December 1, 2008

Vague Virtue and Concrete “Meddling”

Category: Theology - Pastoral :: Permalink

The Hebrew prophets came to Israel and Judah with the call to repentance.  Invariably, the call was expressed in concrete terms.  God, they announced, requires repentance from specific, concrete sins.  That is the reason why they were so unpopular.

R. H. Tawney, in his study of Puritan origins, comments that “No church has ever experienced any great difficulty in preaching righteousness in general: no church has ever found a specific to disguise the unpalatableness of righteousness in particular….”  The same problem faces modern critics of society who come to God’s people (let alone the religious rebels) to demand that they amend their specific ways of doing business or operating the civil government.

All the flabby moral platitudes that roll off the tongues of hired servants in the pulpits — those vague calls to godliness devoid of concrete guidelines of daily behavior — receive the automatic “amens” from the congregations that do the hiring.  Let the preaching become specific, and “the preacher is meddling in areas that he knows nothing about.”

What the congregations pay for is a weekly affirmation of their status quo.  Of course, their status quo may be somebody else’s revolution, so they may regard themselves as being very, very daring, very hip, very chic, the vanguard of change; always, however, their status quo is left undisturbed.  That is what they pay for, just as the people of Israel paid for it in the eighth century, B.C. (Ezek. 14).  The result for the people of Israel was captivity. — Gary North, “The Biblical Critique of Inflation,” An Introduction to Christian Economics, p. 3.

Posted by John Barach @ 3:37 pm | Discuss (3)

3 Responses to “Vague Virtue and Concrete “Meddling””

  1. A.K. Shauku Says:

    How true this all is. I never quite thought of it this way, but we really don’t want other in our business. We fail to recognize the authority of the church, we cherish our own privacy to a fault, and worship the family–or worse, the individual–as central to life. Okay, I do anyway. Good stuff.
    I’m curious: what brought you to my site? A.K.

  2. John Says:

    Thanks for the comment, A. K.

    As for how I found your site … I honestly have no idea. I don’t remember when I first came across it. Possibly I was searching for something.

    In fact, it’s possible I was looking for something on Phantastes, which (to answer your question in your other comment) I just finished rereading a week or so ago. I see you have a quotation from it on your blog, and so it may be that when I Googled the book it pointed me to your site.

    Anyway, welcome to my blog!


  3. A.K. Shauku Says:

    Thanks for the welcome. I was thinking we had some connection through the CREC. I’m a member of a CREC church, Trinity Pres, in Birmingham. A.K.

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