Paul on “good works”—and my replies to initial critiques of this series.
Let me begin this essay by responding to some critiques of the series up to this point, and especially about last week’s essay, “The Church Does Not Exist for the Sake of the World.” While most readers seem appreciative, I expected pushback for the counterintuitive emphasis I’m trying to bring to bear in the series.
Note that word—emphasis. The careful reader sees that I’m not saying that we should forget about loving our neighbor and that I’m not arguing that in glorifying God the church should not reach out in mission. Thus the charges of “binary thinking” or of offering a “false dichotomy” are a failure to read what I’ve actually written.
More to the point: I’m arguing that the evangelical movement in particular has made an idol of activity for God, to the point that God has been increasingly eclipsed from our hearts and minds (though he is still on our lips, to be sure). To call us back to our first love does not mean that I deny the importance of our second love—the neighbor. And to question our idolatry is not binary nor a false dichotomy any more than it was for Jesus when he cleared the moneychangers from the Temple.
Let me be absolutely clear here: I am not like Jesus; I am very much a moneychanger, caught in the nexus of daily life and worship of the horizontal at the expense of a deep and abiding love for my Lord.
One critique I agree with: I failed to note that many missional thinkers are not first and foremost talking about the church’s mission but God’s. That is, it is God’s mission to bring the world to himself, and we just participate in his mission. Fair enough. I will say, however, that I wonder if this picture …