In our Theological Foundations seminar, we have been reading To Know and Love God by David K. Clark. While I found the content interesting and balanced, I was most impressed by Clark’s conclusion.
Clark asks these questions in his conclusion:
…[W]hat are the implications of evangelical theology done well? What difference will following good method and arriving at profound Christian thinking make? And where should we focus our energies in the future?
He then gives twelve answers to these questions. I thought I would share a few here that are relevant to our discussions concerning the church.
Third, we must not turn away from culture… As flawed as our culture is, a reactionary turn inward will not lead us forward. The early church lived in a culture as full of spiritual counterfeits, sexual enticements, and materialistic allurements as our own. Those Christians learned to live in that world. Although they lived in community with each other, they did not isolate themselves from the broader society. They lived out the light of Christ at all strata of society.
I don’t have anything to add to this statement. This is an area of life where God has been challenging and changing me in the last couple of years.
Fourth, we ought to engage against evangelical polemics… [W]e must guard against focusing too much of the force of our work against our evangelical brothers. The tendency to pursue finer and finer points of theoretical clarification may be acceptable as long as such work is reintegrated into the broader concerns of God’s Kingdom. But if we use the finer and finer points of theology to debate among ourselves, we run the risk of increasingly ingrown discourse.
This is an important statement. Sometimes, as I read certain authors, I get the idea that they believe God’s word originated with them, or that God’s word came only to them (paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 14:36). Humility and graciousness should rule the day when it comes to brothers and sisters discussing God’s Word. Other brothers and sisters are not the enemy.
Sixth, we need more focus on spiritual formation – on gaining sapientia. I do not mean just an intellectual understanding of wisdom, but a spiritual character that is actually shaped by wisdom. Living well in our culture, to say nothing of affecting our culture, requires genuine, internal, spiritual strength.
Yes! Maturity is not measured by the amount of biblical facts that a person knows. Our goal must not be increased scholarship, but increased maturity in Christ – more Christ-likeness displayed in our lives. This maturity does not come through books and papers, but through humble submission to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Seventh, we ought to promote authenticity in relationships. The experience of community is the human context that cultivates sapientia. Thinking biblical thoughts and obeying biblical rules does not necessarily bring inward spiritual change. The “think and obey” approach to spiritual formation can too easily lead to outward forms of conforming religiosity that leave the human heart in a state of decay. The trusted and intimate relationships of true community bring spiritual transformation because growing in Christ is primarily about trusting God, learning honesty, cultivating virtues, and evoking noble feelings.
It takes humility and trust to live in this kind of community. We must be willing to talk about our weaknesses and struggles. We must also be willing to listen to and speak with brothers and sisters concerning their weaknesses and struggles. Love must surround everything that we do and say.
Ninth, this means that we should seek a deeper solidarity with the world church. The church around the world needs the Western church… But equally, the Western church needs the global church.
Perhaps a good place to begin would be with the Christian next door to your home, or in the next office at work, or in the next seat at school. We certainly needs to seek a deeper solidarity with the world church, but I’m not sure we can seek a deeper solidarity with the world church as long as we maintain schisms in the church near us.
Eleventh, we must reestablish balance by working for social peace and justice by eliminating the racism and injustice that are rooted in ethnic identity. I do not subscribe to secular ways of framing the questions of ethnic relationships. But those of us who are North American evangelicals have not really stepped up to be counted on the questions of opportunities for the poor, equality for non-white groups, and “liberty and justice all.” Much research shows that in our evangelical focus on the inner life of faith and in our emphasis on seeing God transform human hearts through conversion, we have lost focus on some of the greatest social issues of our day.
Again, I have very little to add. This is another area where God is challenging and stretching me. We cannot love God without demonstrating that love for others – primarily towards those who are not like us, who are “down and out”, who are in need of love.
While I appreciated much of the theological and philosophical content of this book, the conclusion helped me the most. Are any of Clark’s answers beneficial for you as well?