Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Making of "Super Saints"

Matt Friedman has an interesting column on Agape Press that delves into the questions raised by Ron Sider in his newest book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience.

"An old Christianity Today cartoon depicted a critic gently chastising the prophet Amos. "Nice sermon today ... but why can't you talk to us about what is right in Israel?"

When Ron Sider, in his new volume The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, addresses the unconscionable behavior of much of today's evangelical church, by the end of the first several chapters you have just about the same question for him: Is there anything good about the Church today? Sider thinks so.

But first to reiterate the tragedy. Sider quotes Peter E. Gillquist when he suggests that "All the evangelism in the world from a church that is not herself holy and righteous will not be worth a hill of beans in world-changing power." John G. Stackhouse, Jr., is not far behind in his sentiments: Many evangelicals, he states, are immersed in a Christianity that allows them to lie, cheat, beat their wives, neglect the poor, and live life any way they darned well want to with an attitude of I'm-cool-'cause-Jesus-loves-me-and-so-I-don't- owe-you-a-thing." Sider's book contains the statistics from the pollsters to prove this case. And it is not pretty.

But, thankfully, there is something right in Israel. There are what George Gallup, Jr. and Timothy Jones have dubbed "super-saints" who believe in the full authority of the Bible, pray and read the Bible daily, practice evangelism, perform works of compassion, are less prejudiced, are politically active, and who exercise a disproportionately positive impact in the lives of those around them.

And how to produce these disciples, or super-saints, in our churches today?
The surprising answer to some: convince them of a biblical worldview. People with this godly outlook on life are dramatically less likely to engage in sexual sin, far more likely to eschew various forms of sin, and more likely to take seriously spiritual habits, including serving the poor and sharing their faith. Explains Sider in a decided understatement, "Biblical orthodoxy does matter. One important way to end the scandal of contemporary Christian behavior is to work and pray fervently for the growth of orthodox theological belief in our churches."

Why I have not always agreed with Siders over the years, he is right on here. What is needed then is not less theology, but more. Not less doctrine, but more. Less entertainment and more Biblical preaching. Less, what can the Church do for me and more what can I do for others.

The key is a unified biblical worldview. Far too many Christians today have a buffet approach to the Christian life and practice. A little of this, some of that, I don't like that... They accept a hodge-podge of contradictory ideas and seem unable to recognize the inconsistency and danger of such an eclectic world-view.

As clergy, we have aided and abetted our congregations, by being more concerned about filling our pews than filling people's hearts and minds. We compromise the core of truth in order not to offend. We would rather entertain than educate. We say we are only giving the people what they want. But our God-ordained role is to give them what they need. Strong medicine is needed to cure this soul-sickness and we must not withhold the cure, just because the patient might not like the prescription.

We cannot change the world until we change ourselves.
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God –this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is His good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:1,2)

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