We sense that people in the world are unsettled and things have changed. The veil was lifted a couple of years ago and people began to notice. We feel as if things are out of balance and out of sorts. All around us seems partially tangible, but is not authentically real. Why?
We know why man is not doing what God created him to do. But saying people need more Jesus is and is not the whole answer. We sense that there are many among us that believe they have both found Jesus and are actively teaching a version of him yet they are a problem too. In theory, everyone needs Jesus, in reality, in a broken and fallen world many will not receive. I suspect that if everyone in the world did in fact “find Jesus” we would still sense that something was not right because we are not ordered in the way God ordained.
Without belaboring the should and ought arguments that are pregnant in those three sentences perhaps you will indulge me. I am saying people are not happy and the world is not right because we have adopted theory, idealism over realism. Everything around us that is important to us turned to theory long ago.
Government should protect us from evil. Theory however tells the government it can manage entire demographics and sin problems in society through public policy. That it can manage individual behavior by spending indefinitely through monetary policy. All government from national to local operates in theory. What is reality? The poor will always be among us, there will be wars, and debt is a bad thing.
Our professionals operate now in theory. Academia once used a rigorous method of inquiry to build knowledge. Now all areas of study are shaped by theory. Even hard sciences are now impacted by abstract theory. Physics is now impacted by social theory for example. Other professions too, all of them. It is not as simple as pointing to academia, where it is plain to see how knowledge generation moved from rigorous inquiry to theory synthesis. I am not talking about one theory, or even one kind of theory. I am speaking about the love of theory, and that theories in general are all that appeal to the professional classes. Lawyers, doctors, pastors, and military officers all are consumed by theory in their work. In business people too, in their vocations and occupations theory abounds. But we sense that it fails us at key moments. Continuous theory feels like progress, like moving forward, but we sense and have found that when real tests come theories do what they are designed to do, and many fail. We know that much of the foundation of our world is now built on theories that will also fail.
We sense there is something not real in the systems our institutions have embraced. Let’s go back to the thing humans really need. Man needs to recognize his Creator and live according to His purposes and His commands. Churches are supposed to offer a way of leading man to that. What do they offer instead? Preachers that primarily read new release books filled with theory about church management, growth, and psychology. Church programs are presented to the world as “faith-based”. Mankind does not need faith-based, all of man acts according to some faith, whether it is in theories, themselves, a false god or the true one. Faith-based is a lie and we feel that. 99.9999% of all new releases at a place like LifeWay and almost all other ‘Christian’ publishers are merely restatements of theories of the world repackaged with Christianese. We are dying because of theory, not for a lack of it. We suffer because we have abandoned realism, the metaphysical realism about unseen things, and realism that teaches us about seen things that ought to inform our institutions.
When a man such as a pastor demonstrates that he is a slave to theory and cannot escape the infection of the system of the world that has only and can only provide broken answers for broken people it is certain that he is susceptible to further error. Providing programs and vision statements and methodology is merely succor to a congregation that longs for something else. Most in the pew do not know it, they too clamor for distractions, but God made them to want something else.
God ordained three spheres of authority, the family, government and the church. These institutions are supposed to discipline, protect and instruct. What if a father raised his children based on their felt needs. What if our courts were feeling-based instead of justice-based? What if churches were faith-based instead of Christ and Scripture-based? What is the vast difference between indisputable reality and idealism in each of those? Idealism and feelings in any of the spheres never end well and it leaves children, citizens and churchgoers hungry for something real, even if they feel they want something else.
The problem comes in quibbling over thinking institutions can do both. Wordplay notwithstanding, doing both means failing at both, and doing the second extremely well would have no good permanent effect anyway.
When a man like Michael O’Fallon says the solution is that we have to fire the entire expert class he is right. I am not endorsing all that O’Fallon says but when he presents that impossible solution he is framing the problem as it really is. It is impossible to fire the expert classes and maintain society and yet, so long as the expert class and professional remains stuck in a self-referential orgy of theory-seeking, there is no hope of a solution.
It is possible that when I die and face judgment the Lord of all creation will tell me to depart from his sight, he never knew me. He might ask how I could have been so blind not to have seen the word he gave us in this age. He would point to the fact that it was written in almost every new book released and sold on sites claiming his name. Some of the books were best sellers for weeks. How could I have been so blind as to not allow these men to ‘speak into’ me the truth that they saw and I could not? I would be if it happened like that without excuse. I would offer that I was foolish enough to keep his Scriptures and the reality they taught me and that because of that I rejected the theory that was so obvious around me. I would say as Luther, here I stand, I can do no other. If he showed mercy and grace and let me in any way, I am sure I would be instructed to walk past the places of glory, the abodes of Tim Keller, Brian McLaren, Beth Moore, and Rick Warren and to keep going past all the seeker sensitive rock star pastors and then right on past all the faith-based organization leaders. In this fantasy reality, I would walk past the NAR folks, Hillsong and Bethel people, and even some Unitarian Universalists and Methodists. I would be sent way out to a small cave where all the other fools that just could not get with the program of human idealism and theory are sent.
Of course, I do not think it will work out like that at all because my Christian Faith is real and reality is real and we have a way of knowing something about it.
People, children, citizens, and churchgoers, became sad and confused over the last three years because they saw the failure of theory and institutions enslaved to it. Theory could not help us stand against others with both theory and intentionality with them. All the theories that our important institutions practiced on us and fed us before 2020 did not prepare most of us for 2020. It all fell apart for many people. Our hurt and brokenness, and separation manifest now often as apathy. Distrust of those that failed and did not learn from the failure and want only to offer us more of the same. Put down the latest best-seller and newest idea about fixing it and look at what was said we needed in each sphere and rebuke the fools that merely push more of what broke us. What used to work better than theory in this broken world? Tradition, (o)rthodoxy, Realism....