All our works hay and straw?

Taliesan posted some excellent notes the other day. Among them:

“Eternal perspective” as used in evangelical preaching, usually amounts to docetism.

“Only what is done for Christ will last”, and so on. The implication — intended or not, people imbibe it — is that only the ghostly souls of men will pass into the next age; spend as little work as possible on things like art, engineering, plumbing. Hay and straw, to be burned up on the last day.

This is a classic, pervasive piece of Christian folklore. I could point to hundreds of sermons and books that drive this home.

Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper is a good example.

In college, the youth group I was part of was required to read Called to Greatness by Ron Hutchcraft.

Lots of good stuff in both these books, but the underlying communication is plain as day: Those not involved in full-time religious service ministry are losers.

Losers at worst, 2nd class Christians at best. Are you an accountant? Well, all that work you are doing is going to burn. BURN man. What a waste of time. Why aren’t you on the mission field in Sudan saving people’s souls? Why, huh? Heh, excuses excuses.

Seminaries use this sort of thing as a primary form of recruiting, luring young men (along with their wives and young children) away from their careers to go deep into debt studying their brains out for 3 years while their family falls apart. For what? To go be a pastor, where his life’s work will FINALLY mean something.

The proponents of this are, of course, all ministry professionals themselves. Since they already work for a church (or make their living writing Christian books or speaking at Christian conferences), then they are exempt from their own exhortations. They’ve got it covered. Do you?

Now, nearly every book or sermon promoting this idea will have qualifications. “Of course, God does call some people to worldly-looking professions”. It’s probably a good thing that Louis Pasteur stayed in his lab and didn’t try to be a preacher. George Washington, yeah, OK. Some of these guys get a pass because it’s so obvious God called them to something (else) really great and important. But you? You work in real estate development and last month you spent a lot of money taking your family skiing. Hay and straw! You suck.

As Taliesan points out, this boils down to Platonism: Only your soul survives. The physical world is evil.

Now SOME people really get this. Even some of the people preaching this stuff actually get it. The message often gets lost though.

I think I could write a long thought-out essay on this with lots of quotes, biblical references, etc. I don’t have time for that this morning though… got to go write a database abstraction layer. I hope I’m doing it for Jesus. 🙂