(Find Part 1 of “System Troubles” here)
Maybe this happens to you, too, but it seems to happen to me way too often. It seems that half the time, when I walk into a store or call a company on the phone, they’re having “system troubles.” “The system is down,” or “our system is slow today.” Less-than-optimal electronic systems are part of our world. But other systems can be even more dysfunctional.
What do you think of a religious system that elevates one human being over another, e.g., a pastor, priest, pope, or “canonized” saint? (Whatever a system like this is, it’s clearly different from anything Jesus ever typified or talked about, and it doesn’t look like what Paul was interested in, either.)
What about a university system that makes student parking a priority yet does not provide sufficient parking for the faculty that are supposed to be teaching the students who drove those parked cars? (And the same university discourages motorcycles that save both space and gas.)
What about a visitor recognition program that embarrasses a newcomer although it’s supposed to make him feel welcome? (Those old lapel rose emblems that churches used to give to visitors are the worst! )
And what about a church that votes on whether to accept new members? (A generally democratic ethos is nice, but surely the voting precedent is little more than a silly legacy written into some institutional document because one of the charter members in nineteen-ought-ought-seven was used to voting on new members in some club. I’d be willing to bet that any church that votes on new members doesn’t have an equally rigorous program of church discipleship and discipline after accepting a new person.)
And what of a religious system . . .
. . . that caused the Galatians to desert what they’d been taught toward a qualitatively different gospel? (Paul was something between deeply distressed and indignant over this. Some of the harshest words in all the NT are found in Paul’s response.)
. . . that elevated a view of the Mosaic law over its Giver? (Jesus had extensive, targeted, and/or sharp words for this.)
While I would welcome any responses to these questions, their phrasing obviously anticipates negative assessments and answers in each case. You may feel a few of the items are not so negative after all, and that’s OK. The point is that systems often have issues. There are some systems that work and some that simply don’t.
In the final installment in this series, yet a few days off, I’ll venture to criticize an abridged sort of “Systematic Theology.”