Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Danger of Downward

Yesterday, I introduced this concept that I've been thinking about lately of the three spheres - the Kingdom, the Church, and the Heart.  In writing about this, I'm not saying you should view life this way.  I am saying, though, that life functions this way and it's a helpful way for me to talk about it.  Today I want to talk about one of the dangers inherent within this:  the danger of moving something from one sphere to one below it.

When something slips, either intentionally or not, from the realm of the Kingdom to the realm of the Church, I think it's primarily an understanding of revelation that suffers.  If the locus of interpretation lies solely within the local community of faith, you can pretty much find whatever you want to find and do whatever you want to do.  For example, if the Gospel (a Kingdom realm issue) is interpreted in the local community of faith and not in the Scriptural and historical setting, you find that it gets emptied of meaning really quickly, especially to those outside the community.  What's more, there's no real compelling reason to share the Gospel outside of the community.  And how can an outsider understand the Gospel that's been interpreted in the community since they weren't there?  Yes, there is a sense in which each community of faith applies the Gospel to itself.  But the application of it is very different than the interpretation of it.  I bring this example up, in particular, because the postmodern method of interpretation (seminary term:  the postmodern hermeneutic) relies heavily on the interpretation of the Gospel in the community of faith.  This is no mere exercise in hypothetical ministry leadership - it's happening.  And in my humble opinion, it's dangerous.

When something slips from the Church to the Heart, you lose at least two things.  The first thing is a sense of accountability.  If I push certain mores and norms from the church to the heart, my answer to everything is, "Well, but that's a personal decision."  Each person, then, gets to decide what is right for them.  And consequently, the Corinthian church could no longer say to the immoral man that he was being immoral (1 Cor. 5).  The second thing is just as damning.  In an effort to be more inclusive by accepting more, you actually isolate yourself.  My experience and my understanding of the New Testament is that the norming morals of the Church help people have a sense of identity and belonging.  Lowering the standards may let more people in the door, but they don't feel as connected because there's not a standard to which all are striving to conform.  In sports terms, having a team goal promotes relationships on the team, even when the relationships are tested by adversity or accountability.

When something moves from the Heart to oblivion, you callous your conscience.  One of the great sanctifying thoughts for me is that I have to stand before God and give an account for my life (2 Cor. 5.10).  A great gift to me in making decisions that will go well for me on judgment day is my conscious. Pushing important matters of the Heart or refusing to deal with them callouses my conscience.  After a while, it simply no longer responds to prompting from the Spirit.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

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