[*] Tully, also known by some as Kih-ker-o

I was reading a book from 2003, In But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World, By Hugh Hewitt, this weekend. I picked it up almost by accident while working in my bookstore yesterday because its title points back at the meta-discussion about U2, Johnny Cash, and of course my on-going theme of the matter of orthodoxy and the Gospel.

The problem is that I felt more like I was reading Tully (some of you might know him as Cicero) than I was reading a book about "Christian Ambition". Lots of people read Hewitt's blog, and lots of people listen to him on the radio. Some people think he's pretty keen, in fact, from a American Conservative standpoint. And some of those people sometimes include me personally, to be honest.

I find myself ambivalent about Hewitt's book, however. On the one hand, I can tell you I am certain he is right, chapter by chapter, in giving advice to those who "desire to influence the world": get the right credentials; develop good habits (personal and "professional"); don't get a tattoo; don't rely on credit debt; "there is no 9 to 5 -- your life {is} from 8 AM to 7 PM"; take new jobs for the sake of challenge; promote the success of others above and below you; be honest with yourself about mistakes; be grateful and act grateful; don't coast; choose a church and join it; manage your flaws; know the art of asking questions to keep conversations open; mark your limits; etc.

I can admit that Hewitt is the kind of person of whom I am somewhat jealous. He went to the "right schools" and contacted the "right people" in order to get the "right jobs", and found himself, in his 20's, on Richard Nixon's personal staff in 1978. For some people that may look like being consigned to hell, but to be on the personal staff of an ex-president -- and let's be honest, Nixon did things he ought to have been tried for, but he also had the dignity to step aside rather than drag the country through an impeachment trial -- is a perch from which you see the world in a different way.

So knowing this about Hewitt (and about me), the question is: "to what end is Hewitt advocating these qualities?" See: Hewitt's definition of "Influence the World" is only from the highest places of power -- that real global influence only is exercised from the Oval Offices of the world. And while I am extraordinarily stupid, I wouldn't say that the leaders of nations are not influential. But I also wouldn't say that this is the goal of Christian ambition.

Hewitt cites this passage from Philippians 3:
    If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless.(ESV)
And he does so in this context:
Recall Paul's point about his credentials and status among the Jews ...He was citing his credentials in order to establish his authority. (33)
But what Hewitt forgets or omits is what follows from Paul, where Paul actually spells out his ambition, and his plea for those in Philippi to follow:
    But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

    Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

    Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Paul was not identifying his authority in Philippians 3: Paul was demonstrating that all the things which the world in which he lived (the Jewish world and culture, to be sure) valued and which he himself possessed were completely useless -- the ESV translates the word as "rubbish", but the word is "skubalon", which refers to animal dung with the connotation of being detestable and worthless. Which is to say, "bullshit".

More importantly in application to Hewitt's point, when Paul says our rightful citizenship is in Heaven, that is in direct contrast to the alleged credentials Hewitt says Paul is demonstrating in vv. 5-6. The equation Paul is drawing here is that there is nothing more important -- not even on a relative basis -- than to be in Christ and in fellowship with His death and resurrection. "The desire to influence the world" as Hewitt outlines it is misguided. The proper desire -- the guide to Christian ambition according to Paul -- it found in Philippians 4:
    Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

    Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.(ESV)
I admire that Hewitt wants to help raise up a generation who will influence the highest circles of power in this world. And frankly, I think his method is the method by which 99 out of 100 people seeking access to those circles of authority gain it. The question is whether seeking that access is a priority in the Christian life.

I am certain some of you reading this entry want to know what I think about what practical Christian life looks like, and I'll point you to this blog entry for a brief summary.