with excitement rather than distrust, because God may be doing a new thing and we have to be prepared to discern what is God and what is dangerous distraction. I'll even go so far as to invoke Blackaby's "Experiencing God." We have to be brave enough to look where God is at work, and brave enough to say, "yes, I'll get behind that." Be that Postmodern, Modern or Pre-Modern (all of the above, or rather none of the above, I'd guess)

Thanks for the pushback Nate.

2Pete said...

Kenni B,
I think if we really want to be honest about this discussion we have to wrestle with what Jesus did say in Matthew 19:11-12 in a discussion about divorce...
Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."
And going back a bit, Isaiah 56:3-5 reads...
And let not any eunuch complain,
"I am only a dry tree."
For this is what the LORD says:
"To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant- to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.
I think it's interesting to have a conversation about sexuality using these verses, because one doesn't necessarily have to have a convesation about the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality to have a conversation about whether or not one can be born or created with that identity.

Whether it's sin or not is certainly an interesting and important discussion, but whether or not someone can be born a certain way colors our compassion, our understanding, and the language we use to address the sin question.

What do you two think?