And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. —Hebrews 10: 24-25
I once heard that after a dog has puppies it will sometimes eat one or two of them. I know: gross, huh? I guess it’s because there are too many puppies and not enough milk ,or because they were runts anyway and weren’t going to make it. Not sure… but it makes me think of Christians. We often like to devour our own.
I don’t know why it is, but it seems like many Christians don’t have a problem openly bashing other segments of the Church. The documentary Rebellion of Thought by Kent and Brad Williamson (aka The Brothers Williamson) is no different. And it’s just as disgusting as a dog eating her puppies.
Were there some good points in this documentary? Sure; here are 3:
- Scholars try to explain Postmodernism to a lunkhead like me. Honestly, I still don’t get it, but it was a nice effort.
- The brothers made a great point about American churchgoers having way too much input and not enough output. In other words, after all the Bible studies, Sunday school classes, retreats, and conferences, shouldn’t we be going out and serving, too? Great point.
- They also made a great point about the fact that Christianity must be passed on relationally through authentic living. Very few non-Christians in this day and age are going to step foot in church, so we must bring the Gospel to them in our common everyday encounters with authenticity and vulnerability.
All of those were great points, and I especially tracked with the authenticity and vulnerability point. Other than that, these guys lost me… yes, it didn’t MoveMe, or at least not in the good sense of the term. I get very concerned when an individual or organization:
- Discusses topics or issues only with themselves or the very few who already agree with them.
- Leans toward over-generalizations and even hyper-exaggerations.
- Finally, comes to fallible or suspect conclusions.
There are whole “ministries,” Bible colleges, and seminaries that practice this kind of thinking. The brothers that made this documentary borrowed a page from their book, which is ironic since they are attacking those institutions.
Let’s start with their discussion. It’s never good to have a monologue, nobody to really bounce your ideas off of or have a real good balanced discussion. Now, I know that in this documentary, the brothers technically dialogue; there are two of them: but there are no other opinions… they already are of the same opinion. There’s really no research; they don’t talk to anyone, from what I can tell, but each other, to come to their conclusions. They already have an opinion and each of them is helping to validate it.
Which brings me to their generalizations. Dispersed within the meaty definitions of Postmodernism by the scholars are these brothers, who all of sudden take a jump that the Church—yes, even Christendom as a whole—is, in their words, “blind and don’t even know it.” Huh? Where did that come from? And it builds from there to where they just say all churches are broken, blind, and irrelevant in the Postmodern culture. Is it true just because these guys say it, while cool music and a cool sunset are in the background?
Finally, we come to their conclusion. If the Church as a whole is broken, blind, and irrelevant, then we must all leave the Church. Wow! What? In fact, towards the end of the film the Brothers end up equating today’s Church with the Church during the Nazi era. Again, wow! Really? They talk about the Church like it’s a train headed towards a head-on collision with another train. It’s useless to try to get the train to stop or go another direction: you have to jump off the train. How did they come to this conclusion? None of the experts or the people on the street they are interviewing ever say this.
I’m pretty simple minded… it’s why I don’t really get what Postmodernism is. When professors start speaking, my eyes glaze over, to tell you the truth. But even a simple mind like mine can’t make the connections this documentary makes. Namely: Postmodernism (whatever it is) is here, the Church doesn’t get it (or the raw people the Brothers interviewed)—and that makes the Church Nazis, so let’s all jump ship and be Lone Ranger Christians because that’s what Jesus told us to do. I think you have be have a Church-bashing agenda to get there.
I have to ask, “Why is this okay?” In the words of a good friend of mine, “This kind of case-making wouldn’t make it in the court of law; why does it make it with Christians?” In other words, this is slander at worst and a gross misrepresentation of the truth at “best.” I’m here to say it’s not okay. The Church as a whole, Jesus would say, is His bride… His wife. I just don’t think Jesus would be happy with those who would dump on her!
Are there issues with specific churches? Yes! Some of the issues are even the things that the Brothers bring up. But they aren’t true for all churches; I don’t believe their points are true for my church, for example. There was a pastor who in his podcasted sermon said that he and his church are both trying to bring the gospel into “context” for the culture around them, yet at the same time “contend” for historic biblical Christian faith. I heard about that from the senior pastor of my church! He and the elders of our church agree with that mission.
So there is an example of one church that is juxtaposed to much of how the Brothers characterize the Church. I can only guess that if they had taken the time to go to churches around the country, I think they would have found at least a few more like mine. We are trying to reach a Postmodern culture; we love and want to serve our community, and we love one another. There is simply an inherent problem with drawing conclusions that come from monologue and generalizations.
On the one hand, these guys had some great points and challenges for the Church and for individual Christians. If you are a Christian, you will be challenged, and God may even speak to you through the points the Brothers make in this documentary. I’m just wary of anyone that tells us to leave the Church… that definitely doesn’t jive with the Bible; it says in the Hebrews passage quoted above that we should spur each other on to love and good deeds and not give up meeting together. I’m guessing that “meeting together” means in church—and whether that is a big church or a house church, I think that means church.
I think the reason this passage says not to leave the Church, is that, by its very definition, the Church needs people. People to spur each other on, to encourage one another, and sometimes to challenge each other to do church better. Leaving the Church makes it weaker… do we really want a weak Church, a weak bride, when the bridegroom comes back? If that day comes, Jesus will ask us why his bride is so anemic. What will our answer be? It wasn’t relevant, so I left? Perish the thought…
My last point is a call to balance. One of the points the Brothers made was that too much input and not enough output isn’t good. That’s valid; the problem is in telling people to get rid of all input (the Church) and move entirely to output. That’s like telling someone who is obese, because of overeating and lack of exercise, to completely stop eating and start running marathons. Isn’t the better advice to have a good balance between both? Shouldn’t we tell people to go to a healthy church where you are fed the rich nourishing Word of God and encouraged, if not exhorted, to reach outward and serve, seek, and save those who are lost? I think so!