This post is by RJS – so personal reflections are mine, not Scot’s
In Chapter Four of The Reason for GodTim Keller broaches a topic I have found a real stumbling block over the years: If the Christian story is true why has the Church been responsible for so much pain and injustice both large and small? We must address the behavior of Christians both individual and corporate.
The first thing we should do here is examine the nature of the Christian message. The Christian gospel condemns violence, oppression, injustice and fanaticism – even fanaticism and violence in the name of Christ for the truth of the Gospel. Keller has some great insights and quotes –
Think of people you consider fanatical. They’re overbearing, self-righteous, opinionated, insensitive, and harsh. Why? It’s not because they are too Christian, but because they are not Christian enough. They are fanatically zealous and courageous, but they are not fanatically humble, sensitive, loving, empathic, forgiving, or understanding-as Christ was. … What strikes us as overly fanatical is actually a failure to be fully committed to Christ and his gospel. (p. 57)
and this one:
In Jesus’s and the prophets’ critique, self-righteous religion is always marked by insensitivity to issues of social justice, while the faith is marked by profound concern for the poor and the marginalized. The Swiss theologian John Calvin, in his commentaries on the Hebrew prophets, says that God so identifies with the poor that their cries express divine pain. The Bible teaches that our treatment of them equals our treatment of God. (p. 60)
What is the answer, then, to the very fair and devastating critique of the record of the Christian church? The answer is not to abandon the Christian faith, because that would leave us with neither the standards nor the resources to make correction. Instead we should move to a fuller and deeper grasp of what Christianity is. The Bible itself has taught us to expect the abuses of religion and it has also told us what to do about them. (p. 62)
So Christianity is not the problem and, in fact, provides the foundation for our sense of justice and compassion and integrity. The Church strays… and corrects itself; a pattern repeated through the centuries.
But in my mind there is still a question —
If the Christian story is true and if the Church is the ordained, Spirit led, body of Christ, God’s people – why has God allowed his Church to err so profoundly on so many occasions?
What is the Church and what is the story we find ourselves in?