Thinking Out Loud

October 18, 2010

The Place for Christian Critique

If anything characterized the Christian publishing market during the first decade of this new century, it was the glut of books falling under the general category of ecclesiology.     Once the domain of pastors and seminary students, suddenly every Tom, Dick and Harriet was interested in church growth strategy, church planting, home church, organic church, postmodern ministry, et al.

And many of these books were very critical of church as we know it.   Some writers believed it was better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, but others, spared nothing to launch their complaint against the irrelevance of church in the previous century including even tearing down more recent models which were attempting to remedy that very situation.

Can you imagine an author walking into a publishers agent’s office today with a manuscript about church life?   It would be a hard sell with the titles already available.

So what of this particular genre?

I chose the word critique over the word criticism, because most writers self-justified their efforts that they weren’t trying to be “critical,” but were attempting to simply put the church under the microscope in light of contemporary culture and statistical surveys.    But some of the books left you more pessimistic than encouraged.

I also chose this topic in light of the discussion that began Saturday here (two posts back) on the place for Christian humor.   Humor is, in many ways, a form of critique, and the humorists and the critics have a lot in common.   It’s my opinion that we need both, and that overall, the discussions in various books published from 2000 – 2009 have been helpful for refocusing and re-visioning the role of the local church moving forward.

But I learned on the weekend that not everyone is going to agree.

I guess a fuller title for this would be, “The Place for Critique in Christian Writing;” since it’s not Christianity — the doctrine and theology — that’s being reconsidered.   Hopefully.   Although it’s often the doctrine and theology as we came to understand it, or as it was taught to us, or as it was impressed on us that can be the issue.

So here’s what I want you do:   Check out both Saturday’s post and the comments; and then answer the following question which is similar, but different.

What’s your take on books or online media — such as blogs — that are highly critical of traditional church?

And let’s add a question about the issue that was raised on the weekend.

What controls should exist regarding the possibility of new believers or even seekers stumbling over material that was meant for church veterans?

The difference is that here we’re looking at writers who aren’t trying to be funny, though maybe humor might have softened their blows!

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5 Comments »

  1. What’s your take on books or online media — such as blogs — that are highly critical of traditional church?

    I don’t think it’s helpful to simply level criticism at the church unless it’s context or intent is to motivate positive change.As in the difference between conviction and condemnation, one simply criticizes while the other always presents a better option.

    What controls should exist regarding the possibility of new believers or even seekers stumbling over material that was meant for church veterans?

    Perhaps a focused teaching on these specific issues as in a class for new believers? Mentoring is also an option, but first,we have to see it as a priority which is by far the bigger problem IMO.

    My personal views on the church are that we have an urgent need to ask ourselves,

    “What are we about, is what we’re doing working,if not why, and go from there. The most important thing is that we’re honest with ourselves and before God”

    I would never advocate throwing the baby out with the dirty bathwater, but I can clearly see that the water needs to be changed.

    Comment by altonwoods — October 18, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

    • In response to: “Perhaps a focused teaching on these specific issues as in a class for new believers?”

      What I’m getting from that is that we just come right out and state upfront that there are going to be issues you encounter and here are some of them.

      Not a bad idea, really.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — October 18, 2010 @ 1:50 pm

  2. Rather than contribute my own thoughts, I would point you to John Stackhouse Jr’s (you find them on his blog or in Faith Today). The tongue-in-cheek title: “Why I Criticize Other Christians — and Why You Should, Too”

    Comment by Jon Rising — October 18, 2010 @ 7:46 pm

  3. As a whole I feel most of the books and blogs are helpful. My own blog Small Church Tools is intended to be encouraging although I do point out some of our congregation’s failings in some of the posts. Other writers are not quite so kind to the church but still offer some helpful insights. There is always room for open and honest discussion. God bless!

    Terry Reed
    Small Church Tools

    Comment by Terry Reed — October 25, 2010 @ 10:02 pm


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