[#] loving the bride

Editorial note: I tried to post this at Thinklings, and their server kept timing out on me. So I posted it here.

Oh wait -- Thinklings.org took it this time. Oh well -- it's good reading anyway.

Bill --

I found your post via Best of the GodBlogs, and they have pre-emptively called it one of the best 7 blog posts of 2006. So kudos for getting nominated real good.

I have read through your post 3 times now and have mulled it over because my knee-jerk response to this kind of post is, "Max Lucado already does it better." And the reason Max does it better is that he doesn't try to couch philosophical criticism under the cover of Helen Steiner Rice platitudes.

What I am talking about is the interesting statement you make when you say, "Of course, the church isn’t a building. It’s people. Including those beloved and sweet people who enthusiastically read Your Best Life Now or Left Behind and who are, unbeknownst to them (because they don’t really care about the blogosphere), laughed at. By snobs like us."

"By snobs like us"? I'm not sure that the use of self-denigration in "us" here mitigates the philosophical concern that it is snobbery to (as you say) "laugh" at those who read YBLN or LB and think themselves spiritually-enriched. You did pick two keen examples of things we can laugh at (rightly), but if we are rightly laughing at them, how is that snobbery? How is it snobbery, as you continue down in your brief essay, to object to immature believers demanding to lead worship as they are lead by their emotions? I think it is overstated at best to call the premise that the mature should lead the immature "snobbery", but I'd be interested in someone who could demonstrate otherwise.

But that's my knee-jerk reaction. After consideration, I think you make a much worse mistake -- and that is mixing together necessary, humble things like working in a benevolence kitchen and doing the physical work around the church with randy, damaging things like EC pseudo-monasticism and Charismatic experiential excesses. I would suggest to you, without confiscating the blog meta here, that you are personally confusing the wheat with the tares. If your premise is sound -- that the bride is right now beautiful -- it cannot be because she is lost among the foolish virgins: it is because she is the bride and cannot be confused with those who reject her Groom.

Listen: I would say with you that I love the church -- no question that one of the marks of the believer is love of the church not only in theory but in fact, by action. But what is one of the hallmarks of love of the church? The book of Hebrews says, "23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."

Holding fast to our confession of faith; stir one another to do good; meeting together to encourage each other. In that, criticism is not snobbery: it is itself love -- because criticism is not just saying, "man, that's bad" but also "because this is what is good."

I think it is somewhat phony to believe that the only way to love is to white-wash the problems; I also think it is phony to believe that confusing the right with the wrong -- or saying that the distinction is arbitrary or unimportant -- is a kind of loving response.

As for your closing note that some at BHT are thinking about abandoning the monicker "Christian", what could I possibly say about that which would not be perceived as taking a shot at them? If they didn't mind being called "Christians" when they knew Christianity had a history which included anti-semites, crusaders, auto-flagilists, pardoners (in the Chaucerian sense), inquisitionists and witch-burners, but now suddenly because the popular modern church has a serious case of stupid they are too good for the family name, the point of view speaks for itself.

Sorry to be a nay-sayer. I think your view here is simplistic and gives comfort to those who need to be less comfortable with what they think they believe.