Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Maginot Line and the Modern Church

During World War I, France realized how unpleasant German invasion and occupation could be. To prevent a recurrence of those unpleasantries, the French built an intricate series of "impenetrable" defenses along the German and Italian borders during the 1930s. These fortifications became known as the Maginot Line.

Unfortunately for the French, the line wasn't quite long enough. The 1940 German invasion reached French soil quite easily in just five days. How? The Germans went around it, through the "impassable" Ardennes Forest and the impotent French neighbors Belgium and Holland. Read the longer version here.

The relevance to the modern church of this historical excursion is a matter of my opinion. Some of us who blog probably imply from time to time that we have a corner on truth. Perhaps I could be accused more often and more accurately than most of dislplaying such an attitude. What is to follow should be read as some "thinking out loud," not a dogmatic decree.

Here's my hypothesis: The modern church has constructed a Maginot Line. We have invested far too much energy on issues of far too little consequence—issues that are not at the center of the spiritual warfare we are waging. We've convinced ourselves that molehills are the tactical high ground that we absolutely MUST conquer, while we have foolishly abandoned the mountains. We have fortified the front lines that we perceived to be most vulerable, but we have left ourselves bare to the frontal assault of the Enemy.

It is on that point that I suspect we might be more foolish even than the French. At least France defended the most direct route of attack, requiring the Germans to drive their Panzer divisions miles out-of-the-way. Is it not possible that we have left our most precious possessions exposed? In our attempt to build fences around morality, have we failed to fortify the theology that ultimately defines morality and the theocentric approach to local church ministry that propagates it?

Again, this is hypothesis, not dogma. But can we really say (as some do) that the "fundamentalist movement" (to the degree that it is a movement) is theologically healthy? The contention that it is more healthy than the mythical "evangelical movement" is a relative statement. Such logic proves health no more than a man with kidney failure does when he compares himself to a man with terminal cancer. Whether it is truly healthy is a question for comparison to the Word, not to other people.

I do not mean to imply that Drs. Bauder and Doran agree with the substance of my argument, but I view their recent statements optimistically. They acknowledge a need for self-criticism that serious truth-seekers will be wise to consider. They are beginning to define a pathway to reformation that will create plenty of friction between ideas, but perhaps the heat from that friction will burn away the dross.

What seems unique to me about this moment is that the conversation is taking place publicly. But the danger of this conversation may be that we invest our energy in defending our own conclusions and our own rights. I like the fact that Bauder and Doran are starting by laying groundwork. As Unk would say, "This is good." Perhaps those of us on all sides need to suspend our kiln-baked opinions on the hot-button issues for a while as the conversation advances. Easier said than done, for me at least.


Unk said...

This blog started going downhill the day you started quoting me. I think I'll add you do my daily sites and make you infamous. At least so I can keep up with the references to me.

"What seems unique to me about this moment is that the conversation is taking place publicly."
Hopefully there is more going on privately. I haven't heard any though. Have you?

Paul said...

Kudos for the historical analogy; nothing like French war exploits!

I could not agree with your analysis more as I have concluded on the essence of your thoughts some time ago though I could have never put it all into words as you have.

Unk, how is your moritorium on all controversy going?

Ben said...

That's ok unk. Your blog started going downhill the day I started posting to it. You wouldn't believe how much traffic you're directing my way though.

"Have you?"

Probably not the kind you want to hear about.

Unk said...

That's moratorium. All controversy has ceased.

Ben said...

C'mon. All Weaver and no controversy makes Unk a dull boy.