Cynical About the Church? (Or: The Dog Always Died)

I’m sure many of our readers have heard much cynicism directed at the Christian church.  To be sure, the church is not perfect; God is perfect and his word is perfect, but the church is not (yet!).  So we have to deal with cynicism until Jesus comes again.  Dick Keyes talks about this well in Seeing Through Cynicism (specifically chapter 23):

“History provides one of the best reasons to question cynicism about the church.  Churches have improved, reformed, been renewed and gained new life, strength, and truth after sinking very low.  G. K. Chesterton spoke of the Christian faith going to the dogs at least five times, but it was always the dog that died.  He was saying that the church can fall into appalling compromise and sin, but it has had within itself the ability to outlive both its enemies and its own self-destruction to rise again.  This is because God has given the church the Bible and the Holy Spirit.  In these resources it has always had the means for its own self-correction and new life.”

“If you are a Christian and cynical about the church, there are probably many reasons for that cynicism.  But you may have lost a sense of solidarity in brokenness with the rest of us in the church.  Jesus taught, ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Mt 5:4).  Mourning is not about overconfident suspicion.  It is about grieving.  Nehemiah wept for the city of Jerusalem in ruins, but that is not all he did.  He asked the king, ‘Send me to…the city of my ancestors’ graves, so that I may rebuild it’ (Neh 2:5).”

“The final and most important reason not to be cynical about the church of Jesus Christ can only be convincing to those of us who believe in the church’s God.  The church is God’s church and ‘Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’ (Eph 5:25).  It is a community of grace, which many of us have experienced as a reality.  He is not finished with us.”

Dick Keyes, Seeing Through Cynicism (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 2006), 210.

shane lems