Yesterday, in my first week “on the ground” here in Tyler (see here), I went on an 8-mile run with some amazing members of the community here, ranging from age 55 to 28.
At one point during the run, the 28 year old man mentioned that he has been impressed by the teaching ministry of Ravi Zacharias (who also greatly influenced Bouquet and me in our college years at UT).
Of course, I said nothing disparaging about Ravi on that run, and I do have tremendous respect for him.
And yet, one of the interesting things about being here in Tyler is that I find myself in a new community, who have no idea what motivates me in ministry, or, for example, why I chose to become an Episcopal priest, thus having to leave the more “conservative” Presbyterian Church, the PCA.
So this afternoon I was re-reading Peter Leithart’s Against Christianity, and it hit me in fresh way: this is the real difficuIty I have with folks like Ravi: the church plays a very little role in their teaching, certainly not a central role, as it did for the Apostle Paul. Here’s the quotation:
“The Bible gives no hint that a Christian “belief system” might be isolated from the life of the Church, subjected to scientific analysis, and have its truth compared with competing “belief systems.”- Peter Leithart, Against Christianity, page 14.
The point is not at all that what we believe does not matter (2 Pet 3:15). Rather the point is that the enemies of the faith (colluding with gnosticism) have succeeded in disembodying what the book of Acts describes as “the Way.” Being a Christian is not simply about believing the right set of propositions, but rather about living a life in solidarity with the community of faith: confessing the faith with them, serving and being served by them, sharpening them, etc.