Accuracy, Intimacy, and Action

I have found, in my limited time in ministry (though I’ve ministered in hundreds of churches) that there are really three types of people in the world: Thinkers, Feelers, and Doers.

The tendencies of people are often manifested in one of these three areas. Thinkers want to be cognitively stimulated and they strive for accuracy. Feelers want to be engaged emotionally and they strive for intimacy. Doers are simply waiting for a thinker or feeler to tell them what needs to get done and they hate sitting around talking about it. 

As a result, there are basically three types of churches based on these same models. No surprises here. We typically flock to like personalities. For the longest time I thought that churches were either thinkers of feelers until my last church which was definitely a doing church.

As I mentioned yesterday, it is important for us to become discerning by being critical ‘thinkers’ and challenging our preconceptions. But we also have to be more practical and understand our ‘feelings’ if we are ever going to get anything ‘done’ in the unity of the Spirit. It is essential that each of us know where our tendencies lie so that we can be aware of our blind spots and we can be edified by the unity of the Body of Christ. 

There is a definite need for balance in the Christian’s life. But there is evidently a difference of opinion on what that harmony is. The debate really rises between the thinkers and the feelers – doers have little tolerance for sitting around and determining who’s right. Thinkers strive for accuracy in doctrine, while feelers search for authenticity in action. But who is right? How can a singularly believer be balanced in all three: Orthodoxy, Devotion, and Action?

This quote by John Wesley from A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God (which I quote all the time) points out that accuracy is NOT half the battle.

“Orthodoxy, or right opinion, is, at best, a very slender part of religion. Though right tempers cannot subsist without right opinions, yet right opinions may subsist without right tempers. There may be a right opinion of God without either love or one right temper toward Him. Satan is proof of this.”

I would suggest that Orthodoxy is a small third of the Christian life. By this I refer to my article on faith (Integrated Theology: Faith). I consider faith the basis for the Christian life. It is very easy to get off track theologically and it will seriously affect the other parts of one’s relationship with Christ. Furthermore, it is two steps removed from love. It’s not enough to simply be right, but it’s difficult to be biblical in one’s actions unless they start with right opinion.

I am predominately a thinker. I love to study, teach, and debate. Accuracy is very important to me. I consider it an atrocity when someone says, “Well, I’m no theologian.” We are all called to be students of God. He wants to be known. This is the essence of our faith. 

However, I often get somewhat lost in my pursuit of orthodoxy that I neglect the ‘weightier things’ like mercy and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23). This is the sin of the pharisees who became conceited in their right opinions. Paul tells us in I Corinthians 8 that knowledge puffs up, and orthodoxy is essentially knowledge.

Orthodoxy is like steak. It’s packed full of protein and essential for someone who is working out, but for the couch potato, its just a heart attack waiting to happen (This is why James says faith without works is dead). If all a person ate were steaks, they would not have a very balanced diet.

The other side to accuracy is intimacy. It wasn’t until I was twenty-one that I was truly challenged in my intimacy with Christ. Up until that point I had spent my efforts crafting clever arguments on why men shouldn’t have long hair and I was debating with my fellow students on why they shouldn’t listen to contemporary Christian music. When I finally learned the importance of seeking God, it was like being converted all over again.

Devotion is the second third of the Chrisitan’s life. Like hope (See Integrated Theology: Hope) devotion is the emotion that satisfies our longing hearts. There are several great books I would recommend as a challenge to seek the LORD: Desiring God and The Pursuit of God (which I read once a month). Many other books have been written to challenge our devotion –  Crazy Love, Radical, and Wild at Heart – but these books tend to only highlight one area particularly in feelers.

A tendency that feelers have is to diminish the gospel to moralism. Moralism is good, it just falls short of the full gospel. The Bible is not just a book filled with good stories and principles on how to live a better life. It is the source of power to transform lives into the image of God’s Son. The sin of the moralist is to minimalize the power of the gospel to a simple set of good actions.

A good example of moralism is found in the movie Courageous. I actually enjoyed this movie (which was a surprise to me because I usually can’t tolerate Christian movies) and thought it was entertaining and had a relatively good story. The problem with the movie was in the undaunted show of support across the board from the Christian community as if this was the best thing to come out since the Bible itself. Christians need to be careful how they embrace art because it is abstract and falls short of the full gospel. What good points Courageous had could simply be boiled down into moralism. Being a good father is important, but that is not the moral of the gospel (pun intended).

Anthony Parisi writes a review of Courageous for the White Horse Inn blog.

“Sherwood continues to make films with God functioning primarily as a tool for our lives – whether he’s helping us win football games, repair our struggling marriages, or helping us find a job within seconds of a cry to the heavens… Thankfully, the church has good news that far outpaces the takeaway of this story: an announcement that God has reconciled sinners to himself through Jesus Christ.”

While Parisi is a little more harsh than I would be, he reiterates my point that these films fall short of the gospel.

It is still interesting, however, that if people had a positive ‘experience’ with the film they will not be open to hearing anything critical about it. One lady asked me what I thought about the film and I told her, “It was a lot better than I anticipated. They really stepped up their production value and the story was more complex…” She stopped me and said, “I don’t care about that. I’m just happy it had a good moral story.” I’m afraid that if this is all we care about, we are selling ourselves short. 

Moralism is like cake. It’s good and everyone likes it, but it’s not a balanced diet. There’s not a lot of usefullness in cake for strengthening muscles, but it is a delight and something that we should enjoy. It just needs to be balanced in moderation.

It was a long process for me to get to a place where I was balanced in my Christian walk, and if I don’t keep up my daily exercise of devotion, I find myself slowly sinking back into my old nature. Because I tend to be more analytical, it is important for me to challenge myself to be more emotional. Whatever your tendency is, it is essential that you find a balance.

Just like it is harder to teach a business man to be an artist than an artist to be a business man, I find it is easier to teach a ‘feeler’ to be a ‘thinker’ than the other way around. If you don’t have passion, it’s almost impossible to foster it in teaching solely orthodoxy. While I am a ‘thinker’ who is learning to be a ‘feeler,’ I would much rather teach someone who already has a passion for God, but it is impossible to have true devotion without accurate knowledge.

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3 Responses to Accuracy, Intimacy, and Action

  1. Ian says:

    Hey adam, I appreciate your blog. Itchallenges me to keep thinking. One thing that occured to me while I was reading this is the problem with mis-diagnosing a church as a thinker or feeler. A lot of traditional churches are precieved to be thinking/ intellectual churches because they want heavy expostion and little application in there sermons, they a critical of a lot of other churches and they can tell you a semi thought out reason why, and they want others to function in the same way they do so they come up with “crafted” arguments from scripture to defend these things. Normally you would try to debate this with chapter and verse, and that can be troublesome because there really isn’t chapter and verse to defend your arguments either, but in the end you find out that they weren’t really thinkers at all, they just had a huge emotional attachment to something and that is what drives there arguments. I have tried to reason with people over stuff all the time, and couldn’t quite understand till recently, that they weren’t “thinkers” and there arguments weren’t based on thought process. There are some thinkers mixed in with a church like that, but they only fit in if they agree with the traditional premise. I have seen things allowed to change when a great story is attached to it, but people will still rather have it there own way of doing things because it makes them more comfortable. Sorry for the long post, just some thoughts that came to mind as I was reading. Hope it wasn’t incoherent.

    • Adam Miller says:

      Thanks Ian. You’re right, there isn’t an easy way to slice up the church.

      Being a thinker doesn’t automatically suggest that they have actually thought through their position. A good example is when I teach my truth paradigm and people argue based on biases and completely miss the point. The truth is, you can have the most logical argument for people and they will continue to stick to their preconceived ideas. Their response usually starts out with, “Yeah, but…”

      A better way I could have approached this article is to highlight Orthodoxy and Moral Responsibility with their sinful side affects of legalism and moralism. I still can’t think of a good antithesis for Orthodoxy. Moral responsibility just doesn’t work. Any suggestions?

      All of this is still a relatively new study for me. I’m still working it out. Thanks for your input.

  2. Pingback: Soapbox: Christians and Art | Worthy of the Gospel

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