Self-Aware Revolutionaries or God-Aware Conventionalists?

Notes on Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck’s
Why we Love the Church:
in praise of institutions and organized religion

Chapter 2 : Turn the Page (Getting off the road and getting back to church)

Why We Love the Church is written by two men, Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck–and they write in alternating chapters. Odd numbered chapters are written by DeYoung and appeal mostly to the mind of the reader. DeYoung’s chapters are ripe with endnotes, mostly references to other published works. Even numbered chapters (like chapter 2) are written by Kluck and appeal more to the emotions of the reader. These chapters are filled with endnotes, too–but most of them turn out to be snarky asides to the reader.

I like the way this format allows each man to have his own narrative voice–while combining both of their perspectives for a more full defense of the church.

That being said, I find it much easier to write about DeYoung’s chapters, and much easier to relate to Kluck’s. DeYoung’s chapters are focused on propositional truths–things that can be easily grappled with in an objective sense. Kluck’s chapters are focused more on personal experiences–a more subjective, but no less real realm.

In chapter 2, Kluck explores our society’s obsession with being revolutionary adventurers. We love to overturn things, love to discover things. Memoirs of personal journeys (and blogs about personal journeys?) are some of the hottest literature of our day.

The revolutionary adventurers (and their books) are out in full force within Christendom. We can read dozens of memoir-type tomes telling the story of how some adventurer took a personal journey (with God?) that caused them to be a revolutionary and…drop out of church. Or, for something a little different, we can read one about how a revolutionary decided to drop out of church–so he could discover God.

The problem is that oftentimes, these revolutionaries don’t really do anything revolutionary. At least, nothing that would be considered revolutionary for the average non-God-fearing yuppie. They golf on Sunday morning with their pals. They go to concerts and movies and drive hybrids. They hang out at Starbucks and occasionally discuss social justice and the universe and other deep thoughts. And what’s more, the “god” they find oftentimes ends up looking, well, a lot like them. They become more self-aware. More aware of what they’re thinking. More aware of the wrongs that have been done to them. More aware of how everyone else is doing something wrong. But is that what the Christian life is about?

In seeking to be revolutionary and to “find God”, they end up being status quo and letting themselves become their god. Rather than being in a community of believers that forces them out of their comfort and forces them to be aware of God–they relax in their own company in comfort and self-awareness.

Kluck makes a great point towards the end of chapter 2:

In Revolution Barna says that he wrote the book to “help Revolutionaries gain a better understanding of themselves,” and “crystallize their self-awareness.” I would argue that we could do well with a lot less self-awareness, apart from the awareness of our own sinfulness and need for the gospel.
-Ted Kluck, Why we love the church

Wherever we’re at in the Christian journey, the last thing we need is more self-awareness. Knowing myself can only lead to death by narcissism or death by despair (depending on how truthful my knowledge of myself is). In and of myself, I am a dead creature, incapable of life or good. I poison everything around me. To become more self-aware is only to ingest my own poison and kill myself.

On the other hand, to be God-aware is to know life. It is to lose oneself in the grandeur of the infinitely greater one–and in losing oneself, one gains the life he could never gain on his own.

It is as C.S. Lewis says in the closing chapter of Mere Christianity:

It is no good trying to ‘be myself’ without Him. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires…. I am not, in my natural state, nearly so much of a person as I like to believe: most of what I call ‘me’ can be very easily explained. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own…

Your real, new self…will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him….Give up yourself and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.

5 thoughts on “Self-Aware Revolutionaries or God-Aware Conventionalists?”

  1. Is it possible that people might drop out of a conventional church arrangement not to become more self aware, but to rid themselves of the biases that all human-established institutions possess? I believe that some revolutionaries are trying to get back to the root of the Gospel without viewing it through lenses that can distort, and the church as an institution can often do that.

  2. Oh I’m so glad you wrote about this! I’ve been wrangling/following this issue for quite a while now. I didn’t have time to read it all carefully right now (must sleep) but I’m coming back to read it again! Have you read “Just Do Something” by DeYoung? I’ve known about “Why We Love the Church,” and have been itching to get my hands on it. I think this is the last little shove I need! Mmmmmm methinks I’m such a lazy blogger–I care about these sorts of issues involving the church, but rarely just gut it out on my blog. Maybe someday!

  3. I think you’re right, Leah, about the motives of some (or even many) revolutionaries. Their goals in “dropping out” of church are not to find themselves but to find God in a richer way. Unfortunately, I fear that the dropping out doesn’t always end up meeting that goal. Instead of becoming more God-aware, I feel (and these authors seem to suggest) that they instead become more self-aware.

    I think there are biases in institutions, just as there are biases in individuals. However, the institution of the church was ordained by God to be a lens (albeit an imperfect one) through which His truth could be seen. I don’t see a lot of Scriptural support for the idea of Gospel without church-most of the New Testament is written to churches, flawed but still a vehicle for God’s divine program.

    Thanks for commenting, Leah (and for daring to disagree!) Keep it coming!

  4. Kristi-I haven’t read Just Do Something yet, but it is on my burgeoning to be read list. So far, Why We Love the Church has been a fantastic read. I’m enjoying it a great deal. It’s definitely worth it.


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