Impotent Churches and Shallow Theology
The title of my post comes from a little diddy I wrote back in August entitled Tell All Your (YRR) Friends. I encourage you to read it if you haven't already as I'll be unpacking one of my harsher statements in the piece.
The whole crux of my post hinged on how restlessness was able to enter the church and ultimately what form that restlessness took. I received good feedback and a couple questions about what "I've seen a generation plagued by religious restlessness derived from time in impotent churches and shallow theology. I couldn't blame them." really meant. Well as with most things in my head the answer is not simple. So I will lay out the layers that were hovering over my thoughts.
The first is that the phrase is a reflection of restless exaggeration. This is not to say the description is false. The description is true but reflects the attitude I was presenting. I was calling a mountain craggy. I was trying to move in and strike quickly at "the how" of restlessness entering the church. I don't regret writing the words but I know if I listed church names after that comment it would have gotten me in trouble.
So even in this exaggerated sense what did I mean? Let me focus first on the "shallow theology." The evangelical world in which the YRR and I grew up has an awfully shallow understanding of what the Scriptures speak to. For starters, "salvation" has become synonymous with "justification" leading to a neo-antinomianism. I understand the historicity of linking these words, but in an under-educated church it is disastrous. This focus on justification borders on idolatry in many churches and explains why the alter call has replaced coming to the Lord's Table in evangelical churches. This justification orientation has also effected evangelical eschatology. In combination with dispensationalism, the presiding eschatology teaches that an earthly millennium will be supplanted by residence "in heaven." This neo-Marcionism is devastating. Heaven becomes "endless worship" and the church's goal is "get as many people to the final worship service." Our service on earth then revolves around dark, musky rooms with loud music and not feeding our children or the homeless. Instead, true Christian orthodoxy teaches a "new heaven and new earth" in a glorified, resurrected body. A new creation where mankind returns to honoring, glorifying, and worshiping God in vocation. The impact of this on how Christian should live now amongst their neighbors, churches, and the lost cannot be understated. [Note: This post was written long before I read and reviewed Michael Horton's Ordinary. I would point interested readers to his book.]
This leads me to "impotent churches." One could really just sub in "American Evangelicalism" and a majority of the summary thoughts would be the same. I had in mind the church that dumbs down children's education in Sunday School, gives the youth their own "hangout" time, and then wonders why they fall away during college. This is especially important in the regards of the YRR since they were a generation of angst and reaction against this therapeutic, moralistic sack of garbage (sorry there I go getting carried away again). These programs removed the Bible and became powerless to change the lives of covenant children. This naturally came about around the time that Sunday School classes turned from lecture format to a religious version of laying on a psychiatrists' chair. The church grew a generation of individuals incompetent in the Old Testament and utterly lost in the New Testament. In short, the church did not disciple. And without new disciples there are no missions, gifts, or servants. That is not to say that there weren't mission trips and people serving with their "spiritual gifts." There certainly were but the fruits of the kingdom were more like plastic objects from Walmart.
The fallout of decades and generations of this are still in effect. Church's are now being led by these people. They're busy talking about "worshiping God," their latest women's/men's/youth Bible study, and whatever little NT devotional passage they stumbled upon that spurred all the feels. None of this is deep rooted Christianity. A Christianity that knows the Scriptures, is convinced of the Scriptures, and behaves accordingly. Against this church there has been a rightful amount of restlessness. But nonetheless it is still the church. It remains God's bride.