Thursday, 24 February 2011

Theology FAIL: Chuck Colson's doctrinal boot camp

Evangelical leader (and former tough-as-nails US Marine) Chuck Colson wrote a Christianity Today piece on "Doctrinal Boot Camp", where he argues that catechesis for "younger evangelicals" should be modelled on the Marines. Apparently what the church really needs is more psychological brainwashing, self-abnegating conformity, and absolute unquestioning obedience. He relates a conversation with another former Marine:

I asked him about younger evangelicals who believe that we oldsters aren't being sensitive enough to their concerns. ‘Can you imagine,’ he asked, ‘what would happen if a scruffy young recruit were to tell his Marine drill instructor at Parris Island that he ought to be more sensitive to his needs?’ We both chuckled, knowing what would happens to the poor recruit. If he survived, he'd be doing 100 pushups a day for weeks.
Grrrr, we youngsters just hate it when former Marines chuckle together about our theological naivety! Anyways, David Congdon has issued a blistering response to this ecclesiastical legalism. He writes:
The commanding authority that Colson sees as the analogue of the drill sergeant is not Jesus or God, but rather the church. It is the authority of the church, not the authority of Christ, that demands our formal, blind obedience. Colson’s theology is the deification of the church, and thus the deification of a particular cultural form. Despite his best intentions, the gospel on such an account is simply propaganda.
Although David's argument is an excellent response, I'd also be intrigued to see a church where the minister really does address the congregation like this (maybe I'll try this in one of my theology classes too):

Now that I think of it, there is one minister who achieves a Marine-like theological severity – the fabulous Mitchell and Webb vicar. Maybe this guy was Chuck Colson's inspiration:


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