"The Revolutionary Christ has been disguised as a moral policeman"

These words were written by Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy in 1919, but could have been written about the church today (thanks to Phil Groom for the quote, taken out of his context):

the Christianity which should have turned the world upside down has been turned into a method of keeping it as it is and meekly accepting its wrong-side-upness as the discipline of Almighty God. The Revolutionary Christ has been disguised as a moral policeman.

Sadly too many people, when confronted with preachers of “The Revolutionary Christ”, respond as moral police officers. Let the readers of my Todd Bentley posts understand. But this is not about him, it is about what has been wrong with the church for at least a century and still is today.

0 thoughts on “"The Revolutionary Christ has been disguised as a moral policeman"

  1. I wonder to what extent “revolution” can be adequately applied to Christianity. In a spiritual context, Christ was the ultimate revolutionary, defeating death and Satan for the liberation of his creation. But if we try and apply this to a socio-political construct, we can end up being reactionaries which is the very thing we fault “moral policemen” for being. The West certainly needs a spiritual revolution, but the revolution is spiritual, not worldly. Our goal should not be some perpetual shattering of the status quo, but the establishment of a new Christendom.

  2. Benjamin, I didn’t, and even in 1919 I’m sure Studdert Kennedy didn’t either, mean “revolutionary” in any political sense as something like the Russian Revolution. He was a Christian Socialist and a pacifist, not a Bolshevik. He and I, like you, look for a spiritual revolution, but one which would also involve peaceful transformation of our society into something more Christian – at least I hope you would agree with this. Thanks for the clarification.

  3. I do agree. I would be interested to know what your thoughts are on what it means to be a “moral policeman”. How do you think Christ has specifically been portrayed in this way? I don’t disagree with that idea (Lord knows that’s been a prevalent error), but sometimes I wonder if the modern church hasn’t actually toned down Christ to such a gentle “best life for you” role model that our problem may actually be a lack of confrontation not an excess of it.

  4. Ben, I think it is mostly in evangelical churches tending towards fundamentalism that Christ is still seen as a “moral policeman”, and perhaps also as a doctrinal policeman. Many of these churches tend to preach a kind of legalism, salvation by right behaviour together with right doctrine. Thus the kind of condemnation of those who break the norms, who even give ground for rumours of sin, which we have seen in the Todd Bentley discussions.

    Many other churches, of a more liberal bent, avoid this mistake but still avoid challenging the status quo, accepting it not “as the discipline of Almighty God” but as his intention. And then there are churches which try to turn the world upside down, but often working against one another by turning it in different directions! So this is not an issue in every church.

  5. Peter: which bits of the “revolutionary Christ” did Todd Bentley portray?

    Frankly, I think attacks on people pointing out legitimate issues by accusing them of being “moral police” or “like the pharisees” or whatever is a subtle and insidious slander.

    “Touch not the Lord’s annointed” is an almighty cop out that exacerbated this painful mess.

  6. Todd Bentley portrays “The Revolutionary Christ” in the sense of the Jesus who rejected religious traditionalism and introduced new practices. But I was referring primarily to those who have stridently opposed him on the internet and elsewhere, who are self-appointed moral policemen and women. My argument is not based on “Touch not the Lord’s anointed” but on “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master they stand or fall.” (Romans 14:4 TNIV)

  7. What “new practices” did he introduce?

    Romans 14 also says: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”

    The great sadness is that Lakeland for many people looks like having a legacy of excess, unrighteousness, violence, confusion and sadness.

    As a charismatic, who believes in healings, I also consider “Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil.”, which is unfortunately what some of the excesses and moral failure of this situation has done and allowed the cynics a field day.

  8. Well, I was thinking of Todd’s much criticised “Bam!” among others. Perhaps “new style” would be more accurate than “new practices”. And not so much was really new, it was just that it had not been so widely publicised before and so was thought new and revolutionary by critics, and by the traditionalist church worldwide.

  9. Blue,
    I don’t really like broad-brush accusations such as “excess, unrighteousness, violence, confusion and sadness.” If we take out the allegations from the Ricciardelli hoaxer, there’s no genuine testimony of moral excess. “Unrighteousness”? OK, there was a marriage failure exacerbated by burnout and an inappropriate but non-physical relationship. “Violence”? It’s been discussed on this blog before that no one complained of being struck, those struck often commented that they felt no impact pain. There have been “sensible” testimonies of people who were struck and healed in that instant. Occasional striking of people characterised the early miraculous ministry of Wigglesworth and that Todd himself said long before Lakeland how he had personally struggled with the issue and refused to strike people but that God had stopped doing stuff until he obeyed and since then had healed many more. So we can’t “lean on our own understanding” on this point – but that’s OK for now. “Confusion”? My kids watched some of the GODTV broadcasts and weren’t confused at all – they thought it was quite straightforward and understandable and loved the feeling of the presence of God that invaded our lounge. “Sadness”? Well yes, we’re all sad that Todd and Shonnah and their children are in trouble, and we wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But all the guys at Ignited church are thrilled with what God did. All the people I met who went there are thrilled and treasure the memory as a highlight of their lives – many of them start by saying “I was at the back and couldn’t see much but the presence of God in the worship was so strong and sweet- I’ve never experienced it like that and I long with all my heart to experience it again before I go to heaven” Lakeland wasn’t about the hype, or GodTV, or young (unsuspecting?) Todd, or Americanism; to those who went, it was just about them and an extraordinary meeting with the God they already knew. Not sad at all! I’m sorry, but many, many demonstrably good and true people were involved with, or visited Lakeland and these dismissive condemnations seem only to slander them and the true work of God that took place in the midst of all the hoo-hah.

  10. Duncan: I don’t disagree with much of what you say.

    I am merely saying how history will judge Lakeland in the eyes of many people.

    I don’t doubt for a second that hundreds of christians meeting and seeking God was a wonderful experience to treasure for a lifetime.

    That is all part of the disappointment, as it is now all wrapped up in a strange confusion of Todd & Shonnah, GodTV, angry accusers and angry defenders.

    That means even those who had entirely positive experiences have their testimony tainted (in the eyes of many) by the rest of the “hoo hah”

    What could have been a great triumph in the charismatic movement (and in the short term, evidently was) ended up making lots of people looking pretty stupid, and giving ammunition to the cynics for years to come.

    And the sandess come on both sides, as some people attack the good and others defend the indefensible. Both of those are weak positions.

  11. Blue,
    OK, thanks, I understand your perspective now. I agree that it’s frustrating that, after all that God did, it’s viewed overall as a “bad witness”. It will be interesting to see where we go from here – either hardened attitudes leading to the “church wars” foreseen by Joyner, Alec etc, or a desire to more widely support, nurture and protect the next thing God does so it doesn’t happen again. It may turn out to be the learning experience that helps us steward the next move of God more reverently and humbly.

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