Thursday, July 15, 2010

RE: "The Crowd Is Untruth"

If you kindly take a peek at Reformation21, author and academic Carl Trueman has a blog up reflecting on Sǿren Kierkegaard's essay, "The Crowd is Untruth". Without having (yet) read Sǿren's essay -which can be found online here, at CCEL, for free- I can't comment on the original work, but I think we could stand to learn from some of Carl Trueman's reflections upon it. In his blog post, Trueman observes "[Sǿren Kierkegaard's] The Crowd is Untruth is both profound and prophetic... he captures brilliantly both the power and anonymity of the crowd, where personal responsibility, accountability, and identity is surrendered to a larger group." Soon after, Trueman laments "the ease with which a talented person can manipulate a crowd into doing the most terrible things." He continues his observation of the Power of the Crowd:

"Crowds can make otherwise perfectly sane people do otherwise inexplicable things: run down the road with traffic cones on their heads, applaud at the end of Justin Bieber concerts, and as we now know, herd others into gas chambers and onto killing fields..."
...And that is about the point at which Carl starts to talk about the Church. He observes the celebrity culture that pops up in Christendom now and again, where the conference speaker or author or pastor is elevated, put on a stage, and given license to do the thinking of the people for them. The danger isn't (hopefully) that entire thriving congregations will begin to pack their neighborhood friends into gas chambers at the urging of a charismatic lecture-giver; the real horror scenario would be that people, Christians of able intellect even, would simply give up their minds and follow unthinkingly the suggestions of a popular leader. Even worse, that this would create an environment where people will have no faith in God or relationship with Him, but only a vague belonging to a group that will make them look and feel as if they did so. "Fear of the leader, fear of the pack, fear of not belonging, can make people do strange things."

All of this brings up a good question. How many people are sitting in the backs of churches, or even serving in the churches, or even leading them, who do not truly believe in Christ for themselves but only believe because some great figure, some leader in our chosen community, believes? How many people believe in Christ for themselves, and how many only believe because Mark Driscoll, Donald Miller, John Piper, Benny Hinn, Rick Warren, Billy Graham, or Lee Strobel seem like admirable guys and happen to have faith in Christ? How many people actually believe, and how many are just following the crowd? Here is how the danger plays out, according to Trueman:
"Indeed, one does not have to be in a megachurch to see the temptation to sit back and just belong through the formalities of public worship and the vicarious belief of the church as body. But if you take a man and put him on a desert island, or in a place where nobody believes the same things, what will happen to his faith? Will it survive? Was it more than a mere public performance or a function of belonging to a particular community? Stripped of its context, it will stand naked, and appear as it really is."
Just because Christendom, the phenomenon where unbelievers feigned Christian belief out of a desire for social acceptability- has died in the wider culture, that does not mean that it no longer exists inside of the Church; whenever a non-Christian convinces himself that he believes just so that he can share in the community of believers, there is Christendom. And that Christendom is bolstered by evangelistic techniques and church-growth methods that focus on the need of an individual to belong to something greater, as part of a community. It is a danger in what is left of the Emergent Church as well, which supposedly tries to bring people into belief through relationships. Any time we hold relationship, belonging, and community on the end of a hook and expect people to take it and submit their lives to Christ, we are putting them in danger. We are manipulating them. And, most dreadful of all, we can not be sure that what they are embracing is actual faith and conviction of sin at all, because we have baited them with the idol of Belonging. By our techniques we are inviting people to be false and self-deluded pseudo Christians. When our methods succeed, and our churches are filled with people of questionable allegiance to Christ, the crowd is no longer untruth. The Church is as well.



  1. .: claps :.
    You do realize that reading something like this will make people believe it just for the fact of it's presentation, right? In fact, you are making people see this all around them because you've mentioned it. It's a never ending circle.
    People will always elevate, because we do not practice self-awareness, we are conformists, herd animals. That is human nature.

  2. Fair enough, but we can at least TRY to make them practice self awareness. Herd animals though we are, there is at least the possibility of independent thought.


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