Angry Prophets, Reader Rebuke, and Simple Faith


You may have noticed it’s been quiet here at Cerulean Sanctum of late, with fewer posts spread farther and farther apart.

Fact is, I’m exhausted.

Anyone who has ever been a caregiver will understand. I’ve been in that role for a couple years now. It’s not one that comes naturally to me; nor is it a role I requested. I’m sure it will not last forever, but right now it is hard. I’ve had to pull back from nearly everything I’ve been involved in.

A select few readers know the situation, but it’s not one for public forums.

To add to this, I’ve been receiving a greater than average number of private emails calling into question what shows up on the pages of Cerulean Sanctum. Increasingly, the tone is angry.

I’ve mulled over those emails. I take every email I receive seriously, whether it be positive or negative. I’ve enclosed one such negative email below:

Subject: Are You the Next Phil Johnson?

You are rapidly approaching that stage of self-exaltation where you’re so convinced of your own righteousness that you can’t hear anything from anybody. If you want an example of that kind of vanity and arrogance, how about the original Pyro-narcissist, Phil Johnson? Have you written your own bio for Wikipedia yet, Dan? How about printing up tee-shirts or coffee mugs? Wouldn’t it be so great if everyone could have a cup of Cerulean Sanctum while they’re online?

And with your Feedburner badge proudly proclaiming how many readers subscribe, have you considered the effect you might be having on all the younger brethren in that total? You’re slowly poisoning their faith, day after day, week after week, turning them into chronic complainers like yourself, and making them confirmed cynics and pessimists.

Have you considered how you might embolden some of these weaker brothers and sisters to do things their uneasy consciences might otherwise keep them from doing? “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak … When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” (1 Cor. 8:9-13)

Have you thought about the possibility that you could even be the blogosphere’s next Michael Spencer? (i.e., check out early) “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1) You’re definitely opinionated, just as Michael was, but no more qualified to speak on many of the subjects you comment on. And your vanity can be downright embarrassing.

While you’ve been building this Tower of Babel (or babble) known as CS, have you considered that the Lord may “come down” (Gen. 11:5-9) to dismantle what you’ve built and scatter your followers? (i.e., to more qualified teachers more in line with His purposes)

One thing is as sure as the law of gravity. “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled.” (Matt. 23:12) I don ‘t think you even know what spirit controls you, and it’s going to take a hard fall to jar you back to reality (if it’s not too late for that to happen). And if you think the only alternative to your approach is some kind of Boy Scout righteousness, that just confirms how little depth you really have.

You need to take my advice. You need to seek counseling (cf. my previous comment on CS) and think about getting down from your soapbox for awhile, for everyone’s sake, including your own.

Paul Overall (you’re a smart guy, but in case you didn’t get it … a pall over all you write about)

I posted that because I think it’s a fair example of what has happened to rebuke among Christian brothers and sisters.

The anonymity of the Internet and the general breakdown of our culture that has accompanied it has turned us all into angry people. Worse, too many of us consider ourselves crusaders against this or that.

At the risk of further creating cynical, pessimistic young believers, I want to say that we American Christians can’t let our discourse keep plummeting into angry prophet mode, especially when it carries no winsomeness at all. We seem to have become a people known only for what we oppose and those whom we rebuke. We are not so much about being light but being antidarkness.

This blog exists because I routinely encountered fellow believers who had been in the Church for years and wondered if what they were experiencing was the fullness of what it means to be in the Body of Christ. What I kept hearing them say was “something is not right.” Many couldn’t put their finger on the lack because so much of what they had become was not about being the light, but being antidarkness. And sometimes, one can’t reason to the light simply from the position of antidarkness. Yet in far too many cases, that is all that we have given Christians in America.

The question Can we do better? fuels this blog. It’s the entire reason Cerulean Sanctum exists. I believe with all my heart that the Church in North America CAN do better. We CAN be more than we have been. We CAN be a more fulfilling community, one that models light more than it does antidarkness.

The only way to get to that light is to show what the light looks like. That’s not an easy task for those accustomed mostly to being antidarkness. It’s The Matrix all over again, being trapped in a pseudoreality and looking beyond it to what is geniune and real.

When I attended Wheaton College, I was in a New Testament overview class taught by a brilliant professor. I wanted to mine his wisdom, so I asked questions in class. I posed some tough issues and he gave mindblowing responses that I found life altering. After a while, it dawned on me that I was always the only person asking questions; most of the class just sat there.

One day, I was approached by a big guy from the class who threatened to punch me out if I asked anymore questions. True story.

That metaphor strikes me when it comes to where we are in American Christianity as we near 2011. I fear that too many of us not only hate the questions, but we can’t stand the answers, either. We have become a status quo people who do not want to be broken out of whatever reverie we’ve created for ourselves.

In short, too many of us don’t care about improving anything, much less the way the Church functions. As long as we have a paycheck and can buy stuff, put our kids through some elite school, and retire in peace, stop bothering us with questions. And answers bug us too.

I keep wondering what it is going to take to shake us. But then, it’s not as if any of this is new. I was reading through a portion of Jeremiah a couple weeks ago and the folks of that day complained just as mightily about having their reverie questioned.

I make no pretenses to being a prophet. I’m just a bystander in this life, watching the world go by, and wondering why some things are the way they are. Given what I have seen, too many of us never get past being a bystander. We’re cool with that role. Leave the wondering to troublemakers. And get the troublemakers out of our churches too.

Cerulean Sanctum is NOT going away, but I am going to take a break for the month of December.

What I feel God is saying to me personally is to get away from all the complexity of what we Americans have made of the Faith and get back to the simple core. What’s scary is a lot of us American Christians don’t want the simple core, either. The greatest two commandments, to love God and love our fellow man, are answers we don’t want to hear, because in hearing them, everything in our lives must change, everything down to our very own core. And the status quo is SO much easier, even if there is no genuine life in it.

See you in January.