A vehicle for venting on philosophy, religion, and the general state of things. Proprietor: C. W. Powell

Monday, August 11, 2008


It was a joke during the 60's when the rebellion against the "system" was in full throat. We laughed at those who refused to conform to the prevailing standards of non-conformity. The rebels dressed the same, wore the same long, unkept hair, smelled the same, read the same books [if they read], and insisted on the same music. They cleaned up a little later, in the 70's and 80's, but their non-conformity still was boringly uniform. They even joined churches and forced everyone to conform to their own dippy music and boring informality.

The Bible does indeed call us to perfection. Christ's gifts to the church are for the "perfection of the saints," according to Ephesians 4. Hebrews 13 records a benediction for the church: "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."

It is not the purpose of this blog to interpret the above passages or others like them, but to poke a bit of fun at a different kind of perfectionism, the person who abandons a church that teaches a high standard of Christian behavior and accuses the church of teaching "perfectionism."

Strange, isn't it? The church does not measure up to this person idea of what a church should be. His idea of a perfect church is one that does not teach high standards of behavior. Hence, the church is not perfect and must be abandoned. Because the church and ministry will not bow to his idea of perfection, he feels compelled to abandon it and seek a church that will be "perfect." Do you see the irony?

The Heidelberg Catechism, on the question of human authority and institutions, speaks against all forms of perfectionism. Question 104:

Q104: What does God require in the fifth Commandment? A104: That I show all honor, love and faithfulness to my father and mother, and to all in authority over me, submit myself with due obedience to all their good instruction and correction, and also bear patiently with their infirmities, since it is God's will to govern us by their hand.

Parents should certainly strive for high standards of behavior; governments ought to do the best they can. Churches should strive after conformity to the Scriptures. Every individual Christian must diligently put off the old man and put on the new. We are commanded to "Awake to righteousness, and sin not." [1Cor. 15:34].

But the Bible recognizes the reality of sin and failure. Men are not perfect and even the church that calls men to striving after excellence is not perfect.

The exhortation of the catechism to "bear patiently with their infirmities, since it is God's will to govern us by their hand" forces us to abandon the idea that everyone must bow to our wishes.

The government of the church belongs to those who are duly chosen under the authority and constitutions of the churches. The churches are not to be ruled by those who seek to impose their own imperfectionistic perfectionistism and to insist that everyone perfectly conform to their own brand of perfectionism.

Sin, of course, is not rational. People will destroy the peace of the Sabbath by insisting that everyone keep it the way they do; People will destroy the communion of the church by raising quarrels over Holy Communion; People will judge the law by condemning people for things they do themselves, as if the law is partial.

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