Apologies if you started to read this post earlier. I accidentally posted it before it was finished, so I pulled it down and finished it and am posting it now in final form.
A few weeks ago I did a post called "Cathedral Thinking" about the importance of having a long term vision. I was recently rummaging around on George Grant's blog and found his 3.14.04 post, titled "Revolution vs. Reformation." This post reinforces the whole idea of "Cathedral Thinking."
Revolutionary thinking wants change right now. It is concerned with the overthrow of existing structures and their replacement. The new structures that revolutionary thinking swaps in for the old structures are often very flimsy. Revolutionary thinking is driven by passion and reaction. It is not usually well thought out. It's impatience with the status quo doesn't allow its ideas to mature and refine.
Reformational thinking looks long term. Rather than seeking to merely overthrow the existing structures in the short term, it quietly builds foundations for new structures which will overtake the old structures in the long term. Although it has a reactive element to it, it is patient and takes its time maturing and refining its ideas. It takes the time necessary to communicate and educate its own and future generations. Thus, like a cathedral, it may take hundreds of years to build, but once built, it is solid.
It looks to me like revolutionary thinking is the norm for the church these days. Every new attempt to re-invent the church is an exercise in revolutionary thinking, and every revolution is quickly followed by a new revolution. Revolutionaries pooh-pooh reformers and accuse them of being behind the times because Reformers tend to critique the new according to the accepted wisdom of the past. Reformers don't completely reject the new, but they want "re-form" the new to align with the old, rather than uncritically accepting the old. One of the things I have noticed amongst "Christian revolutionaries" is that the revolutionaries always accuse the contemporary church of being locked into the prior revolution, or the prior philosophy.
For example, in the great fundamentalist-modernist debate of the last century, the modernists accused the fundamentalists of being locked into a pre-modern mindset. The modernists told the fundamentalists that they needed to update the faith to fit in with modern times. Yet, the better fundamentalists (i.e. Machen and others like him) waged a steady war against modernism. They weren't fighting for "pre-modernism" they were fighting for Biblical orthodoxy.
I realize I take a lot of shots at the postmodernists in this blog and I hope I'm not beginning to sound like a cranky old man. But I do see this type of "revolutianary" thinking permeating alot of postmdern Christianity. Those of us who stick to more of a "reforming model" would say argue, as best we can and as imperfectly as we can, we are trying to hold on to the old orthodoxy that has always been a part of the church. I realize that as soon as I say that someone will raise the issue of "whose orthodoxy?" but the fact is, that with all of the divisions within Christendom there is a fairly clear orthodoxy that can be traced back through the church to the days of Augustine, and even before him in the early church fathers. Contrary to popular belief, the whole of evangelicalism didn't sell out to modernity during the last century. Machen and his followers fought against modernity with the tools of ancient orthodoxy. Unfortunately, as John Frame shows in his article "Machen's Warrior Children," we've tended to fight against pretty much everything.
Reformation thinking may be slower but its more thorough and more solid. Plus, reformation thinking doesn't get discouraged with setbacks. It understands that many battles are lost in winning wars, and keeps plugging away.
Here's an excerpt from Dr. G's blog.
Revolution v. Reformation
Like the great antithesis between the city of God and the city of man, the antithesis between revolution and reformation is altogether unbridgeable. It defines and distinguishes irreconcilable differences. It pits one total and exclusive worldview over and against another. It discerns the stark contrast between black and white with no hint of grey between.
Like the way to perdition, the road to revolution is wide, and many are those who travel it. Like the road to paradise, the road to reformation is narrow, and few are those who travel it. It is little wonder then that men and nations actually prefer revolution to reformation. After all, the broad road promises easy and efficient going. The narrow road promises only a long obedience in the same direction. The broad road advertises quick results, spectacular sights, and razzle-dazzle publicity. Whereas the narrow way offers only small beginnings, quiet faithfulness, and a humble reputation.
The way of revolution practically guarantees health, wealth, and wow. The way of reformation only bears witness to faith, hope, and love. Revolution demands the hard and unrelenting science of charts and graphs, programs and policies. Reformation is content with the gentle persuasions of doctrine and liturgy, covenant and sacrament. Revolution has big plans, amalgamating fervor, and gargantuan purposes. Reformation has but diligence and steadfastness in the face of daily responsibilities. Revolution is undeterred by the facts; reformation is undeterred by the obstacles. Revolution, like the passing pleasures of sin, never fails to disappoint; reformation, like love, never fails.
Alas, the contrast between the two, revolution and reformation, is as stark within the church as without. Indeed, the revolutionary mind is as prevalent in the church as it is anywhere else in the world.