One of the books I’m reading at the moment is “The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love” by Jonathan Leeman (Offense = American spelling. We spell it Offence).
subtitle is “Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and
Discipline”. Leeman is one of the pastors at Capitol Hill Baptist Church
in Washington DC which has a number of senators and congressmen among
Mark Dever, the well-known Senior Pastor of the church, has written
the foreword. That church initiated the 9 Marks series if you are
familiar with that (9 Marks of a Healthy Church etc.)
The title in itself is thought provoking and it’s not an easy read.
You need to concentrate on the argument. I’ve not done with it yet so
here are a few initial ramblings about it.
Basically it tries to show how “love” and biblical requirements of
church membership and discipline seem incompatible to the modern mind
but which can be understood together. He argues that 21st
century society has made an idol of love (a New Romanticism) and
overemphasised individualism, which means that every one of our
attachments in life have become renegotiable to the point that we have
“commitment phobia”. In other words, we view everything through the
filter of what’s advantageous for me. And so we view churches like that.
We become very convinced of our own ability to make wise choices about
our lives and believe we should be accepted “as we are”. In fact since
we have made an “idol of love” we feel that true love means we cannot be
judged, challenged or questioned. In essence there has emerged a
scepticism about all dogma.
As a result, argues Leeman, many churches have blurred the lines
between themselves and the world, nervous of drawing boundaries around
belief and behaviour , in fear of accusation of exclusivism or
separation. Yet he argues this is the essence of true biblical covenant
love – to mark off a holy people and to call the people of God to
holiness. To deliberately let others know they are outside – for if they
do not know that, why would they ever want to be in?. It also has
profound implications for church discipline – which word in itself
becomes a dirty word in a love idolatrous world.
This book’s not for the faint hearted – I’ll blog a bit more on it at another time.
4 December 2012