Regarding Responsible Reformation
by Al Maxey -------
Issue #49 ------- June 19, 2003
There was that law of life, so cruel and so
just, which demanded that one must grow
or else pay more for remaining the same.

--- Norman Mailer

An Extinction Theory

"Theories are a dime a dozen," a Psychology professor once declared to me in graduate school in a course on statistical analysis, and I think he makes a valid observation. Theories abound in virtually every area of life's endeavors. Some are well-known, like the Theory of Relativity and the Theory of Evolution. Others are more obscure. A theory, by definition, is simply an informed conjecture; "a formulation of underlying principles of certain observed phenomena which has been verified to some degree." Most all of us, at one time or another, develop theories about matters that may perplex us. Our attempted explanation of some "observed phenomena" may even later prove to be factual, and the principles born of theory may indeed prove foundational to our belief system. The testing of time tends to tell.

In his novel The Lost World, which was a sequel to the acclaimed Jurassic Park, Dr. Michael Crichton discusses the fate of the dinosaurs, and he explores how their extinction may well convey a warning to mankind today. This Extinction Theory is a fascinating one, providing some rich reflective material for the people of God. We would each do well to consider this theory seriously, at least to the degree it applies to our spiritual condition in the One Body.

The question posed in the book is this: Was the extinction of the dinosaurs caused by a sudden cosmic catastrophe which befell the planet, or was their extinction due to their behavior? The theory proposed in the book suggests that when a complex organism ceases to be responsive to its environment ... when it fails to adapt ... it will decline to the point of extinction. It is further suggested that only those complex organisms which change will ultimately survive. This does not mean the organism changes its true identity -- dinosaurs would remain dinosaurs -- rather, it suggests that survival depends upon elasticity. Simply put: Those complex organisms remaining rigid, unresponsive, and frozen in time and place become fossils -- lifeless monuments to the folly of inflexibility.

In Dr. Crichton's novel one of the characters suggested this could never actually happen to the human race; we are simply too intelligent. Dr. Malcolm, the theorist, replies, "What makes you think human beings are sentient and aware? There's no evidence for it. Human beings never think for themselves, they find it too uncomfortable. For the most part, members of our species simply repeat what they are told -- and become upset if they are exposed to any different view. The characteristic human trait is not awareness but conformity, and the characteristic result is religious warfare."

Dr. Crichton has shown remarkable insight into the human condition. He may also have touched a nerve religiously! Too many people professing the Christian faith are frozen religiously in the past. They have become fossilized in their practices and perceptions, repeating by rote the conclusions of their forefathers rather than delving deeply into the Word to ascertain Truth for themselves. Religious rigidity and contempt for change will tend to result in fossilization, both for individuals as well as movements and congregations. Fossils are a source of interest for those walking through a museum, but they have little relevance for those seeking meaning in their journey through life. Unless we, as disciples of Christ, are relevant to our times, the decline toward extinction is assured.

Fossilization is defined as "a state of being rigid; incapable of change" (Webster's Dictionary). Josh McDowell, in a recent book, declared, "The process of fossilization is itself an evidence of abnormal deposition." In other words, something has to be seriously "out of whack" for fossilization to even occur. Indeed, many scientists believe fossilization is linked with cataclysmic upheavals in the earth's distant past and that fossilization would never occur under normal geological development. Thus, McDowell's observation that fossilization is "evidence of abnormal deposition" is not without some scientific merit.

When people become fossilized with regard to their Christian faith and practice, this is evidence of "abnormal deposition." Something ... some how, in some way, at some time ... went terribly wrong. Rather than the normal evolution of thought and practice, resulting in relevance of Truth to one's time, one has become frozen in place. They become, at best, objects of interest, perhaps even amusement, locked away behind glass cases in dusty museums, irrelevent to the challenges of life faced by those around them. Irreverence will certainly result in our own destruction, but irrelevence will without doubt facilitate the ultimate destruction of others about us. Neither fossilized disciples nor fossilized dinosaurs have much impact on the world today. They are on view in fancy buildings built for their display while the world marches past their closed doors, hurting and confused and lost.

It is not likely dinosaurs will ever leave their museums, but there is yet hope for fossilized disciples. If we can break through the calcification encrusting their hearts and minds, get their life blood pumping again, and move them out of their buildings and into the surrounding streets and homes and marketplaces, we will witness the power of God's message of grace flowing through these servants to the lost. A dinosaur set free in a city will attract attention and cause a stir ... so also will disciples set free within a community!!

Reflections from Readers

From a Reader in Russia:

The World to you! Dear Al Maxey, I have got one issue of your material Reflections, and me this has interested. Elaborate, please, what church you belong? Material leaves in English only? I can communicate in Russian. Or by means of the electronic translator. If possible, send me your Reflections. Thank you.

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Bro Al, My what a lesson! I don't want hamburger or Coke on the table .... BBQ brisket and Root Beer, if you please!! I can see the bristle on the back of the neck of some of our brethern in the congregation here standing straight up at the mention of such a thing. Once more you have hit a home run, or charted the course straight down the middle of the runway. I just wish we had a magic bottle and could get our three wishes when rubbed. I would wish Reflections #48 would go to every Christian in the world at once! SO GOOD, SO GOOD. My prayer for you is -- May the Lord take a liking to you and keep you forever safe!

From a Reader in California:

Brother Maxey, Isn't it sad that in order to respond to legalism one almost has to employ their system of logic? It's the only kind of reasoning legalism can understand. I praise God for gifting you with the insight of grace that equips you to clarify the issues that trouble those who are trying to sort out the difference between legalism and grace.

From a Reader in Colorado:

I was asked to do the devotional before the Lord's Supper for tomorrow. After reading the passage of Scripture that is the theme for the worship, I went to the Reflections Archives to see what you had on the subject and I got a lot of good background for my preparation. I thank God that He has allowed you the opportunity to write and encourage our fellowship. Blessings to you!

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, I look forward with great anticipation to receiving each of your Reflections. Issue #48 was fantastic and I am anxious to share these thoughts with the families that meet at our house church. Thank you for the insights you provide. You are truly an encouragement to me and to many others.

From a Reader in Illinois:

Dear Brother Maxey, The church is swamped with radicalism and liberalism. Please include me in your mailing list for Reflections. Thank you!

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, I have been reading your articles for a few months now, and I find them insightful and interesting. I found #47 and #48 particularly interesting because you touched on issues that I have given a lot of thought. While I believe the Lord's Supper is a time for an individual Christian to reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made, I also believe it is a time for the members of His Body to enjoy a unique fellowship. I really have no one to discuss this with except the members of my family, because where I attend I definitely "go against the grain." I was sitting in a Bible class one Sunday when someone asked the teacher (who happened to be an elder) if they had ever considered the idea that we could partake of the Lord's Supper on other days than Sunday. His response was, "That is a stupid question, and I will not dignify it with an answer." That same elder told me that he would leave any congregation that allowed singing during the Lord's Supper. So you can imagine the response I would get if I brought up your thoughts about partaking of the Lord's Supper before, during or after a common meal! Thank you for your work through the Internet. I look forward to each article!

From a Reader in Mississippi:

In Reflections #48 you wrote, "Different does NOT equate to demonic! The Lord is just as much honored in our current practice and methodology as He was in theirs. With God, the nature of the heart is the focus, not the nature of the table top!" Al, that has got to be one of the most profound quotes from all of your articles. I believe that applies not just to the Lord's Supper, but in all manner of worship. That is something I have tried to stress time and time again, but keep meeting with fierce resistance. You know, all my life I had figured myself to be a religious conservative. After moving to the heart of the Bible Belt, I can see I was pretty much mistaken. I am quite liberal compared to some people here! Keep up the good work; you are in my prayers!

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