Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What I hope to accomplish

What is a Calvinist doing on a blog run by a Catholic? Perhaps some of my fellow brother Calvinists will be alarmed at my working together with a "Papist". After all, traditionally, Calvinism and Catholicism don't typically get along. I believe that calling the Pope the whore of Babylon caused quite a bit of consternation in Rome. And we are the strain of Protestant thought that has clung most closely to the principles of the Reformation.

But, relax my Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, Congregational, Reformed Baptist, and otherwise Calvinist kin, Ogden and I are not taking communion together, only running a blog. After all, even if followers of Calvin and followers of the Bishop of Rome have difference, we can always agree to criticize other sections of the faith!

Today, I'll begin by criticizing something that has become a trend in the modern evangelical movement, although I'm not sure if it has crossed over into Catholicism as well, the modern missions trip. A youth group, student group at a Christian college, or other form of young christian fellowship decides to take a trip to (insert third world country) in order to (build church, do repairs, distribute aid). They typically spend half a year raising about 3000 each to take 30-50 people to the third world for two weeks. Usually, none of the group actually speaks the local language. These sort of trips are perhaps the most wasteful, counterproductive type of missions going on today.

Take a group going to Nicaragua over Spring break. They have to spend 100,000 for the trip, and what is accomplished for that 100,000? A church is constructed in a town where most people don't even have a job, the town's clothiers are put out of business as the town is transformed from rag wearing to abercrombie and fitch hand-me-downs wearing, and the church is left, until the next group comes in to paint. These trips aren't good for the third world countries, and they aren't even beneficial to the young Christians who go on them.

For young Christians, promoting spiritual stability ought to be a priority. It is hard enough to be 16 years old in a country that is rich enough for teen angst to exist and even be promoted, but with the constant retreats, camps, and missions trips, the tendency is for closeness to Christ to rise and fall during and after these spiritual vacations. This leads to instability and a tendency to grow away from God when not doing "spiritual things". Young youth-groupers often have "life-changin" experiences in Haiti, only to come backand behave the same way they did before. Why? Because it reinforces the concept of church being "other" than every day life.

For the third-world churches, any kind of help is a blessing, but short-term missions may actually be counter-productive. In order to help a community, you really need to be considered a part of it. Outside help only encourages dependency on aid. A series of short-term teams may help the church look better aesthetically, but it does nothing to improve the church in the long term and may actually create more poverty though dependency. However, simply sending 5000 dollars to a long term missionary to help pay for the construction of the church would go much further. The money would be safe in the hands of a long-term missionary who speaks the language and knows the people and has become a part of their community. Instead of people from outside doing the work for free, local villagers could be hired to build the church, many of them would be desperate for work and a job that exposes them to Christ would be extremely beneficial.

Anyway, I had planned on my first post being about lapsarianism but this is what motivates me right now, so this is what my first post is on.

3 comments:

Pr. Lehmann said...

"We are the strain of thought that has clung most closely to the principles of the Reformation."

I'm sure you believe that, but let's be honest. It's impossible to identify much of anything with certainty as one of the "principles of the Reformation."

Which Reformer? Calvin, Zwingli, Knox, Luther, Chemnitz, Beza, Gerhard, Arndt, etc.

I want to strongly disagree with you and say that Lutherans hold most closely to the principles of the Reformation. I can't, though, because the "principles of the Reformation" are such a moving target. I think you would be better served to say something like, "My confession is most faithful to what it confessed at the time of the Reformation."

On to the meat of the post:

Your criticisms of vacationaries are spot on.

Ogden Chichester said...

Well done, Stephen. My inaugural posts didn't get so much as a yawn, and you've elicited a comment right off the bat!

Stephen Hamilton said...

Only because you already had a reader base when I started.]

As far as the principles of the Reformation, I'm referring primarily to the five solas, disdain for metaphysics and speculative philosophy etc. of course different reformers have different ideas