Improvisation: The Reasonable and Useful Church

This is series of articles, so if you would like some context, at least read the beginning of the first one, and at least skim through the last one

With Christianity taking a seat of power, it eventually faces the fact that it is at war with the rest of the world. It’s Empire fears that it will lose out to the secular influence of the world through philosophy and science, so it must start a new campaign to revitalize itself. The Empire must re-make itself as The Reasonable and Useful Church.

The Church decides to pour itself into maintain its validity; making sure that everything is historically provable and chronologically accurate. For your modern day apologists in this field, look no further than Lee Strobel or Ken Ham. On top of being proven in the field of archaeology, the psychological and philosophical truths of the Bible are sought to be confirmed as well. Rene Descartes seeks to show that the conscious mind can be used to prove the existence of God, while others seek to prove that God can be genuinely experienced and is not just a figment of human-subconscious.

At the same time, The Church wants to prove how useful it can be (like a good little engine). It’s goal is to show that the same values that contemporary society holds to the highest esteem were exemplified in the man Christ Jesus and his teachings; and that the Church promoted a community of love and peace.

In short, whether or not Christianity was true, it certainly made people behave better.

Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics (p. 5)

Both schools of thought promote the fact that God is the ultimate ethical arbiter, and that there is no need for ethical discussion. The Church is trying to convince each individual that regardless of the situation, time, place, social setting, ethnic background, age, gender, or more importantly, their identity, the Bible’s Word is ubiquitous and absolute.

If this is the case, then why even have evangelists? If the Bible covers everything, then why do we need translators? Not just for language, but for context. What is the point of the Church, the Word of God present as the Body of Christ incarnate, if the Bible already has the power to engage everything on its own? Are we just dirtying the message by passing it along?

The former (Reason) looked back to restore a lost security, whereas the latter (Utility) looked forward to establish a new possibility (p. 6)

Historical Reason states that there is an order to the world, and that it has always been like that; that we have rules because those things are already good or evil, and putting the label of a “law” on top of it was just to point out what was already there.

Utilitarian Reason desires for the actions committed to bring about the best outcome. It’s not that my actions are good or evil, but that they produce the best outcome. The goodness of the future is brought about by good actions in the right scenarios.

The former could be called “ethics for anyone,” since it sees the individual as a universal category, the principles of whose actions could apply to anyone, anywhere, at any time. The latter could be called “ethics for everyone,” since it has a more democratic impulse, looking for outcomes that suit the most people in the most circumstances. (p. 6)

We want everyone to live by the same rules we do, and at the same time, make the rules apply to anyone.

Ethics is about making Saints who are sinners, not about marking the path to Sainthood. Ethics isn’t there to establish the law for everyone, or be applied to anyone. It’s about building up faithful people; not telling unfaithful how to be faithful.

Ethics is about forming lives of commitment, rather than informing lives without commitment. (p. 8)

So it all boils down to information. Whether or not a world-wide flood can be historically proven, or whether God is a logical thought; whether Good and Evil is natural law, or whether it will produce the best results. This neglects the very reality of whether or not the Church changes lives. Everyone who does not agree with the Church must be ignorant in order to be wrong; God must have hardened their heart, or left them in darkness. Ethics becomes a competition of intellectual knowledge instead of a life-transforming practice. The more you know, the more correct you should be. The Church becomes a body of intellectual propagation instead of a transformative community. The goal is to educate through flyers, online sermons, and my blog, rather than through the loving those who are persecuted.

The Church is to remain a distinct individual, not trying to force itself into the world through messages of how to live properly. But the Church does not neglect it’s place in the world where it must practice what it preaches by providing for the poor, and taking in the orphans and widows. It does not neglect that it sits in the middle of World and cannot ignore it, or segregate itself from it; It cannot rule the World, otherwise it becomes the World. It has to be in a conversation with it. It must integrate itself with being with the marginalized, the outcast, and the needy, otherwise it continues to  sit at the table of those who decides who is to be excluded from society.

Orphanages used to be run by Churches. They used to be started by Christian individuals who saw the need of the children and sought to help. Now, we have let the government run those. In the meantime, instead of asking “what can I do to help?” we instead began asking “why are all these children being abandoned?”, “who would do this?” “why aren’t they being helped?”. We try to spend our time educating others about the problems that exist in the world, and how to solve them, rather than just dealing with the problems first hand.

This blog is no exception, and if it weren’t for the fact that I use these writings as a method of wrestling with my own issues, I would call it very hypocritical.

I recently talked with two couples: both gave up having any children of their own in order to just adopt and care for the children already in the world. One couple was Christian, the other, Atheist. The question shouldn’t be “what is compelling them both to do this even if their theology is different?”, it should be “what can I do to help?”.

A complaint I heard just yesterday was someone telling me that their taxes were being wasted on people using up food-stamps. All I could think was that it was just the governments way of making you do the thing Jesus already told you: Feed the poor. And you can talk about whether they are really poor or not, but the reality is that the government is doing it because the Church isn’t. The government realized that there was a need not being met and made an institution for it, because the institution of the each individual that makes up the Body of Christ, stopped trying to meet that need.

I would like to think that the Church in Western culture is the safe refugee that anyone can turn to, but as soon as we let them inside, we might as well make them sign a terms and conditions agreement. The Christian Church is not the oppressed. Not right now. If anything, it is just another corporation that keeps others out. Can you picture them? The minorities, the Muslims, the gays; anyone who is getting the short end of the stick: that’s who Jesus went to. He didn’t seek to put himself in a position over them, he directly went to them, and let them come to him.

The point of all this rambling is that the Church shouldn’t seek to make itself Useful to the World: It’s not a commodity. I shouldn’t have to justify the Sabbath with the fact that it’s physically healthy to have a day off, or the fact that confession of sins is psychologically helpful. I shouldn’t have to say that I believe in Bible because it’s historically accurate and I have the archaeological evidence to prove it.

Christians aren’t worldly reasonably people. They help those in society who don’t do anything positive for society. They seek no reward. They help their enemies, and love the very people who attempt to get rid of them. If they did it for a Heavenly reward, then of course it makes Worldly sense. But if they just love with no expectation of reward in return, then what is going on?

I want to be seen as a Reasonable and Useful person, but at the same time, I desire to be neither Reasonable nor Useful. I want to be mysterious; I want to love.

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