Rebellion and Reformation

This evening as I was thinking on a number of things (expunging the residue from misfired thoughts from the last week), I began to think about the modern fascination with rebellion and opposition. Indeed, it has come to then point that even where we are seeking to affirm something good, we have begun to frame it in terms of opposing something that we feel is wrong. Human rights these days are affirmed, not in order to actually support something noble (human rights) but through the punishment of those we interpret as breaching these rights.

The Church has not been immune. For the most part, myself included, there has been a move to see what is “not working” in the Church, and to then fix it. Ironically it seems to be behind both the abortive “Emergent Church” movement, and the nascent Reformed resurgence. Both reacting to the vapidity of late 20th century western evangelicalism and charismaticism. While one claims a focus on “justice” and the other on “orthodoxy”, in practice, both seem to actually be based in not being what went before. In a sense, being rebellious.

Unfortunately, this phraseology has traction. After all, for most of my life I’ve been regaled with stories of the beneficial rebellion of the 60s, the civil rights movement, etc. Rebellion is cool.

The problem is that positive change doesn’t come primarily from opposition to evils (though that is a necessary side effect), but by clear focus and affirmation of truth. The benefits of any previous rebellion come not from the accidents of the heroic opposition to what is against the truth. Admittedly, we sing the songs and tell the stories of those who stood against evil, but the real benefit, the real work, is done by those who are grasped by the truth and then work to re-form what is destroyed by rebellion around that truth. Such is the case personally, as my life is re-formed around Christ, and it is true for the Church as well. What we need are people who are technically conservative of what is most necessary. They conserve the truth, and expunge lies based on it.

The Church does not need more people pointing out the flaws. We need people pointing to the truth (namely, Jesus Christ). Thus what I pray for is not rebels who rebel against culture, or against low expectations, or injustice, but reformers who, like Luther, will be “captive to the Word of God”.

Author: Stephen Dawe

Steve is a part-time vocational elder Calvary Baptist Church, St. John's as well as a full-time student at Memorial University of Newfoundland, in the Religious Studies Department.