30 November, 2008

The Body of Christ

I was reading in Scientific American today about HSPs - Heat Shock Proteins.

The Wikipedia article is pretty technical, and the SciAm article is only slightly less so. I'll save you the trouble of reading them and then jump to how it amazed me again at what the body of Christ truly is.

An HSP is charged with helping other proteins do their jobs. There are proteins specific to every cancer cell. The HSP cannot fight cancer, that's the job of our T-cells, but it can snag a little signature of that protein and take it to a T-cell, for example. Another protein might need to be folded up like a pretzel to work, and be having a hard time growing into its mature shape. HSPs make that folding happen. They can't do what the protein needs to do, but they can help that protein get itself folded into the right shape.

(And, BTW, to enhance the benefits of HSPs in your mortal body, exercise. Their rate of production is increased under sufficient stress, and heating up your core temp with exercise does the trick, according to a SciAm side-blurb. I'd love to think of how that applies to Christ's body, but not today.)

Everything the body does, every single little thing from digesting food to fighting disease to kissing a baby on the forehead, requires the interaction of millions of entire subsystems. Even something as simple as a bone cannot do its job without systems on top of systems and within systems. And what's more, almost everything in the body does more than one thing. It does its thing, but it makes sure other things can do their thing, too.

The finite but immeasurable complexity of our Creator's work astounds.

The connection between our bodies and the body of Christ is almost unavoidable, so I'm not going to belabor it. The least, most hidden member of the body, when functioning correctly, could be that perfectly tailored HSP for someone. Without ever being able to fight off a cancer, the quietest soul in a congregation might touch someone in a special way that makes him confident enough to resist evil. We need each other in ways we cannot begin to imagine.

And that's what I want to belabor.

We just found out about HSPs in fruit flies in 1962. It was 1977 before anyone realized that what happens in a fruit fly happens in mice, too. It was another pair of decades before they began to see just how remarkably versatile the lowly HSP really is. I could rattle off story after story of science's amazing discoveries that things they considered completely unimportant are actually keys to our very existence.

It turns out HSPs have one other little function. It's of some moderate importance, I imagine.

HSPs keep us from being mutated genetic freaks.


Micro-evolution happens every day of our lives, in every living being, and every living species. Most mutations are highly negative, but somehow we don't die. That somehow is tied to these HSPs. No has figured out just how yet, but somehow HSPs buffer and suppress poor genetic guesses in our bodies. It's these lowly, unknown, functionless HSPs that keep us from spinning out of control.

Again, the parallel to the body of Christ is amazing. Think of it the next time that bunch of old ladies in the corner is keeping the church from doing something that would otherwise be really exciting. They may just be keeping your church from mutating beyond repair. :-)

Here's the thing that floored me. Scientists are only just now beginning to see how very complex the human body really is, but I think they might be light-years ahead of Christians who think they have an idea how the body of Christ works.

I've done home church. I've done pentacostal revival. I've done presbyterian accuracy. I've done random gathering. And EVERY ONE OF THEM has profited me. I've been blessed by the body of Christ every time I've joined myself to her, in every form.

I've argued with passion that every church building should be burnt to the ground and that every pastor should be made to get a real job. I've argued for the freeing of every member of the body to serve their function, without mediation by some hierarchy. And I've argued for one hierarchy over another. And I've argued against the anarchy of home church. (No, these are not in chronological order.)

I've arrived, through all this mess, to the place I'm almost unwilling to argue against anything. (I'll still argue for lots of stuff, though. :-) )

The body of Christ is too complex and wonderful for me.

She responds very well to leadership. She responds very well to freedom. She responds very well to anything around which her members can unite, which is to say anything that does not inherently create confusion. And somehow, when placed in swirling confusion, she can create some amazing and beautiful order.

She can also be crushed by leadership. She can also be starved in freedom. She can also fail in the middle of the most unity-centric, ordered care imaginable.

Whatever else she may be, the body of Christ is far, far beyond mortal understanding. I suspect the bio-spiritual dance of the children of the Living God demotes the mystery of HSPs to elementary school levels. And I used to think I had it all on a string in my 20's.


The best I can do is prepare myself to behave properly within her, give my best to her, nourish myself on the purest milk and meat I can find, and then love her wherever I may find her.

Anything else is certainly beyond me.

15 November, 2008

Child's Play

I'm refering to Calvinism and PreMillenial Dispensationalism and Ecclesiology and all their brothers, sisters and cousins.

It's just a feeling I have right now, and not really a definitive thought, but I thought I'd articulate it anyway.

There's a chance I could be investigating a new church in a few months. My current church is wonderful, but my circumstances might make such a move practical. You know how I am about attending the church closest to my home.

As I considered what this might mean, one of the things that crossed my mind was that the new church I'd most likely consider is anti-Calvinist. This little detail reminded me of the awkwardness of starting at my present church in 2005. I awkwardly explained to the pastor that I was a Calvinist, Amillenialist, and home-churcher. I was happy that he was willing to let me be all those things in his church.

Doing that all again was unappealling.

And then I thought back on all the problems my Calvinism had caused in my present church. There was ... Well, really there just wasn't. Aside from the fact that I'd mentioned my Calvinism, it had never caused a single problem. I'm at peace with each person's need to choose God, so it doesn't trouble me when people use that form and formula for describing conversion. I think they need to believe God holds them by His unfailing choice when troubles crash in on them, but they are usually happy to believe that, too.

And so it happened that I had the thought that maybe I'm not much of a Calvinist any more. I still believe Calvin was right in most of what I've heard he said, but that doesn't make me a Calvinist. I still believe the key points of Arminius' disagreements with Calvin were in error, but that belief doesn't define my relationship to anyone.

When I call myself a Calvinist, I don't mean to separate myself from anyone but I absolutely do define my relationship to them. I commit us to starting our acquaintance adversarially. And that does not seem like a good idea.

So, I thought some more. It would be awfully convenient for me to find an excuse, any excuse really, to hide my true beliefs. That kind of dishonesty calls for deeper rationalizations. :-)

I thought about my current small group in this church. We meet weekly, and I'm not sure I've ever felt the need to make a specific point of my beliefs on Christ's return or how our hearts first learn to trust God. That's a lot of weeks and a lot of arguments and a lot of not once needing to base my contributions to that group upon the fact that I'm a Calvinist. It turns out, week after week the most important thing is knowing Christ and knowing my brothers and sisters and speaking and hearing wisdom as best I can.

(Maybe I'm becoming a Peoplist?)

I would not trade my knowledge of doctrine for ignorance. I just think maybe doctrine's a good thing to "do" in your youth. A real understanding of what God does and why is a great foundation and launching point for life. Knowing that God saves and then we are saved has been a tremendous comfort and compass for me. And I gleefully admit that I don't have a lock on any doctrine. I could be wrong or right for the wrong reasons, and I'm certainly lacking a lot understanding even of the things I know. Still, I have the basic comfort and compass of knowing the broad outlines of God's motions through history, and my part in them. That knowledge of the Eternal One has been a timely salvation for me over and over again.

It's just that I'm not cut out for dedicating my whole life to such knowledge. I'm cut out for caring about people, and giving my life to the Lord through them.

The most important thing a baby lion can do is play. One day that play will enable him to lead a pride and hunt massive wildebeests and elephants. Even so, my play at doctrine in my teens through thirties taught me to use the scripture as a man - to edify and heal. The people who taught me to make war with doctrine did me no favors, mind you, but the ones who taught me to seek the mind and ways of God showed me the way forward into His mercy.

Doctrine was life to me, just like play once was. I still play and I still study doctrine, but I seem to do both less and less.

I think it's a good thing.