Saturday, February 2, 2008

Scriptural Means vs. Scriptural Ends

A blogging buddy of mine turned an interesting phrase in the comments to one of his posts: '“scriptural means” versus “scriptural end”. That phrase captures, in just five words, what causes so much rancor in the Christian world today. It grasps the gist of current debates about evangelism (i.e., relevance, innovation, seeker-sensitivity, being missional, strategic planning, enculturism); worship (i.e. arts, contemplativeness, contemporariness, instrumentation, participation); ecclesiology, and pneumatology as well.

I've always thought of the Bible as normative-- the policy manual of the Church. If it speaks to a matter that settles it, and where it speaks, we speak. Although there are a number of scriptural reasons to see it that way, primarily, it was an experience I had in the first week I was following Christ that made me adopt such a policy. After all the years of living in and observing the Christian community, I can say uncategorically, that policy was right. IMHO, the only thing our wandering away from the pages of the Book has brought Christianity is an amalgam of flakiness, fruitiness, and nuttiness; or to be more direct, superstition, credulity, and spiritual abuse. The years have taught me that scriptural ends are best achieved by scriptural means.

Sometimes, this whole thing gets my prophetic hackles rising, but the saving grace that salves my combative heart are the words of Paul himself. As long as the scriptural end of preaching Christ is achieved, for the most part, I can leave the means in God's hands and rejoice. It doesn't make it any easier to swallow some of the shenanigans and tomfoolery, but God has not given me (or anyone else for that matter) the beat as spiritual traffic cop. Error certainly needs to be corrected, and life saving differences highlighted, but when it comes to this thing we all do in Christ name, it pays to remember, we're all just deckhands, he's the captain-- he'll cull the catch when we get back to port.