Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Church vs. Chapel

This blog is based off what was said at the Crichton Chapel on 8-22-07:

I would say that our speaker was amazing today. His brilliantly sarcastic approach delivered with thunderous yet easy impact the truth about the difference between Christianity and religion, a favorite subject of mine. His point (paraphrased): Christ came to give us life, not religion. Don't be religious. As he put it, "Religion will make you so stuffy that your own mother won't want to be around you." Oh, and did I mention that he called Paul a "religious smartass" before meeting Christ on the road? That was hilarious in its wonderful mixture of honesty and truthfulness.
I would say all of that...but I cannot, because (according to A.T.) the point of chapel is not the message.
Before we were delighted to our guest speaker's wondrous discourse, A.T. had a statement to make. Apparently (God knows who), some people are under the horrid delusion that chapel is supposed to be like church. Well guess what: it's not. That was A.T.'s point: chapel is not church. And exactly what makes chapel "not-church"? These were A.T.'s qualifications:
  1. There is a time of music and worship, but that is not the point of chapel.
  2. There is a message, but that is not the point of chapel.
  3. Chapel is to glorify Christ.
  4. Chapel is to reconcile people to each other through glorifying Christ in what is said and done during chapel.

Points one and two are bizarre by themselves: if the music and message are pointless, if our time of worship and edification (of giving back to and receiving from God) are fundamentally irrelevant to chapel, then what is their purpose? Are they subterfuge? Are they cliche? Are they just there? Since the context of these qualifications is in regards to how chapel differs from church, we can assume that giving to and receiving from God are meaningful in church, but in chapel they are...what? There is no answer given.

Point three is mind-boggling. Remember: the context of these qualifications is in regards to how chapel differs from church. If the point of chapel is to "glorify Christ," we are left to assume by inference that the point of church is not to glorify Christ. This makes absolutely no sense.

Point four is a complete contradiction of the whole set of qualifications. How exactly can we glorify Christ through what is "said and done" in chapel if what is "said and done" in chapel (i.e., the music and/or the message) is irrelevant? There lies the contradiction: points one and two have already established that what is said and done in chapel is irrelevant to the purpose of chapel, and yet point four says that the purpose of chapel is to reconcile ourselves to each other by glorifying Christ through what is said and done. That completely negates what was previously said.

The larger issue here, of course, is a question that has plagued this school for years now: what is chapel? According to what A.T.'s statement, it is and is not about what is said and done, and (as opposed to church) is about glorifying Christ. Um...what?

I am surprised that such a school as Crichton, which hails that it challenges its students to "Think Critically, Grow Spiritually, Change the World" is not thinking critically about this. If we were in a class room setting with one of our illustrious professors, and the question was presented "What is chapel," there would be a required reading of the history of the word and idea of chapel as well as the history of the usage of chapel throughout church history: how did chapel originate? How did the Church use it? What did the Church Fathers or authorities say its use was? How did they differentiate it from a regular church service? Did they differentiate it from a regular church service? What biblical backing is there for such conclusions? What has church history and authority said about chapel? If we came back to said professor with a response like A.T.'s, we would flunk, and flunk hard.

As a disclaimer, I should say that it is possible that A.T. was told to say something at the last minute, and that he tried to articulate what is very hard to say, i.e., what is chapel. What this incident demonstrates, however, is that the answer to that question is not as easy as some would assume. Any attempt to make a simple, cliche answer results in a quick slide into the ridiculous.

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