Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Criticizing Church, Defending Church

posted by Scot McKnight

Everywhere I go and nearly everyone I read has a theme, whether central or peripheral, and I think the theme is getting too much attention and it’s getting too much play and it’s setting us up for failure.

Here’s the theme: the Church is so messed up.
Instances: preaching is not that good today; theology is so shallow today; Christian morals are so loose today; parents are not that good today; we’ve got too much individualism today; kids don’t respond as they used to; the church is spending too much money today; Christians aren’t liked in culture ….
The suggestion: Let’s start all over again. This time we’ll get it right. Let’s get ourselves a group of really zealous followers of Jesus and let’s think about kingdom and forget the choir robes and denominations and pastors and hierarchy and church budgets. Finally, we’ll get it right. We’ll just follow Jesus and we’ll forget the church. We’ll do kingdom work and forget the church.
Go ahead. Join the crowd. In a few years you’ll come back to something you either face now, in a more rational manner, or later in a more chastened manner, that is if you’ve got any passion left. Here’s my theory:

I want to say I believe in an Augustinian ecclesiology.
When I say this, I am not talking about what Augustine believed about Rome and the State. No, I’m taking the old-fashioned Augustinian anthropology, where he had a rather dismal but not altogether unrealistic theory of human nature. Fallen and broken, what I call “cracked Eikons” in my book Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us
. I’m suggesting we need to apply the Augustinian anthropology to create an Augustinian ecclesiology. (This, by the way, is nothing new.)
In other words, if you want perfection, don’t look to the church. If you want the ideal, don’t look to the church. If you want a perfect fellowship, don’t look to the church. If you want the utopian society, don’t look to the church.
But if you want a gaggle of cracked Eikons, sinners and mistake-makers and sometimes goofed up and sometimes incredibly loving and joyous and devoted, then look to the church. You’ll find that kind of group, but not the perfect group.
What ever makes us think the church has to be either perfect or we’ll stay home and do our own thing? I’ve been thinking about this this year, and the thought keeps coming into my head along these lines:
God’s People, whom he never disowned, in the Old Testament did some great things and some mighty stupid things; they had some great leaders and some disgusting ones; they had some high moments and they had some low moments. 
God’s people, whom he never disowns, in the New Testament, move from that wonderful church plant of fellowship in Acts 2 and 4 to some liars and deceivers and some great leaders who get into arguments with one another and sometimes abandon one another and get themselves in awful messes. And Paul tells us about church problems that would make us …
Admit that an Augustinian ecclesiology is perhaps what we need because it’s what we’ve got.
Perhaps a cracked Fellowship of cracked Eikons is the point of what the church is!
Perhaps that’s why the churches have always put the Eucharist table in the middle. We come to the Table to partake in God’s forgiving grace because we’re cracked Eikons. When cracked Eikons form a fellowship, you get a cracked Fellowship. In the cracks God works his grace.


Advertisement
Comments read comments(63)
post a comment
Jeremy Berg

posted February 24, 2010 at 1:01 am


I liked your last part about God’s grace working in the cracks.
I once did a youth group message on 2 Cor 4 “Jars of Clay” called “Cracked Pot Confessions” where students shared testimonies of brokenness and wounds in their lives. Then I brought out an old, cracked jar and asked, “What do you see?” They answered, “A cracked jar.”
Then I turned off the lights and placed a candle inside the cracked jar asking again, “Now what do you see?” Some answered, “Cracks.” I said, “No, look again, what do you see?” They said, “I see light shining through all the cracks.”
Exactly, when we allow God’s grace and healing power to invade all the broken areas of our lives, he takes what used to be sad old scars/cracks and turns them into a display of his healing grace and glory. And, some of us have more cracks then others; even more ways His glory and grace can shine through and bring hope to other cracked pots.
Grace and peace!



report abuse
 

Fudge

posted February 24, 2010 at 1:01 am


Great thoughts, Scott. I’ve been thinking along similar lines lately. Though I might frame it a little different, I think you’re right about the general attitudes and that they are not a healthy place for the church to be.



report abuse
 

EricG

posted February 24, 2010 at 1:02 am


If the point is that the push by some people to abandon church is wrong-headed, then I agree. The story of the Bible is the story of a God who works through the imperfect community that He set up. If a perfect God doesn’t abandon the church, then why should we imperfect humans think we can or should?
But arguments that sound a lot like this have also been used to defend the imperfections themselves. The church has done a lot of damage to people, and I wouldn’t want this message to be used to justify that damage. I don’t hear your post saying that, but these sorts of arguments have been used to do that. So I think the message needs to be balanced against the need to call out the church when it does things that harm people. Or are sinful. Or when it could be furthering its mission in a better way. And from where I sit there is a lot of that sort of thing that needs to be called out today. That sort of approach seems to be consistent with the OT and NT.
So yes, recognize that it will always be imperfect, so we should continue the work within the church. But don’t condone the imperfections.



report abuse
 

Irenicum

posted February 24, 2010 at 1:29 am


Yep. Broken vessels pouring out God’s grace. I’m a living example of just that. We, God’s people, are both finite and broken in too many ways to count, just like the Israelites of old. Yes, we’ve been given God’s holy spirit. But the NT witness tells us all too clearly that human nature rears its ugly head right away. Any idealized ecclesiology needs to take account of Paul’s realism about the facts on the ground. I lean Anabaptist in my ecclesiology, but my Augustinian anthropology checks me every time. As much as I hate to admit it, the Constantinian tradition is part of historic Christianity. I’d love to say they’re not “real” Christians, but I know myself too well to say that. All Christians are made up of the truth and error mixed, both individually and corporately. Christ has called us to holiness and perfection, all the while knowing that we are believing yet not believing. Welcome to the dichotomy of faith.



report abuse
 

Scott Eaton

posted February 24, 2010 at 1:41 am


Amen! Amen! Amen!
Thanks for posting these thoughts, Scot. They are an encouragement and a blessing.
EricG #3,
I hear what you are saying, but I don’t think Scot is defending our imperfections or suggesting that the church can make improvements. We talk about those things all the time here at Jesus Creed. But improvement is far different from abandonment and starting completely over with a totally new thing.



report abuse
 

Scott Eaton

posted February 24, 2010 at 1:44 am


Oops – above should have been “suggesting that the church cannot make improvements.”



report abuse
 

Dan

posted February 24, 2010 at 3:45 am


This is so true…
and Eric G. – I do agree with you that there are times when leaders in a church have done things which cause deep hurts and wounds. But at least in the overall discussions I have heard like Scot is speaking of – it generally is not that. And I have seen multiple times when people do go and start something on their own, that they end up discovering the same thing happens in their new church, usually a home church. We are all cracked eikons!



report abuse
 

John W Frye

posted February 24, 2010 at 7:15 am


Scot,
One of the most down-to-earth descriptions of “the church” is Eugene H Peterson’s chapter titled “The Last Word on the Church” in the book *Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination*. Underneath the quest for “getting church right” in an idealistic way is the old foe *gnosticism.*



report abuse
 

Scot McKnight

posted February 24, 2010 at 7:18 am


John, I need to read Peterson’s Reversed Thunder.



report abuse
 

John W Frye

posted February 24, 2010 at 7:19 am


One other point: the way the Bible is taught to children and young people set them up for desiring a perfect church. All human flaws in ‘biblical’ characters are sanitized. They become “heroes” or even superheroes. As you often write, the Bible becomes a book of moralisms based on pick-and-choose readings. When young people realize they’ve been sold a bill of goods (pun intended) and see the abject humanity of the church, they split.



report abuse
 

Rick

posted February 24, 2010 at 7:20 am


I agree with the overall theme, but I also agree with Eric G: some churches use this as an excuse to not change.
I also wonder how much of this is the fault of those to attend/visit, and how much is the fault of the churches themselves as they attempt to put forth an unrealistic image (architecture, quality of music, decor, themes of messages, etc…).



report abuse
 

Jeff Borden

posted February 24, 2010 at 8:00 am


I was one; a person who criticized, maligned, and hated the church. It almost destroyed me. God rescued me from these attitudes and replaced my critical and bitter heart with a heart that fell desperately in love with His Bride. The passion that is my purpose now: to be an instrument of grace and love…a servant helper to the Church allowing the work of the Holy Spirit to perfect her and praying that God will use me in the process whether it is in the role of wood or gold…chalice or chamber pot. The Church is His. I am His. I am the Church. The fingers I point at Her, I point at myself.



report abuse
 

Doug Young

posted February 24, 2010 at 8:26 am


Scot,
I think you are right and really appreciate this post. If some of us weren’t so condescending towards others, there probably wouldn’t be such massive discontent. If we could be more transparent and less judgmental, then maybe the mission of God wouldn’t find itself inhibited by those who profess an identity in Christ.
Thanks again for this post.



report abuse
 

JAR

posted February 24, 2010 at 8:27 am


Rise up in righteous indignation at the sinful state of the church? Thats what we Protestants do best! And we have been doing it again and again for the last 500 years or so.



report abuse
 

Pat

posted February 24, 2010 at 8:28 am


Your points are well made, Scot. Unfortunately, we lack the divine nature that God has to overlook all that He did and maybe that’s the answer. When the problems get to us the most, they should point us to our utter need for Him and not to our own way. Yes, we are “cracked Eikons” in need of the only One who can fix us. Maybe brokenness like we’ve never known before is what we need to overlook all that we see as wrong.



report abuse
 

Phil Wyman

posted February 24, 2010 at 8:34 am


The problem is not that we are messed up. The problem occurs when we try not to appear messed up, and white wash it all. Cracked Pots are the kingdom. Whole Pots need no Potter.
We have spent quite a bit off time apologizing for the sins of the church in confessional booths in Salem, MA. It has won us friends in strange circles. Though this kind of thing need not be the daily dose of medicine for the church, it should be administered to certain communities outside our walls.
our story here: http://squarenomore.blogspot.com/2006/12/one-big-sorry-church.html



report abuse
 

Pat

posted February 24, 2010 at 8:45 am


Scott Eaton – you said, “improvement is far different from abandonment and starting completely over with a totally new thing.” How true this is. One of the bittersweet truths that I’ve come to is that there really is no perfect church. I’ve always known this, but lately it’s become even more true. As I struggle with being in my current church, I know that if I go elsewhere, there will be more of the same or other new problems. So, I have to deal with the issues in a more realistic fashion. I may still leave, but it will be with more of a level-headed approach. Sometimes there actually are legitimate reasons for leaving a church, but the key is to do so with a clear head and clear conscience and not an “I’ll show them attitude!” In fact, I’m beginning to see moments like the one I’m in now as another life lesson. God’s got something for me to learn in this situation and I want to get it. As Jeff at #12 said, I’m in love with the Bride which may be part of my problem. I loved Her too much and put too much of myself into it. Maybe out of this I will walk away with more of a realistic approach rather than an idealistic one. But it’s hard, particularly when the members of that church do and say things that are so counter to Christ’s mission. But again, God has put up with so much that His people have said and done and yet has not given up on us, so why should we give up?



report abuse
 

don woolley

posted February 24, 2010 at 8:48 am


I have been a rock chunker from afar, but God really convicted me of that a couple years ago. I am really trying to work with others to bring change while working within the structure of the UMC. It is incredibly frustrating. It seems like a gigantic waste of energy and emotion, but I think we have to faithfully persist until God says otherwise.
I often think of the conversation between Moses and God when God suggests wiping out the people of Israel and starting over with Moses. Moses prays FOR the people of Israel. I am afraid that many today would say, “Yes, Lord. Wipe them out and start over with me.”



report abuse
 

Steve

posted February 24, 2010 at 8:48 am


I’ve had many such debates with family and close friends in the past few years. For me, I love the church, but the church is the people not the bureaucracy. And we have to be able to critique the bureaucracy without always being accused of being condescending, or the bureaucracy wins.



report abuse
 

Vaughn Treco

posted February 24, 2010 at 9:07 am


I recognize the promise that the Augustinian ecclesiology described in this thread might hold for a more realistic and honest experience of Christian communities composed of the weak, frail and unholy. What I am less confident about is its capacity to incite us to become stronger, less frail and more holy, and our communities to reflect Christ’s life among us more fully.



report abuse
 

faith

posted February 24, 2010 at 9:14 am


good post… it’s speaking to me today.



report abuse
 

Glenn

posted February 24, 2010 at 9:21 am


This is one reason learning about the saints of the church has been so helpful to me. Seeing the ups and downs, the greatness and the flaws of the men and women of God in the life of the church helped me realize how imperfect the church is and what a great thing that is! Truly church is the most practical place to put into practice forgiveness, grace, freedom, apprenticeship to Jesus, the fruit of the Spirit, etc.



report abuse
 

Alan K

posted February 24, 2010 at 9:23 am


I would like to second John’s recommendation (#8) of Eugene Peterson’s “Reversed Thunder”. Eugene invites us to see what John saw–the veil of heaven pulled back and seeing the glory of the one seated upon the throne and the lamb. Is this not the true reality of the church?



report abuse
 

Ed Blonski

posted February 24, 2010 at 9:33 am


Yo wrote, “But if you want a gaggle of cracked Eikons, sinners and mistake-makers and sometimes goofed up and sometimes incredibly loving and joyous and devoted, then look to the church. You’ll find that kind of group, but not the perfect group.”
It occurs to me that no one is actually looking for this either. People are looking for JESUS and He is found where people are hurting, where sinners are, where healing needs to happen – and THAT is also the Church!
So, I’m agreeing with you but using a different take on it.
If someone complains about how the church is this or that or broken or some other kind of imperfection, I counter with, “Where else would you find Jesus?”



report abuse
 

Phillip

posted February 24, 2010 at 9:38 am


I have heard such crticism of the church from my students (and to my shame, have participated too often) that I included a chapter in my book on seminary life (Finding Your Way) titled, “Love the Church.” I note there that some often love an ideal of the church (one that has never really existed in history), but cannot bring themselves to love the real flesh-and-blood, problem-filled, people-filled church. It is akin to the person who never finds a spouse because he or she has created an ideal mate that no real person could live up to. We love the church because God loves the church, the body of Chirst. And our Father loves the church depsite its flaws and failings.



report abuse
 

Julie Clawson

posted February 24, 2010 at 9:49 am


You know, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone criticize church with the expectation that they are striving for perfection. Sure, it might occasionally look that way to outsiders – especially if that outsider feels personally attacked because the way he’s done things all his life has been questioned. But I get really uneasy when I hear anyone say “stop criticizing church” because it doesn’t take long to look around and see churches that are actively hurting people. It’s a given that at church we are a collection of imperfect people who are messy and should love each other – but that shouldn’t be the excuse we use to allow spiritual and emotional (and physical) violence to continue within the walls of a church.



report abuse
 

Ted M. Gossard

posted February 24, 2010 at 9:58 am


Amen, Scot. I like what you’re saying here and I concur. No church has got it all down pat, or even completely right. Because we are not completely right. I wish I would have known and believed this when I was young. Maybe in part I did, but I still held to some sort of ideal, or more accurately, was trying to discover what it is.



report abuse
 

Corey

posted February 24, 2010 at 10:16 am


I echo previous commenters.
I think people when criticizing the Church are more often criticizing the system/institution than the people, per se.
In my view there are system/institutional problems that CAN be worked on but are often ignored due to fatalistic ecclesiology. The institution should facilitate worship, mission, and community. In my experience it is better at providing entertainment, excuses, and individualism.
Let’s not confuse a flawed congregant with a flawed institution, when diagnosing the problems of the church.



report abuse
 

Kenton

posted February 24, 2010 at 10:17 am


I swear, Julie, does your bible have “If it is criticizing, let him criticize” somewhere around Romans 12:7?
A+ post, Scot.



report abuse
 

Mike Lamson

posted February 24, 2010 at 10:32 am


I agree with Julie here. Much has been done to damage those in the church (for me, as one of its professional staff). It has taken a great church and a lot of years to heal from the wounds inflicted by people from my past.
With that said, a statement and a question. Let us be reminded that it is PEOPLE in the churches that hurt us, not the institution/organism itself. It is easy in our language to generalize how specific people/groups within the church hurt us as “the church.” We obviously need to confront those ways of life that are destructive to others within the church community.
My question, as a professional staff person within a church is this:
“What things are important to have unity on when you actually seek out a church for employment?”
I have many thoughts about this, but there were many questions I didn’t ask that hurt me later. If I would have been more proactive in seeking those answers, I could’ve saved those churches and me a lot of heartache.
My initial thoughts on where unity is required is ministry philosophy, creativity postures, theological postures, and organizational personality.
Your thoughts?



report abuse
 

AHH

posted February 24, 2010 at 10:48 am


Sort of torn here. Yes, absolutely, the church will be imperfect and we still need to be a part of it and see God working in it. Focusing on the cracks, or giving up on the Body due to its inevitable problems, is not a good course. Bonhoffer’s Life Together has some good material along these lines.
Yet I agree with those who point out that this should not be used to justify complacency and silence those wanting to make the church better reflect Jesus. Not long ago my church went through a period where those who expressed concerns about the health of the church and about the leadership of the Senior Pastor were labeled by some as tools of Satan being used to divide the Body. It seems like Paul in the NT was willing to offer constructive criticism of churches when necessary.



report abuse
 

Terry

posted February 24, 2010 at 10:50 am


I was too tired to respond when I first read this excellent post last night, but EricG soon offered similar thoughts, and there has been a chorus of the same ever since.
I have felt this way for some time, but never would have known to acknowledge Augustine as a composer. The lyrics I often sing in this excellent song are: We are broken; our imperfection puts us in the right place to offer regular forgiveness to all. Our imperfections are not made for personal defense/excuses. In other words, brokenness puts me in the perfect place to love you in spite of yours, rather than trample you because of mine.



report abuse
 

Tim

posted February 24, 2010 at 11:34 am


I don’t think it’s an either or perspective…people have been hurt by people and by the institution. While we’ll never correct the people hurting people, we can go to great lengths in bringing change to the institution (structure of how we operate). Agreed there will never be a perfect model but there certainly can be a better one.
Mostly what we see is a top down management paradigm, where one man has all the answers (call him Pastor, priest, pope, bishop), is paid to have all the answers (his job depends on it), and we gather for a transactional event one day a week where the order of events are the same: prayer, singing, announcements, offering; all gearing us up for the main event: THE SERMON, and then a prayer dismissal. This model is run like a business, built on a personality and both ministers and people get burned by it. It’s a repetitious dysfunctional cycle.
In a day where anyone who wants information/truth they can have it by way of internet sites, facebook, other social media, tv, cds, blogs, books, tapes…it’s endless. No longer does one person hold all the information. What people are hungry for is community, genuine relationship, connection, presence, and the system doesn’t provide this, it’s primary objective is to indoctrinate and feed you with more information. yada yada yada



report abuse
 

Anonymous

posted February 24, 2010 at 11:56 am


I love it, Scot! Expect the best and the worst at the same time. Saints with rotten flesh. The flesh never improves, ever! But if by the Spirit we learn how to live in Romans 8, putting to death the deeds of the body, we get to see amazing life. But the next page always carries the possibility of ugly flesh, this side of heaven. Let’s be real about it!



report abuse
 

Mike

posted February 24, 2010 at 12:06 pm


one of my favorite Bonhoeffer quotes:
He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.



report abuse
 

Kacie

posted February 24, 2010 at 12:19 pm


You know, I have been learning this lesson, and have been quite conviction for my own judgementalism towards the Church. I realize I am called to build it up, not tear it down with my criticism.
But, on a heart level, it is deeply difficult to understand sometimes how something that is meant to be the Body of Christ can sometimes look so unlike Christ. As a young college student this was extremely hard for me to grasp, though now I think it shows the grace of God all the more, at the time it was difficult to see the connection between the church I saw and the God I was coming to know.



report abuse
 

Andy

posted February 24, 2010 at 12:31 pm


I understand Scot’s argument and agree, mostly, but I struggle with this…
“But if you want a gaggle of cracked Eikons, sinners and mistake-makers and sometimes goofed up and sometimes incredibly loving and joyous and devoted, then look to the church. You’ll find that kind of group, but not the perfect group.”
I struggle we how we use the word perfect in this context (which is entirely subjective). And, even though I agree with the description of church above, I believe that the church still has a purpose and mission other than just existing in the mold described above.
http://thisisamess.blogspot.com/



report abuse
 

beckyr

posted February 24, 2010 at 1:04 pm


I agree with you Scot. One can look at the faults as an opportunity to learn to love one another in the nitty gritty.



report abuse
 

Susan Christerson Brown

posted February 24, 2010 at 1:23 pm


I’m a member of a church I care very much about, and still I struggle with what I’m doing there and whether it’s worth being part of. But year after year I decided that, yes, it’s where I need to be. The church isn’t perfect but it’s what we’ve got. Trying to start afresh didn’t solve all the problems after the Reformation, and we’re probably not going to do a lot better now. What can we do but keep going, and keep praying for guidance.



report abuse
 

BezelFezel

posted February 24, 2010 at 1:27 pm


And so when Jesus says, you are my brothers if you keep my commands, when he tells the disciples to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all he has commanded them, when he says to pray “forgive us as we forgive,” when he commands us to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, will we find this in any other place than the church? No.
Cracked Eikons is maybe, but they’d better be striving to live lives worthy of the gospel in the power of the Spirit, nevertheless. Neither Jesus nor Paul make any bones about obedience. Christians will fail, but this “I’m just a cracked Eikon who can never seem to get my act together” does not describe the one who follows Jesus. That’s not an ecclesiology, that’s a denial that there is any power in the triune God to work through his people to make the Kingdom a reality, even a messy reality.



report abuse
 

Wayne Park

posted February 24, 2010 at 2:00 pm


I agree w/ what I find to be this pervasive anti-institutional polemic. While I understand where it’s coming from it’s just… too much.
Up here in winter Olympics land the discussion circulating around campus is this return to sacramentalism. It gives a new spin towards recognizing the necessity for the Church. Sadly, the historic defining symbols of our faith (Eucharist, Baptism) have become just that – just symbols. I think the ancient fathers have much to teach us of the place of the Church as mediator of the sacraments and all that entails.



report abuse
 

Richard

posted February 24, 2010 at 2:09 pm


“The church is a w*&^# but she is my mother” is a quote often attributed to Augustine that helps encourage and reassure me when I’m frustrated with my work in the local church. My dad left church over the problems he saw, I saw the same problems and decided to commit to helping change them.
To paraphrase, she ain’t heavy, she’s my mother…



report abuse
 

Jjoe

posted February 24, 2010 at 2:19 pm


I cannot help but think that our consumerist society is at the root of a lot of church criticism.
For many if not most people, joining a church is as much a search for the right mix of programs as it is a search for the “right” theology.
We have people joining our church just to get priority registration for daycare. I am not sure exactly why we are in the daycare business.



report abuse
 

Stanley J. Groothof

posted February 24, 2010 at 2:35 pm


Thank you for this good reminder. The only perfect church will be the one in the new heaven and new earth. That doesn’t mean we give up or are cynical now. It means that we love the people God puts in our paths, that we love as best we can our church family. That way heaven won’t be such a shockingly new/unpracticed experience when we get there!



report abuse
 

Chris Ametrano

posted February 24, 2010 at 2:44 pm


I was wondering if you Scot or if anyone has read Pagan Christianity or Re-imagining the Church by Frank Viola?
Those books have been the biggest critique I have seen so far against the institutional church and its practices. From the position of pastor, the church building, the sermon, all leading to a passive congregation.
I was hoping some of you could shed light on these topics and give me your feedback because I think we can always make some kind of critique against the institutional church, but I have some regard when people say this is exactly how the New Testament says we do church, and that’s how we must all do it.



report abuse
 

Jim Martin

posted February 24, 2010 at 2:54 pm


Scot,
This is a good post. In addition to what you have said, I wonder what such a view of the church does to the people of God. In other words, what does this view to shape a people? What kind of people are we becoming when we take this view of the church?
The quest for the perfect church can begin with very good intentions and its mission can be toward a noble cause. However, I think it is important to take a good look at our perspective and ask how it serves to shape and form a people.
No, we don’t close our eyes to the flaws of the church. We do not just turn our heads and ignore ways that the church may be damaging our witness to the world. But I do think it is important that we look at the church as “us” and not just “them.”
God does work in the cracks. I’ve seen that in others and certainly in myself.



report abuse
 

Liz

posted February 24, 2010 at 3:08 pm


I can’t agree with the post – it seems a poor defense to say that because we (the body of Christ) are messed up, broken people who are proned to make mistakes that our critics should stop criticizing us when we hurt and harm others and on top of that, they should stick around while we continue to hurt them or those they care about.



report abuse
 

Tim

posted February 24, 2010 at 3:26 pm


right on, Liz!
I mean, the true Body of Christ is not defined by any label, building, geographic location, denomination, etc…we are all Christ’s. There’s nothing to criticize with that. However, the institution, the fallacies of man, the wrongdoing, abuse,…..everyone is entitled to an opinion……there’s no foul.



report abuse
 

geoffrey holsclaw

posted February 24, 2010 at 3:27 pm


scot,
I’m not sure an “Augustinian Ecclesiology” is actually based in his anthropology. That sure sounds like the old reading of his politics…”a narrative of decline and since we are all sinners we might as well just get along.”
Augustine has much more of a “communion ecclesiology” or “eucharistic ecclesiology” as they are called today. That is, where the church is is where Christ is because it is His Body in the World. His theology was geared more toward theosis (albeit a perfected only based in God’s grace).



report abuse
 

Scot McKnight

posted February 24, 2010 at 3:34 pm


Liz, you are expressing the idea of several here so let me step in to clarify something.
A post can only do so much; if a post tries to take on all angles, it becomes a magazine article or a book.
My concern is not with the willingness and necessity of pointing out the church’s errors. I do that often enough on this blog. I don’t see how my post can be construed as justifying sins. Instead, my concern is with the many who jump the shark because the church has too many sinners or makes mistakes or is less than perfect or doesn’t live up to its dream. If someone has been genuinely wounded, by all means, criticism is in order. But that’s not my point:
My point is that we’ve got to realize that the church is full of cracked Eikons and that means it will be cracked at times. That’s not reason to jump off the boat but to pray for God’s mercy, to confess our sins, to take bread and drink wine at Eucharist, to receive forgiveness, and to get back oaring the boat.
There are two mistaken tendencies: to expect the church to be perfect and to expect nothing. I’m concerned with the first mistaken tendency.
Come back tomorrow. I will quote someone who gets this better than do I.



report abuse
 

Scot McKnight

posted February 24, 2010 at 3:38 pm


Jeff, brother, brother, brother… don’t hold me accountable to Augustine’s actual ecclesiology (I thought I said something to this effect in the post). I’m talking about a ‘cracked Eikon ecclesiology’ not what Augustine’s theory of the church was.



report abuse
 

Peggy

posted February 24, 2010 at 4:06 pm


Scot,
I read the TEDS letter before coming here and I just had too much to say about this to clog your blog…so I went home and wrote a post of my own.
The bottom line: the church is full of cracked Eikons, yes. So, can we consider that our manifestations of “church” are sometimes a bit cracked as well … and that there can be more diversity than is frequently allowed?
Sometimes we confuse the blessing of God on our cracked efforts with his approval of our cracked methods.
http://abisomeone.blogspot.com/2010/02/confusing-blessing-with-approval.html



report abuse
 

John Haselton

posted February 24, 2010 at 4:59 pm


Criticizing the church is a very easy thing to do. The church is a hospital for sinners, not a spa for saints. It would be unrealistic to expect wholeness from the body when the parts of the body are broken. If you have a broken foot you will limp. That being said, my query of the church is why some brokenness is o.k. while some is not. Let someone have cancer and the prayer chains light up like Christmas trees. (I am not putting down cancer patients I have seen what they go through, and it is horrible.) However, if I go in the hospital because I am having a mood issue with my bipolar, although they know what is going on, (I have been in the congregation for 50 years) it is like my illness doesn?t exist. I have even been told to pray more and it will go away. I have felt God?s call on my life and am now attending seminary, and doing well. If, God willing, I become a pastor I have promised myself that things will be different in my congregation.



report abuse
 

John Haselton

posted February 24, 2010 at 5:08 pm


Here is a link to my blog. I haven’t had time to post this month with my heavy course work, however I think someone may find it encouraging help for their brokenness.



report abuse
 

Bill

posted February 24, 2010 at 5:16 pm


Scot – thanks for your post on this and your clarification in #50. In my blog I note the new book by Gulley, and I read a little of McLaren’s new text, and he is not kind to the church as well. The stridency at times seems like such bad form and so unchristian. Sometimes I wonder how much different is it from the old fire and brimstone preachers, with the criticizers now being the ones in the pulpit.



report abuse
 

Chaplain Mike

posted February 24, 2010 at 5:33 pm


Scot, on a personal level, I heartily agree. The church is filled with imperfect people and the NT constantly calls us to be forbearing, patient, and to never give up on one another.
Your point, however, doesn’t speak to questions of ecclesiology in the theological sense. What I find impossible to swallow these days is not the imperfection of the people in the church, it’s what I perceive to be the abandonment of sound Biblical, theological, and traditional principles in the organization and practices of the church.
With Eugene Peterson, what I observe is that…
“Americans in general have little tolerance for a centering way of life that is submissive to the conditions in which growth takes place: quiet, obscure, patient, not subject to human control and management. The American church is uneasy in these conditions. Typically, in the name of ?relevance,? it adapts itself to the prevailing American culture and is soon indistinguishable from that culture: talkative, noisy, busy, controlling, image-conscious.”



report abuse
 

Scot McKnight

posted February 24, 2010 at 5:37 pm


Chaplain Mike, we’re reading the same book: join me Thursday and Friday. I’m with you, but I’m not addressing the superficiality or the lack of moral fiber.



report abuse
 

Sean Witty

posted February 24, 2010 at 9:21 pm


Good points Scot. I like where you’ve started. What responsibility might the “professional church leaders” need to accept in creating unrealistic and unattainable expectations of church? Maybe if less is promised than fewer would criticize. Better to underpromise and overdeliver? Ah, but budgets and mortgages…



report abuse
 

MatthewS

posted February 24, 2010 at 11:59 pm


This post has the ring of truth



report abuse
 

Jeff Straka

posted February 25, 2010 at 9:22 am


I posted this comment to Tony Jone’s blog post but thought I might post it here as well:
As I learn the history of Augustine?s rationale behind the ?Original Sin? doctrine (based primarily on his own moral ?issues?), I become more and more uncomfortable with it. I think Scot McKnight?s ?cracked ikon? parable is movement in the right direction compared to Augustine or Calvin, but it still implies a ?damaged goods? image. You won?t ever get full price for a glued-together vase at the store ? it would be in the ?bargain bin?.
What if we looked at the vessel as ?good? (as the ?manufacturer? intended), but the contents we place in it as the difference? Do we fill it with God (flowers or other things of beauty that OTHERS can enjoy) or do we fill it with ?crap? (possessions, titles, positions, ego ? things that WE enjoy)?
I think the other issue is our tendency to define ?sin? in moralistic terms. In ?The Existential Jesus? by John Carroll, he says there is a second meaning of the Greek word ?hamarita?. While it can mean ?missing the mark? as in a badly aimed spear-throw, it can also mean ?character flaw? ? a character that is out of balance. Thus sin can be looked at as an issue of ?being? and not of ?morals?. Jesus, according to Carroll, is concerned with the ?righting of being? (a “contents” issue) rather than fixing a bunch of improper external behaviors (a “container” issue).



report abuse
 

Joshua C

posted February 25, 2010 at 11:46 pm


I understand your point, our expectations can be unreasonable. However, i have to disagree. i don’t think all the expectations are unfounded. If we say we are different, then we ask to be held to a higher standard. If so, we should be held to a higher standard and expectations should be high – otherwise maybe we should be quiet about how awesome we are and lower our expectations. Maybe we often just set ourselves up to fail. Either we practice what we preach or shove our foot in our mouth. If we say we’ve been changed, then why don’t churches act changed?
Its hard to imagine evangelism techniques selling a place of broken people, non christians can get that anywhere.



report abuse
 

Amanda

posted February 26, 2010 at 1:33 pm


I agree with Joshua C. It seems that a lot of pastors take the angle of this post…maybe because their livelihood depends on the system. My questions have to do with the necessity of the building and the shadow of the reality that is cast by our structure and incorporation. A lot of people are not saying “I am going to leave the church because it’s not perfect” but rather “I don’t have to leave anything because this building where we gather, this structure that we contrive, is NOT essential to who we are to be.”
I read the analogy that people who have a problem with the legacy church are like guests coming into Jesus home and criticizing his bride. But I see it more along the lines of the bride seeing a portrait of herself all done up and commenting on the fact that she is quite happy without make-up, accessories, and gaudy dresses.
Anyway, the third aspect of this discussion that keeps coming up is, “stop complaining and just accept the flaws of the system” making those of us who are trying to understand out to be the bad guys. It’s quite frustrating if you are not settled on either side.



report abuse
 

Dave W

posted February 28, 2010 at 3:14 pm


That is all that has kept me in the church and a Christian for a very long time since I read Schaeffer who dragged me into a very moderate version of Reformed Theology. Total Depravity and the Fall properly understood are essential!
Interesting and useful posts keep it up.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Jesus Creed. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration blog post Happy Reading!  

posted 11:15:58am Aug. 16, 2012 | read full post »

Our Common Prayerbook 30 - 3
Psalm 30 thanks God (vv. 1-3, 11-12) and exhorts others to thank God (vv. 4-5). Both emerge from the concrete reality of David's own experience. Here is what that experience looks like:Step one: David was set on high and was flourishing at the hand of God's bounty (v. 7a).Step two: David became too

posted 12:15:30pm Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Theology After Darwin 1 (RJS)
One of the more important and more difficult pieces of the puzzle as we feel our way forward at the interface of science and faith is the theological implications of discoveries in modern science. A comment on my post Evolution in the Key of D: Deity or Deism noted: ...this reminds me of why I get a

posted 6:01:52am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Almost Christian 4
Who does well when it comes to passing on the faith to the youth? Studies show two groups do really well: conservative Protestants and Mormons; two groups that don't do well are mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics. Kenda Dean's new book is called Almost Christian: What the Faith of Ou

posted 12:01:53am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Let's Get Neanderthal!
The Cave Man Diet, or Paleo Diet, is getting attention. (Nothing is said about Culver's at all.) The big omission, I have to admit, is that those folks were hunters -- using spears or smacking some rabbit upside the conk or grabbing a fish or two with their hands ... but that's what makes this diet

posted 2:05:48pm Aug. 30, 2010 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.