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Against Thoughtless and Wanton Criticism of Teaching

October 22, 2012

If I were to take a guess, I would venture to say that most of the people who read this blog have at some point or another been in what could be called the “cage stage.”  We might describe the said “cage stage” as consisting in a strong zeal for the purity of church practice and doctrine and accuracy in the exposition of Scripture that we hear taught in the church.  Such a zeal is not bad in itself, but when one is in the “stage,” this zeal often expresses itself in unhelpful and uncharitable ways.  I’ve found myself there before.  Have you?  Fortunately for us, Martin Bucer anticipated folks like us and other sinfully critical souls nearly five hundred years ago:

This is why Christians are first of all to ask the Lord with great earnestness to grant them faithful ministers, and to watch diligently in choosing them to see that they walk in accordance with their calling and serve faithfully; and when these ministers come to warn, punish, teach or exhort in the Lord’s name, not to dismiss it thoughtlessly and despise this ministry, as sadly many are wont to do today.  Such people are so kind as to object to and judge the sermons and all the church activities of their ministers, just as if they had been appointed to do so and the only reason for hearing sermons was so that they might in the most unfriendly way discuss, distort and run down what had been said in them, or anything else which had been done in the church.  In such people you do not observe any thought of approaching sermons in such a way that they might in some way be moved by what they have heard in them to acknowledge their sins more fully, or to commit themselves more wholeheartedly to Christ and seek more earnestly to improve their ways; all they do is to judge and criticize anything which is said which applies to them, or which in some way they consider not to fit in with their carnal impudence (and not Christian freedom).  And when they praise something in a sermon, it is generally because it applies to other people, whom they like to hear criticized; and they take from such sermons nothing beyond an excuse to run down those they do not like, and not so that they might warned or built up.

– Martin Bucer, Concerning the True Care of Souls, trans. by Peter Beale, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2009), 196, (emphasis mine).

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 23, 2012 3:18 pm

    I’ve found myself there, Neil. Good words.

  2. March 26, 2013 4:30 pm

    I agree that a lot of churches miss the mark on Sunday moirnngs. I think Sunday service should the touchpoint. The time when everyone involved in the different church activities comes together to say hi, touch base, and encourage eachother. The REAL church happens between Sundays, because church is about people and relationships and those don’t get built in an hour singing songs and listening to someone preach. I think there is value, too, in Sunday service because it is a time to pass on traditions and connect with the ‘past church’ as well as with other churches around the world. Knowing that for 2000 years people have been gathering to take communion, for example, and that millions are doing that around the world now, can be encouraging, and awe inspiring. But, I definitely agree that most churches and Sunday services are far from what they could be. I would also encourage you, as you try to find a church, to look beyond the Sunday service to the community, and to consider, what could I contribute to this church , rather than what do I want in a church. Although what you want is important to consider, what part you can play in the church is also vital. Search for community, that is what church truly should be.

  3. March 26, 2013 4:30 pm

    here. Church is not a building, it is not sohteming Christians do . Jesus told us to BE the Church using the metaphor of his body, with all parts interconnected and interdependent on the others. To me that’s the definition of community; I don’t believe God created humans to live without each other. The worship that happens (or is supposed to happen) on Sunday mornings brings us together to connect, refresh, and inspire us as we go out into the world to be the Church and for me (and why I love the Anglican tradition so much) it also connects me with not just my local congregation but with all congregations around the world who are doing the same thing and with all Christians through time who have done the same things and said the same words. I think this is so relevant to your post where you say we have to have healthy bodies and minds in that it helps illustrate what Jesus meant. As far as what do you look for, I’d say you need to find a church that is living what you believe and that helps you to live it too.Arianna, I’m enjoying your blog and love your insightfulness.

  4. March 30, 2013 10:13 am

    oluER7 vftyllssiert

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