Theologically questionable Facebook posts, Part 1

October 5, 2012

Francis Chan inspires fierce loyalty among his readers, viewers, and congregants—and strong reactions from his detractors. Me, I only know him by reputation. I never read Crazy Love when it came out. In retrospect, I should have read it for the same reason I read Heaven Is for Real—because so many church people were reading it. Maybe I’d love it, but when Chan says things like this—as he did, apparently, at last night’s “Catalyst” conference—it makes me wonder.

I understand Chan’s sentiment. By all means, our credibility as disciple-makers hinges, in large part, on the extent to which we ourselves are being made into disciples. I’ve preached the same myself. But Chan doesn’t leave much room for the Holy Spirit. The good news is that ultimately it isn’t up to us to “multiply” God’s kingdom; that job belongs to the Spirit. The Body of Christ doesn’t grow like a human body: Christians don’t duplicate in the same way that cells do, such that if a cell has defective DNA code, that code will get passed on to the next one.

Chan seems to be saying that we need to get our act together before we can begin doing the work of the kingdom. To which I would say that doing the work of God’s kingdom, by God’s grace, often helps us to get our act together. Besides, how sufficiently does Chan believe that he has his act together? Apart from grace, we’re all hopeless sinners. And we’re all in need of God’s grace at every moment.

Picky, picky, I know. But what can I say? This blog exists in part to be picky about theology, because it matters a great deal to me.

Someone might accuse me of taking Chan’s words out of context. To which I say, of course I’m taking them out of context! It’s Facebook! The words were posted without context. Were the many people who chimed in their agreement with his words sitting in the conference, hearing Chan speak them in context? Who knows? All I have to go on is this Facebook post. A pastor friend who was there, however, tells me that I fairly represented what Chan was saying.

One Response to “Theologically questionable Facebook posts, Part 1”

  1. Tom Harkins Says:

    I agree that the Spirit can get things done regardless of how “spiritual” we human “intermediaries” may be. Paul even said that some preached out of envy of Paul, but what did he care, so long as Christ was being preached.

    However, and I imagine you agree with this, how we live for Christ may well have some impact on how the gospel is being spread in a fashion likely to result in “new disciples.” Scripture says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” And how we treat our spouses affects whether our prayers are hindered. So when Jesus tells us to pray to the Lord of the harvest that he would send out workers, this suggests that the efficacy of our prayer life has something to do with the spread of the gospel.

    Also, we are told to “provide things honest in the sight of all men,” and pastors are supposed to be well spoken of in the community. These types of admonitions at least suggest that the effectiveness of our witness is affected by the obedience to God’s commands that we display.

    I believe God, through the Spirit, will bring in all whom should be brought in. But this is a very tricky proposition as to which I plead some ignorance. God certainly knows how good we will turn out to be, for example, yet we do not, and as far as we are concerned we have a big role to play in that respect. So, what God “foreknows” is how we will actually choose to behave, so in that sense it really is “up to us” to a substantial degree. Somewhat similarly with those who will be saved. The Spirit knows who and where and when and how, but we don’t, and it may not be too far removed from reality to believe the Spirit also foreknows those things depending on knowing how WE go about to make disciples. And how we go about that does depend on our “efficacious” prayers (“the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much”) and the “holiness” of our lives. So, Chan may be on to something in thinking that our “discipleship” plays a role in others becoming disciples, as being “conduits,” if you will, even though it is certainly the Spirit who ultimately leads anyone to salvation.


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