Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Why We Love the Church

Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck have co-authored another book on the church. Unlike their last co-authored book when they went on the attack towards the Emergent Church, here they go on the defence for the ordinary institutional Church. This book comes out as a response to books that talk about people who have left the church and found God, these books include "Life after Church", "The Shack", "Pagan Christianity" "Quitting Church", "They like Jesus but Not the Church", "So you don't want to go to Church Anymore" (I've listened to this book on audio but never reviewed it, you can read it online here) etc... One of the things that caught my eye when buying this book was the quote by J. I. Packer who said while reading this book he wanted to stand up and cheer. I thought that was pretty cool and figured the book must be alright then.

Like their previous book they alternated chapters and DeYoung brings in most of the heavy theology where as Kluck writes a bit lighter and is more personal. This style still works as well as their cynicism towards the cynics of the church.

They look at the church "revolutions" about having church on a golf course or in a Starbucks instead of a normal institutional church (failing to note Starbucks a large multinational) and how really the use of the world revolution is really a bit of hype and might more accurately be called unbiblical or lazy.

They are honest that church might be lame, and that you may well have legitimate issues with the church hurting you. They also point out that some of the criticism that the church has received is not really consistent, but that never was a postmodern strong point. In one massive paragraph they point out that critics from within the church have said that:
  • they didn't like over programmed churches but then think of hundreds of resource hungry things the church should be doing
  • it was too hierarchical but then they didn't like poor leadership
  • it could have be more diverse but then they go and meets with a bunch of white 30 somethings in a coffee shop and calls that church
  • want a family spirit and then complain the church is too "inbread"
  • it doesn't address many social problems but then complains when the church is too political  
  • they don't like all the denominations and then fails to see they break away from everyone and form their own because they can not find a satisfactory church to their standards
  • want a leader with vision but they do not want a guy to tell them what to do or think
  • want a church that cares for each other and then complain that it is inward focused looking after its own members
  • they want it to be connected with history but they complain of the same prayers and style each week...
and their list goes on and on.

The book points out that in rebelling against the church the critics go too far. In one section DeYoung says he would have agreed with parts of Pagan Christianity when it argued that stain glass windows, pulpits, robes etc... all don't have to be present in a church, but then it goes too far and argues that they can't be at church at all.

A helpful and timely issue that was brought up was the idea of apologising for things you didn't directly do, such as the Spanish Inquisition, Slavery or the Crusades. They point to an interesting essay by C.S. Lewis called "Dangers of National Repentance" where Lewis warned against saying sorry for things you forefathers did. The issues is that this may help you feel good without actually having to be good (read that bit of the book here). I wonder what your political Australian would think about this argument.

DeYoung also did a quick debunking over some myths you sometimes hear about the church with its defence of a flat earth, the church's involvement with the slave trade and the Crusades. I found this bit quite informative so am going summarise this bit, although this is by no means a major bit of the book.

The idea that people opposed Columbus because of a flat earth started in 1896 by Andrew Dickson White. The real debate was about the size of the circumference of the Earth (which Columbus did get wrong). Venerable Bede (673-735), Bishop Virgilius of Salzburg (700-784), Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) (to name just four) all held to a round earth.

It is true that there were Christians who supported the slave trade, but it wasn't the Enlightenment that stopped it. It was also legal in the Muslim world for much longer even up to 1962 in Saudi Arabia. Thomas Aquinas said the slave trade was a sin and the Catholic Church came out against it with Pope Eugene IV (1432-1447), Pope Paul III (1534-1549) and also in 1462, 1639, 1741, 1815 and 1839. Hobbes, Locke, Voltaire and Montesquieu supported slavery.

There is much, much more in this book such as its digs at the Barna research and how they have been wrong in their projections about the Church and what it will look like in the future. The book also concedes much. The church isn't cool and sometimes there are annoying and even hurtful people in there. It can be hard to attend and some weeks (months) may just feel flat. We might be cynical of the holy goody two shoes Ned Flanders types who have Bible verses for things who are always there, but isn't holiness something to be sought after and don't Christians treat the Bible as authoritative?

Christ died for the Church. One of the way His people could be the Church is by actually going to church, despite all its hangups.

Related Links
Why We're Not Emergent - The first book both authors wrote together on the church
Just Do Something - A good book by Kevin DeYoung on knowing what is God's will for your life


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