Sunday, February 06, 2005

The virtue of criticism

The Internet Monk has a thorough, well-reasoned essay on the value of Christian criticism. For a variety of reasons, too many Christians fear to direct any criticism at all within the church, notes author Michael Spencer. He points out, however, that living according to a Christian worldview requires a critical eye to what is happening both outside and inside the church:

The entire Prophetic tradition is a kind of criticism. I call the prophets "the cops of the covenant," because it is their job to show up and write Israel a ticket from time to time. It's their job to warn and nag, as well as assure and promise. The covenant life is the play God wrote, and the prophets are critics. They criticize ideas, people, worship services, politics and culture. They are not writing for applause, but telling the truth from the highly biased point of view of those who see the world and all that is in it belonging to Yahweh. They use humor, sarcasm, blunt description and highly charged, emotional prose. They are critics in the best, and holiest, sense of the term.

The role of critic is not limited to the Old Testament, and did not stop on the pages of the New. Here's Michael again:

Jesus himself is a critic. Now I won't be numbskulled enough to say that gives me the right to be a critic, because obviously Jesus has a superior point of view to my own. But it is impossible for me to conclude that, once I know the viewpoint of Jesus on, let's say, rich and successful religious braggarts, I can't apply it in my writing.

The essay is directed specifically to evangelicals, but most of Michael’s observations speak equally well to Christians in other traditions. Good stuff.


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