Fundamentalism: A Formidable Enemy
Signs and Wonders

The Cry for Virtue

Pa001086Today's emerging generation of Christians is beginning to cry out for leaders whose lives are characterized by solid values and virtues.  These young believers have not only been disgusted and exhausted by the hyprocrisy permeating the institutional Church, but are growing equally dissatisfied with the laissez faire attitudes often found among a new breed of spiritual leaders.  These are leaders who, although they are pioneering new expressions of what it means to be the Church, lack the moral backbone to say "no" (when needed) to our increasingly permissive society.

Radical egalitarianism (where all ideas, beliefs, and endeavors are considered equal, regardless of merit or effort) seems well under way in it's programme of wreaking violence within the Kingdom.  Married to the self-autonomy of individualism, today's radical egalitarianism stands as a clever and relentless enemy to the gospel and teachings of Jesus, with its emphasis on self-sacrifice, ministry to the poor and marginalized, and passion for God's kingdom and will above our own.  Early followers of Christ were unashamedly known as "The Way", but such exclusivity claims are increasingly viewed today as antiquated, intolerant, and driven by institutionalized power-brokering. And in our world's postmodern reality -- where not only are the legalistic structures and practices of our Enlightenment-influenced faith being deconstructed and discarded, but so it seems are the morals and virtues of our ancient faith (one would hope for a little more healthy re-construction). The effects of a permission-giving culture are certainly visable here.  It's no wonder young followers of Christ are starting to shake their heads in disappointment over the lack of solid and visable virtues in the lives of leaders.

The Church in all it's various expressions (Orthodox, Catholic, Denominational, Independant, Emerging, etc.) therefore has a strategic opportunity to pioneer a "revival of virtue" among it's leaders -- so very much needed in a time when priests and pastors and the like continue to be viewed by the world with suspicion and distrust. Virtues such as social responsibility (e.g.caring for the poor, getting involved with local government), financial responsibility (e.g. the disciplines of saving, giving, and debt avoidance), honesty (e.g. not cheating on taxes, not breaking copyright laws), and sexual purity (e.g. saying 'no' to fornication, extramarital affairs, and internet porn) are desperately needed in today's amoral landscape.

Deepening this need even further is the effect that contemporary notions of tolerance produce when mixed with today's radical egalitarianism. When no one is "wrong", injustice inevitably will go unchecked.  When truth is always "relative", accountability and virtuous living are much more difficult to define and maintain.  The concept of "absolutes" is widely being reexamined and deconstructed today.  Either-or, in-or-out, cut-and-dry, right-or-wrong thinking is becoming increasingly rare.  Granted, some of this is a good thing.

Yet, everything in life cannot simply be reduced to "both/and" thinking. All truth cannot merely be relegated to community agreements or the oft-confusing realm of relativism. God and truth and our purpose for living cannot simply be a matter of our own creation... can it?  Young people (and I suppose, older people too) are quickly tiring of leaders who seem preoccupied with raising questions.  Well, questions are important, and often lead us through deeper reflection and consideration to the truth.  But people also want answers. Solid answers.  And they want leaders. Solid leaders.  Leaders who lead.  Leaders who believe in virtue, and who live virtuous lives. Why?  Because on many levels, this world of ours is becoming more and more insane. Forces like radical individualism and radical egalitarianism have delivered unto us a world of endless opinions, feelings, power-claims, and of course -- conflicts of interest. This is what happens when everyone lives for themselves and does his/her own thing. It's weak.

Screwed up parents.  Screwed up friends. Screwed up teachers and ministers.  Screwed up politicians and business executives.  Today's emerging generation of Christians are tired of the plethora of weak people today's world is producing.  They know somehow that Jesus offers something better, a better way of living -- a better way of living a life filled with virtue. And they long to see this lived out and modeled for them.

We must answer this call. The time is now for stepping up to the plate... for starting to live lives that are more principled and less haphazard; more sacrificial and less permissive; more in love with our Savior and less in love with our culture.

The cry for virtue is only bound to grow louder.

How loud must it get before we act?



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I think most of the call for "both/and" thinking comes from those who are speaking to modern audiences that haven't been taught ton consider paradox or complexity in their faith. I don't see this so much in those comfortable in truly postmodern environments.

But what you've said is true. Virtue is rarely on the radar for too many people of my generation, myself included.

I've come to see virtue - or "character," as I prefer to call it - as not just a matter of leadership, but of eschatology.

I think that the Emerging Church movement needs to take the challenge of Ethicist Stanley Hauerwas seriously: "Where there is no Ecclesiology, there are no ethics." The Church must be seen, however uncomforatably, as an institution that imparts values to you, not a subject of your own value judgement. Our leaders will never be perfect, but that doesn't excuse the lack of preaching on virtue.

"The Church must be seen, however uncomfortably, as an institution that imparts values to you, not a subject of your own value judgment."

I think the point of what originally was observed is that the Church should not necessarily be seen as anything... but that the leaders themselves need to live the values that are seen in the bible. The youth my husband and I work with see the church as ignorant and narrow-minded (its actually made worse by the constant values pushing) and nothing will change that until Jesus changes them from the inside out. They won't even approach the church unless they meet individuals who live these values in a real way, which leads me to think...

Instead of teaching values themselves, the church needs to teach Jesus and the bits of God revealed to us. That is what is truly uncomfortable and that is the root/ basis of our values anyway. Just like with the fruits of the spirit... they are byproducts in the life of one who follows Jesus.

take the challenge of Ethicist Stanley Hauerwas seriously...

first I'd have to take Stan seriously. To Quote:

"As Christians we claim that by conforming our lives in a faithful manner to the stories of God we acquire the moral and intellectual skills, as a community and as individuals to face the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. Of course this remains a 'claim,' for there is no way within history to prove that such a story must be true." (Stanley Hauerwas A community of character pg. 96)

I don't know how he can 'preach the good news' if he doesn't believe it is anything other than just a 'claim' or a 'story'.

But, that aside... how about we live Holy because God tells us too?

Justin, you're sounding like an amillennialist! ;)

And now you've got me wondering... when we fail to live out a "realized eschatology", and at the same time lay claim to a distorted, permission-granting view of God's grace, is it any wonder that our passion for character/virtue suffers?

"They won't even approach the church unless they meet individuals who live these values in a real way"

Faith, that's exactly what I'm seeing.

Just a thought... I've not read the work by Hauerwas that you've quoted from, but I wonder if his apologetic here is one of strengthening the need for "faith."

Also, in reading your comments I'm reminded of Orthodoxy's emphasis on theosis, echoed by Wesley's teachings on sanctification. There's definitely a reason why we're hearing so much about these today.

But guys, Hauerwas' point isn't that the Church shouldn't teach Jesus Christ. His point is that values must be values held by a community. Even "bible values" are ultimately the judgement call of the community who is interpreting them.

What the community discerns to be the biblical values does matter.

Also, there is no contradiction between an ecclesiological body traditioning its truths to its members and a narrative/Christo-centric nature to those truths.

I think that divorcing ecclesiology from any conversation about ethics is dangerous in the extreme. And Seraphim, I have read a good deal of Hauwerwas - I love you brother, but I believe you're proof-texting a bit. that line doesn't represent SH's general ethical theology, which is kind of proto-Catholic in nature and certainly is based on 'living' the narrative examples of the gospel ;)

As for youths thinking the church is 'narrow-minded' - some are and some aren't. But it seems to me equally narrow-minded. Also it's a trait of post-millenials that they don't mind living contradictory identities. That makes being 'open-minded' almost contingent on having few set values.

That being said, I think that as always the virtues embodied in our lives are obviously the most important, but that doesn't mean that the values we want to embody in our lives shouldn't be the property of an ecclesiological body so that we're not back to ethical anarchy - which I believe is what Hauerwas was trying to prevent.

hmm, Ray... I don't think so. I also have a number of Stan the man's books. How do you change or unpack his statement that we cannot know that the story is true that it is only a 'claim?'

I'll give ya the bene of the doubt and do some more reading this pm...


I think he's speaking there more of empiracal proof - we cannot "prove it". At least that's how I understand it. His ethics seem to "presume" that the story of Christ's redemptive love is true, but it will only be empiracally known by all on the other side. He takes the call of Christianity so seriously and he's so consistently against nominalism within the community that I don't think he suffers from any real self-doubt (or at least doesn't make that self-doubt part and parcel of his theological ethics).

In any case, the only point I was trying to make with him was that ecclesiology and ethics are fused together. It is a community that imparts values to its members. Otherwise its anarchy - individuals picking out how the gospel individually speaks to them. That's a recipe for egocentric interpretations of virtue disconnected from any kind of tradition. I'm not a fan, no matter how much good feeling anti-Traditionalism and anti-Institutionalism might engender in postmoderns.

I think he's speaking there more of empiracal proof - we cannot "prove it". Perhaps. But I think we can without reservation make the 'claim' that the Historical Jesus is the Jesus of Faith. That there is 'proof' if you will that he lived, died and rose again.

What you do with that is where your faith grow feet.

enough of a hyjack though. Peace!


The "Historical Jesus" topic misses the point: It is spiritual knoledge and must be spiritually discerend.

I think he's speaking there more of empiracal proof - we cannot "prove it".
The proof of the resurection is found in the changed lives of former drug addicts, the healed, and the changed under God's power.

Part of this is ecclesiology. The Gospel is not a social development or a philosophy, it is divine revelation (mystery or Raza). Thats why we dont need to improve upon it with modern innovations. We just need to learn it and do it. Only then can one understand it.

The Ecclessia is not there to enslave you but to oversee your success, if they are operating according to God's word. This is why Paul tells Timothy that an overseer must not be "Overbearing" or "Lording over others". But the Overseer is responsible for the welfare of your soul. And this will stick in the craw of the hyper-egalitarians.

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