Friday, September 07, 2007

What Is versus What Ought to Be

I purchased a book today that is knock-my-socks-off exciting. First published in 1947 (originally written in 1930) by a missionary society (the author wrote the preface from Argentina), The New Testament Order for Church and Missionary is a well-studied book that includes biblical references and quotes from outside sources, as well as personal testimonial experiences of the author and his colleagues. If you read my series on Changing Church, you probably have a fair idea of the direction my thoughts on Church tend. Recently I have contemplated a book on the subject, all I know about Church.

A lot of us recognize there is something wrong with at least one portion of our Church model, whether it is the drop-out rate after youth group, the worship, "extracurricular" involvement, or craving for deep teaching and mature discipleship that just isn't available. Some authors and Church leaders have advocated programs based on secular entertainment or business or education models to turn these trends around. A faith in God-based approach would be to go to the Bible in case He had something to say about the way Church should be. It follows from the fact that God instituted and created the Church that He also knows what will be most effective in it, and if that is important to Him, He let us know what those things were.

Alex R. Hay, the author of this book from sixty years ago, says in his foreword that he sensed a movement of the Holy Spirit in Christians' lives around the world pointing them back to the New Testament for their Church models. I commented to my mom, who was with my when I bought the book, that I was impressed that the same movement of the Spirit that I can note among the different movements, websites, books, and friends with which I am familiar was happening in 1947, too. Her reply was less than encouraging, "When was this written? And obviously the book didn't change the world. The principles weren't put into place."

There are several answers to that statement. First, as the missionary agency was international, there may very well be congregations implementing the style of Church described therein. Or the book may not have been well-publicized. The copy I now own was apparently used as a textbook or reference book. There is underlining in it. I would say the fact that it was on a used bookstore shelf might reflect on its importance to the original owner, but since the book was published sixty years ago, it seems likely the original men taught by the book are retired or deceased. I don't know when seminary training became prerequisite for pastorship at most churches, but these schools now present multiple concepts of ministry and theology, allowing students to study for themselves. They have to study modern methods, just like I had to wade through shelves and rooms and stacks of books to discover this gem, and it is only by God's grace that I pulled this one off the shelf at all. The task of wading through all the books and theories can be overwhelming. That's why we go to the Bible.

But here is my other answer to my mom's observation. Is she saying that the work is less true or important because it is not popular? Because its ideas did not "win" in the subversive battle for Church structure? This is the subtle philosophy derived from evolution that governs our legal system, our philosophy, and our culture. I am told that because the cultural norm is for women to move out after high school, attend college, and pursue a career with a husband on the side, that my anti-establishment choices are not even going to work in this modern reality. Case law was specifically designed to undermine natural and moral absolutes*, taking the Darwinian view that the dominant or concensus idea is the "fittest," so it is right for the current generation. Our philosophy takes the same position, that whatever is exists because it is best, the most pragmatic for our time. New ideas replaced old ones. We are in a progression. Thus the Bible is outdated. Family is obsolete. Our Constitution is a living document, and we humans are slaves to the drive of society.

The problem is the evidence refutes this perception. Majorities have never changed the course of the world. Change happens in a society because lobbyists speak loudly and corral the masses. Some things are always true. God, the transcendent eternal guide, is the source for truth, and the only Northern Star by which we can set our compasses in a world of experiments that take a lifetime to discover were wrong.

My brother asked without much thought one day if anyone had ever done a test to see on how little sleep the average human can survive. In case you didn't catch on, if in the study a human did not get enough sleep to survive, he was dead. The experiment would be the same as seeing how long you can go without breathing before you're dead. You can always push the envelope until there's no envelope to push, and then there's not much point in having that data. The same with the social experiments. The consequences of fooling around with God's order are too dire to permit.

Go to God. Seek His plan. Implement it to the best of your ability. Trust Him. In Church. In your family decisions. In economics. In morality. In education. For salvation.

To God be all glory.

*Case law was not always the standard in the United States of America. Prior to the spread of Origin of Species (and its implications taken up by the ripe intelligentsia of the day), natural law was the standard. It involved absolutes. This was the basis of the Declaration of Independence's inalienable rights. Once case law was introduced to the judicial system of America, the study of law became complex, involving familiarity with innumerable and sometimes contradictory precedents. By giving judges power through precedent, they were enabled to do what is today called "legislating from the bench." It is because of this misapplication of the judiciary that we have taken God out of the schools and "legalized" abortion. For more information, read Men in Black by Mark Levin and research "case law," "legal positivism," "precedents," Christopher Columbus Langdell, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, and "common law."
Disclaimer: I haven't read the book yet, only a few parts. I'm not saying I agree with everything Mr. Hay wrote. In fact, after researching the website, I am skeptical of his interpretation of women in ministry. He could at the least be more humble about a matter on which so many have disagreed.

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