The framers of the US Constitution recognized three steps for sustaining liberty. Christians generally dislike the second step. That’s why our house is not in order.

The framers understood America is an experiment. Can a nation sustain liberty? They studied history and recognized no nation ever had. All eventually failed. So the framers came up with a solution—“a new order of the ages” (notice the American dollar bill: novus ordo seclorum). Three steps. Liberty must be won, ordered, then sustained.

Order is as old as Genesis. In the beginning, the earth was disordered mass (“formless and void”). God (Father, Son, and Spirit) ordered the disorder, creating a pristine yet primitive planet. He then created us to be the Son’s bride, further ordering the earth and becoming like Christ, our Bridegroom. This is how two become one—marriage.

Then Lucifer duped Adam and Eve. They fell (Gen.3). Pristine order began to reverse to chaotic disorder. Now our task is “toil and trouble” (Shakespeare). We must properly order disorder, rebinding creation to what it ought to be. That calls for religion.

Religion means to rebind. Hence, we see older faith traditions forming religious orders seeking to rebind a fallen world to what it ought to be. The most effective orders are modeled after the one Jesus was a part of—the order of Melchizedek (Heb.7:1-21).

The order of Melchizedek featured four offices. Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of El Elyon. In Genesis 14, he’s redeemer, refreshing Abram. He’s a prophet in blessing Abram with a message from God. Melchizedek is priest, prophet, redeemer, and king—a prototype for all religious orders as these are the four offices of Jesus.

These offices align with the gospel—creation, fall, redemption, and the final restoration. Priests (clergy) remind us of how the world ought to be (creation). Prophets point out what is disordered (the fall). They’re contrarians, playing devils advocate. Redemption is what God did—and we can do—to order a disordered world. As King, Jesus predicts what will come in eternity (the final restoration, pictured as a wedding banquet).

All religious orders (monastic, Celtic, Wesleyan, etc.) operate as circles. All four offices are included. These four order the church’s mission, the renewal of all things, including our freedom in Christ (Col.1:18-20). Freedom must be won and ordered to be sustained. The framers recognized this, even though many were not Christians.

The four offices also align with brain research. Priests and prophets reflect right hemisphere thinking, what neuroscientists call “the outside view” and “prophetic.” Redeemer and king reflect the left hemisphere, “the inside view.” Organizations that sustain innovation are ambidextrous, ordered around right- and left-brain leaders.

This is the order for any business seeking to sustain an innovation. Innovate is the Latin translation of the Greek renew. Yet 40 years of Harvard Business School research indicate few organizations have the insider/outsider ambidextrous structure to sustain innovation. Pixar, for example, lost its innovative culture over the last three years. It became insider. Outsiders, the prophetic (and often disruptive) voice, left the company.

This has happened in the faith community as well. The Roman Catholic Church had a prophetic office (popularly known as the Devil’s Advocate) but reduced it in 1983. A few Protestants circles included prophetic voices (e.g., Wesleyan Bands of the 1700s and the Clapham Sect), but that was long ago and far away.

Modern faith communities are not-for-prophet, so they’re not properly ordered. I see this on the local level. I tell friends I’m considering forming a religious order. They make a face. Ugh. They imagine Gregorian chants and robes. I tell them Jesus was part of an order. They make a face. Huh? We’re supposed to be like Jesus.

We see disorder on the national level. Decades of sexual abuse by Catholic priests have eroded the moral authority of the Catholic Church. Now evangelicals are also losing moral authority—and members. Recently, several megachurch pastors have resigned over alleged sexual scandals. It’s time we put our house in order.

G.K. Chesterton wrote that Americans imagine institutions as “cold and cramping things.”[1] Orders are institutions. They’re not cold. They keep renewal on track. The framers of the Constitution recognized this. The faith community ought to as well. If we don’t form religious orders, it’s unlikely we’ll get our house in order.

 

[1] G.K. Chesterton and Iain T. Benson, The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, Volume VII (Ignatius Press, 2004), 286.

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5 Responses to “Putting Our House In Order”

  1. Bob Snelling says:

    Rod Dreher advocates for a similar ordering of the overarching Christian community, beyond denomination, in his book “The Benedict Option” he says Christians, individually and corporately within the Church, cannot influence bigger things until we regain confidence that what we believe is the answer to the current “disordering” of our culture (he uses different words but I get it). We cannot, without that confidence, impact other individuals or institutions no matter how large or small. And, through quite a few of his chapters he offers ideas about how to relearn and then live confidently what we Christians believe. Dreher, too, suggests ideas about how we might first reorder then confidently be agents of changing the world.

  2. Brad McDonald says:

    Entropy is always taking its toll, exacting an energy tax on every process, things naturally move from order to disorder, randomness is always increasing. I frequently ask myself, “Is what I’m doing now just increasing the Entropy of the universe? And if so, why am I doing it?” It takes effort…and energy, upon which entropy will exact its relentless toll…on my part, our part, to put order into a system. Yes, it is time to put our house in order, no place like home to start that process. Left to its own devices, any system, any nation, any government, any church, any institution will let entropy do its thing and turn order into disorder.
    Thanks for the reminder that some of our revered and hallowed institutions are rapidly increasing in entropy and disorder right in front of my lazy eyes. And the realization that though my efforts to increase the order (decrease the entropy) of the systems and institutions around me will ultimately increase the entropy of the universe, only I can put my own house in order.

  3. Casey says:

    Mike. Thanks for this.

    Institutions are important. Got it. Agree.

    Evangelicals, being denomination free, by definition don’t embrace or have the same institutional authority. Got it.

    Catholics do have their house in order, if defined by being an institution. As do some other denominations. But here is the pain point. For many, including myself, that was the part (the big religious order house), that caused such skepticism.

    You mentioned sexual predators and the catholic church. With 300 priests (probably a small %) being brought up on charges, I would say that the abuse happened partly because these evil doers hid within the large order of the institution.

    Chesterton nailed it in how we imagine institutions. You say “The faith community ought to understand” that institutions keep renewal on track. It all sounds good. But I think simply pointing out the problem (over and over) doesn’t help.

    So, what is the solution?

  4. Mike Metzger says:

    Casey:

    The solution is in my column. Join a religious order, or what can be called a complete roundtable. This is what Rod Dreher is doing. This is what I’m helping companies and churches do.

    All religious orders operate like King Arthur’s Round Table. All healthy orders (and I agree that many orders are not healthy) include the four offices of Jesus (priest, prophet, redeemer, king). These four match the four offices of King Arthur’s Round Table (Merlin the wise sage, Dagonet the court jester or devil’s advocate, the noble knights (only noble because Merlin and Dagonet held their feet to the fire), and King Arthur. A healthy order doesn’t have to be Roman Catholic.

    Know any businesses with these roundtables? I know you’re familiar with the tragic end of the Arthurian legend. The king and knights eventually tire of Merlin and Dagonet pointing out unseen problems. The knights are blind – but don’t know it. Merin and Dagonet leave. Arthur’s kingdom collapses.

    My solution is as old as Genesis. Join, or form, a healthy religious order.

  5. Mike Metzger says:

    btw, I never said Roman Catholics have their house in order just because they think institutionally. They don’t have their house in order, as Pope Francis keeps pointing out. Thinking institutionally doesn’t guarantee you’ll create healthy institutions. On August 20, 1640, the Virginia colonists established their second institution – slavery (The House of Burgess was the first, established 10 years earlier). Slavery was called a “peculiar institution,” justifying its existence. We’d call it sin.

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