Monday, June 20, 2005


Little Roger Eberts

Question: Are we emulating entertainment critics or the life of Christ?

There is a phenomenon that I find to be ever more striking and apparent. Everyone has some sort of opinion to offer. Whether it’s about Michael Jackson or Martha Stewart in pop culture or Joel Osteen or Rick Warren in Christian circles, we are inundated with opinions. We are all critics. I’m not sure how or why this is happening. Although I’d speculate that it is always easier to point the finger than it is to express or live out a proactive vision.

Now, I’m not saying we do not need critical thought. It serves a valuable purpose and a necessary counterpoint to (perceived) inaccuracies and/or injustices going on. However, it seems to me that when backbiting and criticism are being stepped up, certain principles that many of us would hope to live by and exert are falling by the way side.

First and foremost, understand that I have a big proclivity toward criticism so this is a rebuke of my own behavior as much as anyone else’s. But I’m beginning to acknowledge that I have many more questions than answers.

Sometimes I feel like a schizophrenic in my spiritual journey. By that I mean, I strongly believe in core Christian doctrine such as stated in the Apostle’s Creed and the like, but it is when we step out into the periphery that I admit to bouncing all over the place.

My question, though, is what is wrong with that? Why should it be necessary for me (or anyone else) to have an opinion on what style of worship is best, the appropriate extent of liturgy in church, or what translation of the Bible must be used? But more importantly, why should I feel the need to set those parameters for others?

Theology is important and rigorous intellectual theorizing has its place. However, I for one do not want to morph into a little Roger Ebert in the pew and allow my mind to become obscured from the truly big ideas that have the power to change lives.

There are a few parameters and core values that are actually really important. These include the principles of grace, forgiveness, and redemption offered through Christ. As the song asserts, “There is power, power, wonder-working power in the blood.”

That truth is enough to crush the huge burdens of guilt, shame, and anger to which all of us, by our very nature, are beholden. Of course, if we are too caught up in analyzing the minutia of the worship style involved, we will likely the miss the amazing message of these lyrics altogether. And what a huge omission that would be for not only our own souls but also for those who desperately need to hear it and have not yet had the opportunity.

Hi Chad,
You know I suddenly keep reading posts about the gospel, which I've been thinking about a lot too. I think sometimes discernment can cross into suspicion and criticism - which I take is what you say in your post too. Apologetics is important - and I have a keen interest in apologetics - but yes, it's a matter of running to win the prize and focusing on what really matters. The things God's spirit informs our minds on.
Hey Catez,
It really seems like a tightrope act to me. I, too, am very interested in apologetics and get really frustrated with a sort of anti-intellectual strain running through much of Christendom. On the other hand, there is a proclivity (at least for me) to transform into a cynic and critic to the point where theological squabbling takes precedent over the gospel of grace.
Ooh, ouch! Stuck a nerve there! yea, we can get too wrapped up in it. On the other hand, if it weren't for the relevance of our faith to the real world issues, I wouldn't have the fire burning in me. I renewed my commitment to God because of my children and the mess of a world we are leaving to them. It's the reasoning, apologetics, worldview stuff that has brought me back to the fold! The simple gospel is the baby food that will starve us as we grow.
Hi Chad,I don't think intellectualism is the problem though. One could not be intellectual and still be focused on things that aren't the most important - or still be critical. So it's about our mind/attitude being motivated by the Holy Spirit.
Which I found quite challenging last week when my ISP had major network problems and it took me 20 minutes to send one email...
Ok - gotta go. Have a good day.
Chad, you make some very good points here. there is an awful lot of critique out there that never moves beyond the self-indulgent. being a little ebert keeps one so busy critiquing that there is little space for transformative action. god calls us to the actions of love, not empty rhetoric.
i also believe that the uber-critic pays a spiritual price. i think that mindset robs us of our sense of mystery and perhaps even our ability to be moved.
Thanks, jld. I wholeheartedly agree with your point regarding mystery. The uber-critic, having all the answers, largely denies him/herself the opportunity to be moved spiritually by the great inherent mystery of the divine. There is no mystery to those who think they've got it all figured out.
I just noticed which post you had linked to. I thought I should clarify that my comments weren't about that link - I was coming from some thoughts I've been having for a while.
That's blogging - it's diverse and people have different focuses.
I must admit I've probably read a few too many blogs of late and got a bit distracted myself!
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