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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Searching for Perspective Amidst a People of Protest

I have been thinking a lot this weekend about how prevalent protest has become over recent years. Protest has always been a part of history, even church history. For instance, the very name Protest-ant comes from the protest of the Roman Catholic Church in the Reformation undertaken by Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin among others. Also, I have recently studied the lives of the Puritans, many of whom were nonconformists to the Church of England, of whom much of the Baptist tradition finds its roots. Church history, especially the early ecumenical creeds, served as a protest against heresy. Therefore, through the proper use of protest, there has been much gain. Nevertheless, I am growing concerned with the recent strand of protest. On a national level, there has been a resurgence of protest, calling on the censure of the of President by some senators. On every mainstream media outlet, it is protest that gets the coverage, not the actual events occurring in our country and on the battlefield. As I write this post, I am watching teenagers protest immigration laws by shutting down interstates in California by blocking traffic with their marches. On the Christian front, I hear of many Christians protesting American Christianity or Western Christianity. A recent friend told me, "American Christianity is the leading cause of atheism in my world." Christians are protesting those who are representing them in the broader public square, regardless of the medium. On an ecclesiological level, there is the protest against the traditional or orthodox understanding of the church. For instance, Scot McKnight describes ten ways in which the Emerging Church movement is an ecclesiological protest movement. D.A. Carson also shares how the Emerging Church is a protest against traditional Evangelicalism, modernism, and the mega-church/seeker-sensitive movement. On a worldview level, postmoderns are protesting propositional truth and other foundations of modernism. Some argue that to reach post-moderns, you must embrace post-modernism. This means that the idea of universal and objective truth statements which carry the content of the gospel are to be relativized to the relational context of one's subjectivities. Finally, there is the protest of organizational structures, from the denominations on a macro level to individual churches on a micro level. Similar to the protest against organized religion, Christians are in protest against overly programmed churches and denominations which lend itself more to bureaurocracy and politics than loving their neighbor.

While I believe that much of the protest I see is legitimate, I am concerned that protest is becoming a habit, a form of seductionistic thrill, which one gets as a David-type taking down the Goliah. It is natural for one to root for the underdog, so who doesn't want to be such? Look it, I for one have been in "protest" against of things I see both inside and outside the church. The issue is not whether there is protest, but how one is to protest. Furthermore, is protest all that we are going to be known for? I certainly hope not. Steve McCoy expressed in part some of this concern in a recent post called Churches Louder Than Blogs. Concerning the IMB and the recent Wade Burleson controversy, Steve said:

"Now here me, I like Wade a lot and this isn't about him. But my fear at this point for us as younger leaders in the SBC is that we are trying to ride the Wade-wave and are turning into a very loose-knit grassroots political action committee. We find a cause, link to each other in blog protest solidarity, find a martyr to defend and stand by, etc. I'm to blame too, no doubt. I'm rethinking the usefulness of this site, or if it's even worth continuing."

Steve has made a great point about blogs and bloggers in general. There is the tendency to antagonistically write in protest to the things we see and turn ourselves into to the very thing we are protesting against. While I believe there is progress through via negativa, positive change cannot take place without definitive affirmations and a confessional faith which positively takes its stand for the truth. I am weary of associating myself with a person or movement whose core substance is protest. So I am searching for perspective. I want to understand the pulse behind the protests that I see, to consider whether the protest is fruitful or just an exercise in futility, and to look for ways in which to make a mark for real change. Where the air we breathe often tends to being theologically nihilistic and ecclesiologically antagonistic, I guess I am searching for fresh air. I don't want to abandon the true underdog who is pursuing genuine reformation, but at the same time, I refuse to abandon the good I see and affirm it with unapologetic resolve and conviction. While I esteem the ancient paths which my feet travel on, I hope to, by God's grace, help cut a trial for my own generation which will lead to reform in our churches and lives which would redound to the glory of God.


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