Thursday, February 19, 2009

Do you think Jesus really cares if you...? (thoughts on knowledge & action)

There's something about our WESTERN, MODERN, PRESUPPOSITIONAL, ARROGANT, AMERICAN evangelical, RELIGION that makes me angry. Well, I guess first of all I could say it makes me angry because it IS all those things.
Hopefully it makes you angry too that somehow the Way of Jesus has been hijacked and turned into something Western instead of Global, blinded by Modernity and a slave to it, Arrogant instead of Humble, and all these other things.

But the thing I was talking about is the western church's fascination and "sell your soul love affair" with knowledge... and dare I say it Truth.
(I hesitate to say this because I really do want people to like me and not call me bad names... but people have always called me bad names, so since this is my blog I'm going to try to say what I think.)

Somehow knowledge, being right, doctrine, truth, and orthodoxy (right belief) have become more important in this Western Christian religion we have created than LIVING, ACTION, & ORTHOPRAXY (right practice). How did this happen?

Maybe I can say it this way? Who cares if you have all the right doctrine and believe the right stuff but your life doesn't make a difference? Do you think Jesus really cares if you have all this Bible knowledge but you don't love your neighbor?

Seriously do this for me = imagine yourself talking to God at the end of your life... can you see it in your head? At that moment would you rather:
1 - have spent all your years on earth consumed with living the way of Jesus, living like He wants us to live-> loving the poor, loving our neighbors, living a revolutionary life... but some of your "doctrine" was off. you were wrong about several biblical truths. OR...
2 - have been consumed with Bible knowledge so that your "doctrinal statement" was in order. And maybe it was even SO GOOD that your doctrinal statement and God's doctrinal statement are IDENTICAL! (never happen, but we're "what if"ing here...)

OK, in that moment... which guy would you rather be? The 1st or 2nd? Which guy do you think Jesus wants you to be? I'm betting that Jesus won't give a crap that I was wrong about some biblical truths and "doctrines" if I lived as closely to THE WAY He lived as I can. I guess I can always say "my bad" on this or that doctrinal point. I can guarantee WE ALL WILL be doing that!

I'm going to try to be that first guy... I'm going to try to LIVE the things I'm sure about... I'm going to try to be HUMBLE, and be a SERVANT, and LOVE with all I've got, LOVE God and the unlovable and the outcasts and the poor and my ENEMIES, and GIVE sacrificially... GIVE til I'm broke, and try to be the BEST HUSBAND I can possibly be, and spread God's FAME across as much of this earth as I can... I'm going to try to be a revolutionary like Jesus.

That's the stuff I'm going to focus on. And if I'm wrong about some Truth & knowledge and doctrine and stuff in the Bible... then I'll be wrong. so be it.

but that's just me... What do YOU think?
[more thoughts on this later on... especially as it relates to discipleship and more. & I'm sure I'll be misunderstood, so I'm not even worried about it.]


Anonymous said...

Well, I guess you are open for comments.:) I don't understand why both aren't important. Absolutely, we should feed the hungry, take care of the widows, and evangelize. This is defintitely what God instructs us to do. But He also tell us to study His Word as well as gives us very strong warnings about adding or taking away from His Word. If we cannot acknowledge His word as absolute truth, how can we be sure of the accuracy of anything He says? God did not give us His Word and preserve it throughout the ages so that we can say it's not important.

Anonymous said...

awesome blog! i seriously wonder what standing before God is gonna be like...and how far off the path Christianity has gotten. Have you read the Shack? if so, I'd be interested in knowing what your thoughts are.

patrick mitchell said...

Dear Mr./Miss/Mrs. Anonymous,
I don't remember every saying that the Bible wasn't "important" or that it wasn't "truth". I don't remember saying that we should add or take away from it or that we shouldn't study it. I study it like crazy.
*Maybe you got this confused with someone else's blog?

hassanpour said...

im sure we could get most of our christian friends to agree that right doctrine leads to right practice. whats harder to get them to understand is that their doctrine (however striaght and narrow) is ill when it doesnt produce the kind of good works that you mention in this blog.

better yet, what we dont practice is evidence of what we dont truly believe. for instance, we might be able to quote James 1:26-27, but in order to say that we truly believe it (having right orhodoxy) we must find evidence of this supposed belief by our practice of it (right orthopraxy). im no scholar, so my definitions arent very technical, i understand... im only trying to say that if one isn't practicing the things that you speak of in this blog, then he cant truly say that he has right orthodoxy. someway it's screwed...

i agree with you Patrick and do not feel the need to check you on whether or not u think good doctrine is worthless. (thanks for that anonymous... i almost forgot) as in the case of Anonymous, i wonder why, when we seak of social/cultural renewal, that people feel the need to do that. if you had written about making sure we have correct doctrine, would anonymous have jumped in to check you and make sure you serve the poor and lowly among us, as well... probably not. both extremes that neglect the other are disgusting.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I do believe that Jesus cares very much about this topic. I don't believe that you are Catholic? If not, the Word of God should drive your life but you should also know what it says and it should be the driving force of your life...not you deciding what good things you can do to be like Jesus.

Anonymous said...

To me, Western theology is very works based. It's not about doctrine anymore. It's all about us and our potential/leadership blah blah blah. We can just watch Oprah if that were the case. IT's not about glorifying God in the least. Theology is out the window. They are both equally important and to make light of the importance of doctrine is a little scary to me. It's unfair to say that people who care about doctrine don't care about poverty. Just as it would be unfair to say that those who worry so much about poverty rarely care about other things Jesus would care about such as abortion.

We should stand for the things Jesus stood for and stand against the things His Word tells us are wrong. Some of the most giving people give without making headlines about it. They may be your friends who think doctrine is extremely important. This whole thing with the emergent church dismissing the importance of correct doctrine is scary.

hassanpour said...

i agree with you anonymous. its scary that some people think doctrine is irrelevant. however, just as scary: thinking that water for thirsty children is irrelevant... "they just need to get saved."

Son of Emery said...

I think Jesus covered this somewhere or was it just a sunday school song? You know, the don't-hide-your-lamp-under-a-bush song. I'm gonna let it shine!

I love theology - I love orthodoxy - I love truth. The problem is, I don't, and never will, have it straight, nor will anybody. Our cultural lenses, presuppositions, biases, social conditioning, etc. disallow it.

Theology changes, doctrine develops, truth adapts to the times, but love is timeless; charity is trans-cultural; justice is universal.

Jonathan Edwards is prime example of the unity of the two. He was brilliant, but he cared about the life of the soul just as much as (or even more so) as the power of the mind, and his mind was indeed powerful. Edwards wanted spiritual awakening just as much as he wanted theological sharpness. He is well know for his mind (Freedom of the Will, etc). His own people asked him to leave his church post because he did not believe the half-way covenant was legit. But he is more known because of the awakening. His desire for the affections was such that he was willing to go out on a limb and give credence to spiritual experiences (his own wife's fainting spells, for example). His "Religious Affections" sets out to expose those having experiences, but not having true "affections." Edwards cared just as much about how we live as he did for what we believe. Its a union of the two that is powerful. Humility in all belief is necessary to loving your neighbor.

P.S.I love Anonymous #2's statement about Catholics. As if Catholics don't love the Bible. Haha... so misguided.

Anonymous said...

If you don't have Orthodoxy then how can you have "Orthopraxy"? You need to strive to know all the right things and be as Orthodox as you can be. You also need to be doing the right things and putting into practice what you read in the Scriptures.

Anonymous said...

"truth adapts to the times" - Scott Grace

That is truly scary. Truth is the only constant that we have. Truth does not adapt to the times it transcends time. To say that truth adapts to the times means that you really never know what you believe!

Here is what truly matters -
2 Timothy 2:15 (King James Version)

15Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Truth is the Word of God and to say that we can change that truth to adapt to the times or strech the cornerstones of our faith is irresponsible.

You say "but love is timeless; charity is trans-cultural; justice is universal." ,but if you don't know what truth is than those things will flow out of your misguided heart.

Jeremiah 17:9 (King James Version)

9The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

We must be grounded in the unmoveable TRUTH before acting out of our heart.

Both knowing God and caring for the things God cares for are important ,but you must have TRUTH first.

hassanpour said...

im just glad someone else is taking the heat. thanks Scott and great comments, btw.

and thanks Jeff for your inarguable points. you clearly nailed this whole discussion down.... your use of the King James even made your case stronger.

Lopo, you rightly said, "If you don't have Orthodoxy then how can you have 'Orthopraxy'?" there's nothing wrong with your statement but if i can, I might add that you cant know your orthodoxy is any good until it prodices good orthopraxy. and we should constantly be checking to make sure our doctrine yeilds the kind of works that Christ will judge in favor of. especially since our beliefs are not called into question on that last day, but our works.

musicman said...

My thoughts: 1. What is True is True based upon the Canon of Scripture and knowing the Truth matters. 2. Living the Truth matters and that means Loving God supremely and Loving our neighbor as ourself. If we are honest when we look in the mirror, all of us must admit we fall short to some extent on both points. Lets focus on "the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

Son of Emery said...


Maybe i should have said "the interpretation of truth."

TRUTH as an ideal exists, i believe, eternally unchanged. Except it must be interpreted. You and I are imperfect, thus we have imperfect understandings of truth.

But yours and mine interpretation of that body of TRUTH adapts to times so it becomes "truth" because it does not represent perfectly "TRUTH".

The difference: There are truths I would die for and truths I would not die for.

Jesus is God = i would die for

Hell (in the fiery, eternal, burning worm sense) exists = i would not die for.

patrick mitchell said...

right on Scott.
(lotsa comments... I'll try to interact with some soon.)

musicman said...

I am struggling with the whole touchiness about Truth and Doctrine. I know I grew up in an earlier generation where the world was more black and white. Can someone help me understand what is going on here? It sounds like scriptures such as Romans 3:23 might be offensive to folks out there these days. I want to understand what but I am really not getting it. I am reminded of the christian punk shows I did a few years ago. I loved the kids, hated the music and tried as hard as I could to understand why they liked it. I am pretty open minded as guys my age go but this one is stretching past where I think I can go.

patrick mitchell said...

**I love the conversation! Keep it coming. I'll respond to a few of your comments individually below:

hassanpour#1 - good word man. love your thoughts. i'm all about your bottom line = you can say you have right orthodoxy/beliefs all you want... but if you don't live it then you don't REALLY/TRULY believe it! those are exactly some of my later thoughts on this topic.

Scott Grace#1 - "I love truth. The problem is, I don't, and never will, have it straight, nor will anybody. Our cultural lenses, presuppositions, biases, social conditioning, etc. disallow it."
*Dude! that nails it of course and would help so many just to realize that. Right on my friend!

Lopo - that's a good statement = "If you don't have Orthodoxy then how can you have "Orthopraxy"?" I say the reverse is definitely true & is what i was talking about in the blog = IF YOU DON'T HAVE ORTHOPRAXY THEN WHO CARES IF YOU HAVE ORTHODOXY!!! (NOT "who cares if you have orthodoxy period." just that it's worthless without orthopraxy.)

hassanpour#2 - oh, haha, you said basically what i just wrote. & haha, you crack me up brotha...
& = "our beliefs are not called into called into question on that last day, but our works" = exactly what i was trying to say with this whole post. right on!

Musicman#1 - i agree.

Scott Grace#2 - "TRUTH as an ideal exists, i believe, eternally unchanged. Except it must be interpreted. You and I are imperfect, thus we have imperfect understandings of truth."
I absolutely agree wholeheartedly & want to tackle these ideas in a whole series of blogs soon because I think a whole ton of peeps don't get that... we'll see if i get around to it... (i think i might call it something like "NO ONE HAS A "BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW")

Musicman#2 - I don't think it's a generational thing as you seem to suspect. It's a "Western Modern" church thing... & that's all we know. My generation just seems to be less affected by it because they are LESS WESTERN and MORE GLOBALIZED + LESS MODERN and MORE POSTMODERN...
but I would LOVE to chat more about it man... just got your email... give me a holla any time.

alright guys (and maybe ladies? since we don't know everyone's name) feel free to continue the conversation even though new posts will be popping up. Monday I'll be writing a new one along the lines of this same topic... enjoy.

musicman said...

Orthopraxy..orthodoxy...maybe this is chapter and verse to back it up?

James 3:Faith and Works
14What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?
15If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,

16and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?

17Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

18 But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works."

Anonymous said...


I agree with you that there are truths that you would die for and truths that you would not die for.

I also agree with you that you, me and all of us here on earth are imperfect.

I guess my problem is this, neither mine nor your interpretation of truth matters, because we are imperfect. Our duty as Christians is to present the "TRUTH" in love.

I think too many times we (Modern Christianity)try to adapt our interpreation of "truth" to becoming what we present as "TRUTH". I just think that our misguided adaption of "truth" is being used for the sake of being "relevant" or more politically correct for the masses.

My point in commenting at all was just to say that as Christians you must know and practice the "TRUTH" of God out of the overflowing of your heart not out of a sense of duty and both sides of the argument (ORTHODOXY/ORTHOPRAXY) can be guilty of that.

Sam said...

I didn't read through all replies, so forgive me if I am repeating...

James 2:17-20
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

Patrick, you bring a good point. Where are the practical demonstrations of faith in our widespread Christianity? I know you aren't advocating a works based salvation. But, I am challenged every time I read those verses to work out my faith therefore living more like Christ.

As far as being doctrinally sound, since graduating from our alma matter, I have learned the value of being right on the core points of doctrine concerning Christ's deity and salvation. All points thereafter, you may be wrong in your interpretation or the next guy may be, but to be divisive is counter productive to the growing of God's family. I would rather be convinced in my own heart of a thing and live it out than to be paralyzed by study and produce no fruit.

patrick mitchell said...

Sam - been a long time bro! good to hear from you! & even better to hear these awesome words from you = "All points thereafter, you may be wrong in your interpretation or the next guy may be, but to be divisive is counter productive to the growing of God's family. I would rather be convinced in my own heart of a thing and live it out than to be paralyzed by study and produce no fruit."

that's good stuff bro! & you even hit on what I wrote about it "part 2" of this thought. I was gonna post it today but the current quote of the day won out, so "part 2" has to wait until tomorrow.
good thoughts sam, thanks for joining in.

Anonymous said...

This is a key issue for modern Christianity because the last century and a half has put an inordinate amount of emphasis on belief structures (theology) and ignored "True Christianity" (which should be love, justice and mercy toward the least of these) as "extracurricular" activities that are merely optional.

Of course when such accusations are leveled, some people begin to rabidly froth at the mouth assuming this is advocacy for a social gospel. We need to stop making excuses for our lack of love and start practicing the gospel in all it's implications. I've heard enough "conservative" speeching and preaching that idolizes Ephesians 2:8-9 and conveniently ignores verse 10 - "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

Thanks for your thoughts...

patrick mitchell said...

dude, thanks for YOUR thoughts, quarter circle!
i agree 100%

musicman said...

Thanks Quarter Circle. That helped. There is certainly a solid biblical basis basis for what you and Patrick are discussing. That may not be initially important for a seeker but I think it is important for believers to understand and that goes to the fact that Truth is important. Most days, I would rather run sound for a rock concert (if I could get the gig) than study theology but for some reason, I list my facebook religion is "Love them like Jesus". Not saying I am close to living it but in my heart, I sure want to get better at it.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm late to the conversation, but in my study, the perfect of examples of orthopraxy over orthodoxy were the Pharisees. They were all about what you did and ignored the essential doctrines of the Bible.

If you look at the Pharisaic movement before the time of Christ, they were all motivated about the same thing you are saying. The problem is, their movement of Orthopraxy became twisted because they forgot the doctrines of truth and grace that should be the foundation for our actions.

Orthopraxy without the guidance and worldview of Biblical Orthodoxy can be dangerous. It can lead to man-made traditions that ignore the truth of Scripture.

Anonymous said...

"If you look at the Pharisaic movement...their movement of Orthopraxy became twisted because they forgot the doctrines of truth and grace that should be the foundation for our actions."

Ben I don't think the point of this conversation is to at all ignore the value or significance of Scriptural precedent and guidance. The Pharisees as a separatist group were seen as a highly religious and devout among the mainstream Jewish culture of their day. Their focus was on interpreting and applying the torah for everyday life because they assumed Roman oppression (along with every other oppressor) was consequence for their infidelity to God. These guys were motivated to reform and restore. However, as you alluded they certainly missed the "weightier" matters which were in fact "justice, mercy and faith" (Mathew 23:23). These guys were "doers" (misguided) in some respects but also rabidly dogmatic about their Scriptures.

You mentioned that Orthopraxy minus Biblical Orthodoxy can be dangerous and that it leads to man-made traditions that ignore Scripture and while that is true the exact opposite is as well- those who are dogmatic about Biblical Orthodoxy and right beliefs often become entangled in their own self devised traditions and ignore the "weightier" matters like justice, mercy and faith.

My sense is that the point of this conversation is not to eliminate historic orthodoxy in any fashion, but to express that many have decided on what they believe, created extensive doctrinal affirmations and continue to gather on Sundays for their expository sermons and unfolding of riches in the Scriptures, yet they generally ignore their responsibility to do mercy, faith and justice toward their neighbors. The only substitute for a dead faith (which is described by James as religious faith minus good works)is to embrace a faith that bears good fruit, of which works is a part.

Anonymous said...

Pitting "good works" against "pure faith" has historically been a reaction to those who ignore orthodoxy. Unfortunately, many Evangelical Christians (that is a large umbrella) have been both nurtured in and contained in a system that artificially inflates negative feelings toward good works. Jesus wasn't threatened by good works (Matthew 5:16), he was angered by religious hypocrites who had a basic grasp on truth, but conveniently ignored it's implications.

Anonymous said...

knowing doctrine and so to speak, having "all your ducks in a row" which who's ever seen ducks in a row.
...anyway.....having the knowledge then not loving and serving God's children is to me like
knowing how how to drive and operate a car and leaving it parked in the garage.
i'd rather crash trying to make a difference
and to be blunt.. i don't think you can have knowledge and not take action..
like and appreciate your thoughts harry

Scott in RI said...

Scott in RI.
I usually do not read your blog but I did this time.
I believe you have some good thoughts, BUT what you have to remember is that your BELIEF will be seen in your BEHAVIOR. "Where your treasure is there will your heart be also." Your life will always be directed by your heart.
Please understand that Christ's primary reason for coming to earth was not to create a "social Gospel." That is the "revolutionary of man." Christ's primary reason for coming was Luke 19:10, "Seek and save that which was lost." He did not come to feed the poor, take care of the widows... That was not His direct mission. Now He did feed the 5000 after He had given them the Gospel.
The church has been redefined today as combining secular with spiritual when God says, "love not the world..." not to incorporate into the church to reach the lost. Our churches are looking more and more like the world instead of the world looking more and more like the church. God does not use a secular church to reach secular society.
I whole heartedly believe God is concerned about doctrine (belief) because it has a direct impact on your behavior. You are not going to have a different behavior (reputation) from your belief (character), but you can have a different behavior than your belief, that is called hypocrisy. I believe none of us want that. God is more concerned about our character than our reputation. The fruit of our lives comes the root of your lives, and I hope for my life it is loving the Lord with all my heart.
Last of all, what concerns me about your blog is not one time was there a mention of the Gospel, reaching souls for Christ. That is THEE only reason we are here. If I can help the poor and give them the Gospel, and help a widow and give them the Gospel, great. But if I am feeding them physically but giving them no hope spiritually, I have failed in what God has sent me to do.
I pray for your ministry.

Anonymous said...

That gospel should clearly accompany our life actions- period. However, the issue in contention is whether or not our correct beliefs are affecting our behavior. We can assume that "right" beliefs should affect our actions, but that isn't always the case. Do have an answer for your hope within, do communicate the gospel, but please people for the sake of God and his kingdom be willing to serve and minister to others in such a fashion that you aren't only concerned with making your point and pitching your statement of belief. Jesus specific mission was to rescue people, none-the-less he was involved in servant oriented works, both glorifying His Father and communicating grace and compassion to his hearers. We should be just as passionate about serving others in these ways (locally and abroad) as we are to share the gospel. The potential of "good news" should make all we say and do good news. We need to stop skirting the issue that good deeds should be a natural by product of transformation.