Holiness and Political Correctness


The word holiness is not common in vernacular outside of religion. But just because it’s not in our everyday speech doesn’t mean we don’t encounter it every day. Simply put, holy things are things that are not to be touched. Why?  Because they carry significant meaning and create the values that glue our society together. Holy things are sacred even if they’re not “religious.”

The laws of any society are not founded on pure reasoning as we may like to believe, but upon holiness. We create laws because they protect things that are sacred. Laws are boundaries that keep us from violating the sacred, not the strictly logical.

For instance, the U.S. Constitution says “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The truths stated in the Constitution are “self-evident.” In other words, they need no logical proof. We don’t have to argue for these things, because they are fundamental and universal to all humans. This is a statement of holiness, not reason. Americans believe that all men are created equal and that our equality should not be touched, NOT because it’s rational, but because it’s sacred. Since the rights of humans are most sacred, and any violation of those rights defiles a person.

How do we deal with people who violate our holiness code? We mark them as “unclean” and kick them out of the camp. This is where “political correctness” comes in. If a person makes a statement that violates a “sacred cow,” that person must be kicked out, or they must apologize, but there must be atonement for what they’ve done in some way. Our next president will have to be “holy” enough by American standards of holiness to take the office.

It is impossible for a society NOT to have a holiness code. It’s built into our DNA as creatures made in the image of God. We may not like political correctness, but we all have things that we hold sacred within ourselves which we believe should never be violated. And if everyone has a code of holiness, that means everyone has a form of “political correctness” even if it’s not necessarily political. If your spouse knows how to “push your buttons,” it means they know what you hold sacred, and can violate that in order to get a rise from you.

Once we recognize that holiness codes are ubiquitous throughout time and culture, we’re in a better position to appreciate the holiness found in the Bible, and why it matters. I’m not sure about you, but I’ve always found myself looking at holiness as a puzzling word that seems to have little relevance to my life. Yes, I know that God calls us to be holy, but that doesn’t seem to mean much more than saying that God wants me to be good. Why holiness? My goal is to learn and explore this idea in future posts.

For now I’ll leave with a passage that demonstrates why holiness matters. “But the saints (lit. “holy ones”) of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come” (Dan. 7:18).

Why Do the Firstborn in the Bible Always Fail?

(c) Review & Herald Publ Assoc. DO NOT USE WITHOUT PERMISSION.

This post is a little longer than my other posts. I couldn’t figure out how to split it into two, so hopefully it’s worth a minute or two more your time.

A Pattern of Usurping

One theme of Genesis is very clear: the firstborn child, who is the natural heir of the family, consistently fails to receive their inheritance. Cain was the firstborn of Adam and Eve, yet he killed his brother and was cursed as a wanderer for the rest of his life. Instead Seth, whom the scriptures clearly state is Abel’s replacement (Gen. 4:25), is the one in whom Adam’s descendant’s are named (Gen. 5:4).

Abraham’s first son was not Isaac, but Ishmael. Granted, he was not the son of Abraham and Sarah, but he was the firstborn nevertheless. He loses his place in the family when Sarah drives him and his mother away for Ishmael’s mocking of Isaac (Gen. 21:9).

God tells Rebekah that Jacob, the younger of his twin Esau, will supplant Esau as the firstborn (Gen. 25:23), and indeed we see Jacob receive both the birthright and the blessing.

Jacob’s family is the last family in Genesis, and his eldest, Reuben, also fails to receive the inheritance of the firstborn (along with Simeon, Levi, and Judah). Joseph not only receives the special coat from his father, but also a double portion of the tribes (Ephraim, Manasseh).

Saul fails as the first king of the Israelites and David replaces him. Although they are not two sons of one man, it is a similar usurping of the first by the second.

The usurping of the firstborn by the second is too much of a theme to be coincidence. There may be multiple messages we can extract from this theme, but let’s just focus on one for this article. What message is God trying to get across with all of these stories of failed firstborn sons?

Two Adams, Two Bodies

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is addressing questions about the resurrection body will be like (v.35). In addressing this issue, he contrasts Adam and Jesus. The answer about what type of bodies we will have are understood through the nature of these “two Adams.” He writes, “So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.” (1 Cor. 15:45-49).

Adam is, of course, the firstborn of all creation.  Chronologically, Adam preceded Jesus in living on the earth.  Both are sons of God, and neither were born through the seed of fleshly man. The entirety of mankind is firstborn from Adam. Everyone born from the union of a man and a woman are of Adam’s seed, and are “earthy.” Therefore, we have “earthy” bodies. And all who are born from Adam “have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).  It takes the “last Adam” (Jesus) to bring life. The second son usurps the first.

The “Earthy” Man

Going back to our Old Testament stories, we can now see what God was pointing to. The firstborn in these stories are usurped because they bear the image of the earthy. They let their physical lusts and desires control them. They are skilled in the ways of the earth both physically and spiritually.

Cain is a “tiller of the earth” (Gen. 4:2).  The word for earth in Hebrew is the word “adamah,” which is where the name “Adam” comes from.  Cain’s earthy desire rules over him.  He is animalistic.

Ishmael “lived in the wilderness and became an archer” (Gen. 21:20).  Esau “became a skillful hunter, a man of the field” (Gen. 25:27).  Reuben “lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine” (Gen. 35:22) either because he was unable to control his lust, or possibly as a manipulating tactic to keep Jacob from having more children and further dividing his inheritance.

Saul, the “firstborn” king, was “a choice and handsome man, and there was not a more handsome person than he among the sons of Israel; from his shoulders and up he was taller than any of the people” (1 Sam. 9:2).

It may be of note that all of these men are associated with fields and wilderness in one way or another (see Cain, Esau, and Ishmael above; Reuben – Gen. 30:14; Saul – 1 Sam. 11:5).

All of these men are the ones you want to be with in a doomsday scenario. They are fit to survive on the earth. They are what we would refer to as “manly men,” but the Bible calls the “earthy.” And they are all usurped by people who were inferior to them by earthly standards. They are all usurped by the birth of another man.  And this is the lesson God wants us to see.

Usurping Our “Earthy” Selves

Every Christian is a person who has been usurped by their own “second birth.”  The first version of ourselves is “earthy,” as Paul says. As much as our parents may have tried to instill Christian values in us, their parenting alone can only lead to an “earthy” person. They cannot give us birth by the Spirit of God. No one born from the union of man and woman can bear the image of the heavenly.  It must come by having our “earthy” self usurped by our second birth.

This is why Jesus says of John the Baptist “Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matt. 11:11).

And Jesus famously tells Nicodemus about this second birth: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (Jn. 3:3-7).

When Christ comes again, his usurpation of Adam will be complete. Those who have taken part in the second birth will receive the inheritance, just like Seth, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and David. Those who have trained themselves in the cutthroat, “survival of the fittest” tactics of the world will not receive the inheritance.

Earthy vs. Heavenly

For a little while, however, each Christian is a heavenly person in an earthy body. There are always two people struggling for power within us. Even though we may have been born again, the earthy man tries to regain power all the time. The earthy person inside of us listens to nothing but violence and force. This is why he must be crucified daily. Just as we don’t negotiate with terrorists, neither do we negotiate with the earthy man within us. He must be given no quarter. He will presume upon your generosity and then shame you for it.

Jesus’ death on the cross showed us exactly how much it takes to usurp the firstborn. Cain’s descendants overtook the earth before it was destroyed by the flood. Esau’s descendants (Edom) were constantly at war with Israel. Saul tried to kill David over and over. All Christians  must therefore learn to take up their cross and usurp the earthy man daily (Lk. 9:23).

There’s much more to be said on this subject, but for now I’ll leave you with more of Paul’s words: “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:17).

The First Baptism


We noted in the last post that many cultures use water as a means to spiritual renewal.  While infusing the physical with spiritual meanings is not unique to Christianity alone, Christianity grounds and develops this meaning more deeply into its narrative than any other culture, religion, or philosophy. Before we even look at immersion in the New Testament, there are some foundational narratives to be appreciated.

A Corrupted World

The first narrative of immersion in the Bible starts in Genesis 6.  “Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth” (Gen. 6:11-12).

This “corruption” is the opposite of what God saw in Genesis 1:31 “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” The life and health of the pure world God created in the beginning had been polluted.  While I believe that God is concerned that we take care of the physical environment we live in, what is far more important is our spiritual pollution.  The debauched, vice-ridden world of Genesis 6 was a spiritual filth above all else.

Cleansing the Corrupted World

So what is God going to do with this corrupted, filthy world?  He’s going to give it a bath.  He’s going to cleanse the world of the grime that clings to it, and the worst of this grime is corrupted mankind itself.

God proceeds to immerse the world in water: “The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered. All flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind; of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died.” (Gen. 7:19-22).

Everything is completely submerged.  The immersion is meant as an undoing of creation.  The birds, cattle and beasts that God had made in the beginning are destroyed, instead of created.  The immersion of the world is also the death of the world.


However, God doesn’t destroy for the sake of destruction.  In fact, he’s only destroying the filth.  It’s the same earth after the flood, but it’s a transformed earth.  The death of the world as Noah knew it led to a pure, re-created world.

The post-flood narrative is a creation narrative. “But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark; and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water subsided” (Gen. 8:1).

The word for “wind” is the same Hebrew word for “spirit” (ruach).  During the original creation, the world was full of water and a “ruach” was involved in removing the waters to create a habitable place for man. “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters” (Gen. 1:2).  Water, spirit, and creation go together.

After the water is cleared away, the earth populated with animals and man (Gen. 8:15-19), just as happened in the first creation. The cycles and seasons of the earth that were created in Gen. 1:14-15, are given again in 8:22 “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night Shall not cease.” After the world is habitable and ready for life, Noah receives the same instruction as Adam in Gen. 1:28 to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 9:7). To fill out the narrative cycle, Noah is also in charge of a garden (Gen. 9:20), is ashamed of nakedness after sin (9:22-23), and there is a curse given (9:25).

Again, the flood story is a creation narrative.  Out of the chaos and disorder of corrupted humanity, God creates a pure world in which man can have dominion and live with God.

Reliving the Flood Narrative

The flood story gives us three main elements: corruption, cleansing with water, and re-creation. These are the same exact elements involved in Christian conversion. “But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph. 4:20-24).

How is our corrupted man put away and renewed in the spirit?  Through the demonstration of faith by immersion into water. “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.”

Every Christian baptism is a reenactment of the flood story.  The flood narrative demonstrates how all of God’s people are re-created.  The apostle Peter says “the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:20-21). 

We cannot go back and live during the time of Noah.  We cannot see the world completely cleansed of its moral and spiritual filth, but we can be cleansed and re-created just like the world of Noah’s day.

Everybody Has Baptism Stories


Baptism stories aren’t unique to the Bible.  The use of water for cleansing and renewal is a consistent theme in many stories throughout the world.  I’d like to eventually explain why Christian baptism is unique, more powerful and more meaningful than any other baptism stories, but before we get into Christian baptism, I think it’s best that we realize other worldviews have their own version of the same thing.  They just might not refer to it as baptism. By appreciating these other baptism stories, we can appreciate that the Bible’s baptism stories are not detached from the world we live in.  Nor is baptism is simply a sterile formula that needs to be checked off a Christianity “to-do list.”  It’s a powerful, universally recognized interaction with reality.

Baptism stories

The Jungle

In Upton Sinclair’s famous novel “The Jungle,” Jurgis, a Lithuanian immigrant, comes to America seeking freedom and wealth.  What he finds is despair and poverty.  After being beaten down by the system, having lost his wife and only child, and unable to find decent employment, Jurgis decides to run away from that life and from the city.  He hops on the nearest train and heads into the country.  The further he gets from the stench of the city, the more renewed he feels and the more distant his painful past becomes.  One of the plights of Jurgis’ poverty was that he had not fully bathed in months.  After alighting from the train, he comes a cross a flowing river, and seizes the opportunity.  The bath he takes, however, is not simply a way of getting clean.  It’s a way of renewing his life and starting fresh.  He has left his old life behind, and now wanders off with not only a clean body, but a new mindset entirely.  He’s going to survive at any cost.  Jurgis has been “baptized,” and starts living with a new perspective, forgetting the life he left behind.


Tom Hanks’ character in the movie “Castaway” lives a life surrounded by water that changes his entire view of the world.  When he comes back to civilization, he’s a different man.  His time surrounded by water separates his old life from his new one.


We find another baptism story in the novel Siddhartha, Herman Hesse’s story about life through the eyes of Buddhism.  While Siddhartha has several moments of growth during his life, it is at the river that he becomes a new person.  Having spent his life “seeking,” Siddhartha becomes hopeless and looks into the river, wishing to drown himself in it.  At this point, he has a spiritual “awakening” that actually leads to a deep slumber by the river.  The text says, “But he had come to his sense by a river, under a coconut tree, with the sacred word om on his lips, whereupon he had fallen asleep.  And now he had awakened and was looking at the world as a new man.”  Death and new life given through the river: a Buddhist baptism.


You might object to these examples as being written by authors in a Judeo-Christian culture, and therefore these authors had already been exposed to baptism.  However, we know that even before Christian baptism, water was used as a form of religious purification.  Speaking on baptism in the early 3rd century, Tertullian writes, “But you will tell me that peoples without the slightest understanding of spiritual things attribute power to their images of gods through the same efficacy in water. These, however, deceive themselves, since the water they use is bereft of spiritual power. For they are initiated into certain sacred rites by a bath, those of some Isis or Mithras; even their very gods they exalt with washings. Indeed, it is a universal custom to carry water round estates, houses, temples and whole cities, for their purification by sprinkling. It is true that at the celebrations in honour of Apollo and those held at Pelusium, worshippers are dipped, and they have the effrontery to declare that their object is rebirth and an escape from punishment for their broken oaths. Likewise among the men of old, whoever had stained himself with homicide, sought out waters of cleansing power.”  While Tertullian is defending Christian baptism here, he is foreseeing an objection that a pagan might make: water used for spiritual cleansing isn’t unique to Christianity.

There are a plethora of other examples of baptism in the ancient world, the modern, and in other cultures.  The physical cleansing power of water easily lends itself to spiritual metaphor for a new life, even outside of the Bible.  It doesn’t take a Christian to feel like a “new person” after having a nice long shower.

Why do non-Christian baptism stories matter?

It’s important to recognize the universal appreciation for the spiritually renewing powers of water because it gives Christianity a bridge into other cultures and viewpoints.  The person who objects that baptism is merely an ancient outdated Christian ritual may think differently once they recognize the powerful forms of baptism that are alive and well today.  Even a self-proclaimed Christian may come to recognize the power of baptism in this way.  Once we’ve laid the foundation of spiritual cleansing through water, we can then examine why the Christian version is the best version, and the true version, of this powerful symbol.

I Can Believe My Eyes

faith knowledge

Christopher Hitchens once said, “It’s called faith because it’s not knowledge.”  As far as I can tell, this statement fundamentally misunderstands how knowledge and faith are tied together.

Everything we know and think is based on faith.  How do you know who your biological parents are? How do you know when you were born?  How do you know that George Washington was the first president of the United States?  We often refer to these things as facts, but if we think about it the things we call “facts” are based on trusting what others have told us.  I can’t prove scientifically that I was born in Chicago.  I consider it a fact because I trust my parents. If I had reason to distrust my parents, I could look at my birth certificate, which would mean that instead of trusting my parents, I would be trusting a doctor who signed the certificate saying he witnessed my birth in that particular location.  Even if I saw the birth certificate, I would have to trust that the person who gave it to me didn’t forge the certificate.  This could go on ad infinitum, but you get the point.

Even scientific “facts” are based on trust.  I trust that it’s unwise to shoot a canister of propane, not because I’ve seen it explode myself, but because other people have told me that the result would be an explosion.  I don’t have to perform every scientific experiment ever done in order to trust that certain facts of science are true.  I trust the people who have done the experiments before me.

“Well,” you might reply, “what about the things I’ve witnessed firsthand?  I can know things for a fact if I’ve seen them for myself.”  Yes, we can know things by seeing them firsthand, but even that is a matter of trust.  How do I know that I’m not dreaming?  How do I know that my eyes are relaying things as they really are?  When something seemingly unbelievable is happening in front of us we say “I can’t believe my eyes,” and that’s not just a figure of speech.  We truly are unsure sometimes that the things we’re witnessing really happened (i.e. 9/11).  So when we see something that seems “unbelievable” we actually are trusting that our senses aren’t fooling us.

We can go even further back and ask whether we can even trust that we’re thinking!  Descartes figured that the one thing he could trust was that he was thinking, thus “I think, therefore I am.”  Some philosophers, however, don’t even trust that statement.  This has to end at some point.  A person may tell you that they don’t trust in reality, but if you ask them to jump off a ten story building, you’ll quickly find out that they do trust their senses and the thoughts behind them.

Those truly who can’t trust anything, even their own senses, are literally insane.  The paranoid-schizophrenic is unable to trust his own mind, and therefore can’t distinguish between reality and dreams.  I realize there are many factors that cause mental disorders, and I’m not claiming that the mentally ill are willfully distrustful, or that it’s their own fault that they have issues.  I’m simply saying that they illustrate what a complete breakdown of trust looks like, whatever the cause.

Why does any of this matter?  Because religious people are often presented as having “faith,” whereas those without religion supposedly don’t trust.  They know.  The fact is that we all trust in order to know.  Faith (trust) is the foundation for everything we do, which the Christian should not find surprising.  The only question is where our faith ultimately rests.

My knowledge of the world is grounded in God because I trust the testimony of the apostles that Jesus was raised from the dead.  They have proved themselves trustworthy by the integrity of their lives and the consistency of their message.

Any other view of the world is also based on faith in a group of people.  Naturalists (often referred to flatly as scientists) believe in views that are espoused by a group of men that went before them.  A scientist isn’t required to repeat every experiment ever performed in order to “see it for himself” (see third paragraph above^^).  There simply is no view of the world that doesn’t ultimately rest on faith in what other people have told us.

There’s another major element of faith that I’ve left out of this discussion, and that is faith that looks toward the future (Hebrews 11 faith).  It is based on knowledge of past events, but it is not knowledge strictly speaking.  That’s a post for another time, but it’s worth mentioning for clarification.

In the quest for knowledge the atheist, scientist, Muslim, and Christian all require a backwards-looking faith.  The question, again, is which group of people have proven to be the most trustworthy?  I’ll stick with the apostles.

For further reading on this issue: https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=385



(Warning: This post contains “insider” language in reference to non-institutional churches of Christ.  However, a lack of familiarity with the terms used will not hinder general comprehension of this post.)

As I explained in a previous post, we all seem to crave deeper meaning than our current culture seems to offer.  The feeling that we live with bare “laws” and formulas of the world has left us begging for something more meaningful.  I argued that deeper meaning should be found in the church through the Word of God.

However, the way we feel about the ghosttown world we live in often carries over to our view of the church.  Just as the scientific definition of a tree is not very meaningful or inspiring, neither is a scientific explanation of God’s Word.  Many Christians feel that the church is something that should be full of life and meaning but has too often been stripped down into a code.  It seems that God sent Christ in order to give us “five acts of worship,” and “five steps to salvation,” and another formula (command, example, necessary inference) to get to these steps.  Now that we’ve stripped the message of 66 books of the Bible down to a few simple formulas, all we have to do is preserve those formulas and we’ll be good to go.  And so we ask, “are these “handy” formulas really the hidden riches of meaning that Christ came to tell us about?” (Col. 2:3).

There is nothing more repulsive than a sterile code, and many Christians are claustrophobic about being trapped in a sanitized box of Christianity for the rest of their lives.  Surely God has something more meaningful to offer than this, even in this world.

Let me say in defense of the aforementioned “formulas” that they’re not inherently wrong.  They are generally true to scripture, although the Bible never explicitly refers to “five acts of worship.”  Furthermore, it’s okay to see the Bible as containing authoritative patterns.  In fact, it’s impossible NOT to look at the Bible and see a pattern.  The only way we understand anything at all is through pattern recognition.  You read this sentence by pattern recognition.  Don’t let someone tell you that seeing a pattern in the Bible is wrong.  Jesus didn’t die to free us from patterns.  He gave us the pattern of the cross, or to use a more palatable word, the story of the cross, and stories are meaningful patterns.  Anyone that tries to accuse a Christian of “patternism” must do so by using a pattern of their own.  They are simply using a pattern that rejects all patterns, which is self-contradictory.

Also, I must say that I’ve never met one person who would actually say that “five acts,” and “five steps” are all that we need.  Every Christian I’ve ever met (even the seemingly “Pharisaical”) believes that the heart must be involved and that our lives outside the assembly are just as important.  What we are really frustrated with is primarily a feeling and atmosphere.  We live and breath the air of our culture that views the world as a scientific ghosttown stripped of meaning, which appears to have infected the atmosphere of the church at some level.  And the atmosphere matters.

Hence the appeal of the “house church” movement.  It’s not intended by most as a rejection of the Bible or authority, but a rejection of the atmosphere of a ghosttown church.  At its heart, It is an attempt to re-infuse the church with relevant meaning, although I’m sure it has its own self-righteous members just as “traditional” congregations do.

The solution to a sterilized view of the church, however, is not to banish an organized understanding of scripture or to just shout “grace” and “love” (two words that are often thrown around without any clear definition).  Nor is the solution to simply preach harder the “five acts,” and the “five steps.”  The solution is to dig deeper.  By the sweat of our brow the Bible will bear fruit for us.

God does not give arbitrary patterns.  Yet that’s what our “five acts” often feel like when we preach them for their own sake.  They represent the most bare understanding of worship.  We believe that songs, prayers and other acts of worship should be deeply meaningful, but the formula seems to have stripped away their life.  The “five acts” aren’t enough if they are left in their bare form.  A skeleton is necessary for a body, but it must be given flesh and breath to become meaningful.  Bare skeletons are haunting and repulsive, and that’s why some people run away from the church.  Yet if we are skeptical of biblical patterns because they’ve come across as bare, meaningless, scientific descriptions, then we must learn to infuse them with greater meaning, not simply discard them.  The solution is not to throw away the skeleton, although we are allowed to examine whether our skeleton has extra or missing parts.

If we’re able to breathe life into these bones, then not only should our understanding of worship become deeper, but our understanding of the world will be enriched as well.  In some future posts, I’ll attempt to illustrate more specifically how we might breathe life into our understanding of worship and salvation through the stories of the Bible.

As a final disclaimer, none of this is to say that I believe all churches are dead and formulaic.  I believe most churches are alive and striving to grow in comprehension, understanding, and practice in many ways.  But I do believe there is a generic atmosphere at some level that should be addressed.  This is simply my attempt to describe what might hinder our growth in the current church culture, and offer a perspective on past it.