We’ve had a number of lectures over this interim semester, all of which were interesting, and a couple that led to some lively debate. It’s an absolute pleasure to witness debates between intelligent, articulate, and gracious men; it leaves you feeling edified. Maybe you’ve seen the Piers Morgan interview with Alex Jones? Now I do agree with all sensible people that Piers Morgan is a self-righteous snob, and I do agree with Jones on guns, but Jones’s one-sided tirade of indecency and contempt made Piers Morgan almost look respectable. So it was a good week in that it restored my faith in civility. That being said, I wasn’t all that comfortable with everything I heard at the lectures. I say ‘comfortable’ because, being a seriously small theological fry, I’m not sure I’m prepared yet for open disagreement.
One of the speakers in particular made a claim that, it seems to me, is beginning to resonate more deeply within our churches. In fact, I suspect that it may be evolving into conventional wisdom. That’s the claim that we as Canadian Reformed churches have not been intentional enough in reaching the heart. We’ve done very well with our doctrine, aced it no doubt, but we’ve left our emotions packed away in airtight containers and stored in some lost mythical vaults that have codes that no one remembers. If we don’t begin to recover them now, the world may never know that we ever had feelings at all.
Assertions like “our church has ignored the heart,” are difficult to prove or disprove. They are presented in such vague and general terms that, given the state of human nature, they are almost certain to be stating some truth. It’s like saying, “people these days are miserable,” or, “fishing is better than golf.” In other words, they depend almost entirely on the perspective of the speaker, on his own position in the world and whatever experiences he’s had. In fact, statements like that are less statements of fact and more statements of belief, reflecting more the speaker’s attitude to reality than reality itself. They aren’t meant to be disputed with facts, because they are general enough that the facts support both sides. The way to respond, then, is not to try and prove the speaker wrong, but to present an alternate account of the facts and to hope that it’s a more beautiful and satisfying explanation than the other. It’s not something you can do in a single blog post; in fact, you may not be able to do it in a lifetime. But that aside, a blog post is a fine place to begin. Or, because long blog posts are not very popular, a series of shorter blog posts.
I’m assuming, of course, that most people who think our church has ignored the heart still do love the church a great deal. It’s precisely because they love her that they want to see her change for the better. On the other hand, there are those of us who love her a great deal as well, but for that very reason do not want to see her change. I can speak to the “missing-the-heart” business quite personally, as it’s the reason that I lived for a number of years as a CanRef expat in evangelical exile. I saw our church as all head and no heart, strong on sound doctrine but weak on love and character. And isn’t love and character what it’s all about in the end? But in the end I came back, humbled, and I continue to be humbled to this day. What I began to understand at the time, and what I can articulate more fully now, is that our church is plugged into something rather deep and wonderful. It was something that I couldn’t connect with anywhere else, even in those places where emotions ran amok. But I do believe quite sincerely that this special quality is a matter of the heart. These blog posts, then (in the category, ‘A Personal Fervor’), will contain little more than my own opinion, for whatever it’s worth, that our church and its heritage are repositories of good, true, and beautiful things that have long enriched the hearts of those who are blessed to be members there.