Monday, October 25, 2010

A call for moratorium on "brokenness"

I am no theological expert, and I'm not even that great at memorizing scripture. I'm a sinner like everybody else, but I've been saved by grace through faith in Jesus' precious atoning blood shed on the cross for my sins.

That said, as I desire to grow closer to God, I am constantly looking to be more and more biblical in my life- the things I think, say, and do. On more than one occasion that has led me to awareness of flaws in the modern Church and the way we do things in Christianity as a whole.

One of the things I've noticed is how we are moving toward more post-modern and emergent language in churches. It's like we've become too afraid of offending people to just call disobedience to God "sin". The popular word to use now is "brokenness" and I just don't think it accurately portrays how devastating our transgressions are to a perfect and Holy God.

Jesus is not merely a cosmic Mr. Fix-It character who comes and tweaks some loose screws to make us better. He is God come in flesh, condescended to manhood, crucified on a cross to blot out the stains we could never cleanse ourselves. We don't need "tweaking", we need salvation!

In language, words have meaning, and an accurate portrayal of those words makes all the difference in how we perceive what is being said. If you do a word search of the Bible, you'll find that the term "broken" is most used in reference to having a broken or contrite spirit, people being brokenhearted over sin, or in God breaking and punishing His enemies. We don't see sin portrayed as us being broken, but instead bluntly stated as a grave offense against God.

"But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. "
James 1:14-15

Why then, do we substitute "sin" with "brokenness"? People have understood sin in that three-letter word for thousands of years, but we somehow have decided that it just doesn't work for us anymore, that we know better than the inspired words from God? I wonder if it's more an issue of the church being too afraid to boldly proclaim God's law, and the Gospel. When we do so properly, we cannot avoid the issue of sin; it must be addressed directly, and explained so people understand what it means.

"For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it--he righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
Romans 3:20-26

I believe substituting "sin" with "brokenness" does not allow for people to understand the full gravity of their transgression against God. It is dishonest to only give people part of the picture, and cowardly to care more about appeasing others than the state of their souls for eternity. How can we properly repent without knowing the full weight of our sins, and how can we truly appreciate the extent of Jesus' sacrifice and the gift of forgiveness and grace if we don't understand what we have been saved from?

So I hereby call for a moratorium on the terms "broken" and "brokenness" in churches. I pray that pastors would be bold enough and love others enough to give them the full biblical picture, that they would desire their flocks have meat and not only milk. I pray that in our evangelism efforts we would be completely honest and not gloss over things that may be offensive and risk that the person may never understand and come to true repentance.

I would like to clarify that I am not saying you can never use another term besides "sin". The Bible uses other words as well. What I am saying is that we should rely on scripture first, and take to heart that, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (2 Tim 3:16-17) It is beneficial to expound on "sin" and make known to people the law so they may see what sin truly is before they hear the good news of the Gospel. May we never be so arrogant as to think that we have found a new and more relevant way of doing things than God gave us in His Word.

"If you really long to save men’s souls, you must tell them a great deal of disagreeable
C.H. Spurgeon


Barbara said...

Hi there! Got here through Chris Rosebrough's twitter feed.

I agree with your frustration, but it seems that what we need is a moratorium on the misuse, rather than the use of the word "Brokenness". I say that because Voddie Baucham gave a very powerful message on Brokenness, expositing Psalm 51, at the True Church Conference at Grace Life Church in Muscle Shoals, AL last year during their conference entitled, "The Grace of Repentance." He makes the point that true worship is impossible without (true) brokenness - and the degree of worship that brokenness inspires. It's available on a youtube search for "Voddie Baucham Brokenness" and very much worth the time to watch. I have ordered it from the AnchoredInTruth website and had opportunity to share it with some folks, and have had the great joy to see a heart being transformed afterward.

Grace & Peace,

Anonymous said...

You shouldn't replace the word 'sin' with 'brokeness'. Brokeness is in reference to the conviction you feel over sin, not the sin itself. You should not call to stop using the word brokeness, when used in it's correct context, as every Christian should be broken over their vile, didgusting, ans heinous transgressions against an almighty, sovereign, and holy God.

Mrs. Sewell (Professional Wife and SAHM) said...

AMEN! Excellent post! I couldn't agree more!

Soli Deo Gloria!
Crystal <><

Courtney said...

To those who misunderstood the post- I think a pastor using the term "broken" in the biblical context is fine (I mentioned places this occurs). This post is focused on those who are misusing the term and as a result misleading people about the gravity of their sin. Those who do not use the term correctly should stop using it in the wrong context.

Frank Rue said...

Courtney -

Excellent post. I couldn't agree more. And I think you are very clear in the use of "brokenness" to which you voice objection.

Keep contending!

Amy2 said...

Excellent post and thank you!
We must also not forget that the word "brokeness" is not even in the Bible!

Many people ask God to break them, but this is not biblical. They are looking to do their own sanctifying, but sanctification is purely by God.

Let's take a "break" from brokeness!

Sharon said...

The misuse of "brokenness" the way you describe switches the roles of "active sinner" to "passive victim" of his/her sin. That seems to put more emphasis on trying to ease the sting of sin's consequences without confronting the sin. I could go down a few rabbit trails with this, but am I somewhere in the ballpark?

Courtney said...

Yes, you're in the ballpark with your supposition. The concern is that when we minimize sin we also minimize the need for repentance and for Christ as our savior.

Matthew said...

You are a good writer, but as a Reformed Baptist, I can’t say as I have ever heard the word ‘broken’ or ‘brokenness’ replacing the word sin. What circles or groups misuse this word so that you want to call a moratorium on the word?

The word is used frequently in the Scriptures, as you mentioned, in relation to having a broken spirit and a broken heart, and this is in connection with realizing one’s sin.

You expresses yourself very well, but I wonder if you are fighting a battle that doesn’t exist? Or perhaps I am just not in or aware of those circles that use this term that way.

Grace to you,

Courtney said...

Matthew, thank you for your comment. The Reformed Baptists I know usually haven't heard the term "brokenness" misused. I heard it at my church when Chris Rosebrough happened to be attending. I wrote the post after having a discussion about it with my husband and Chris.

I find it is most commonly misused when a pastor is attempting to be "relevant" to the culture or when they maybe don't want to "offend" people. Churches with very solid biblical preaching probably don't see the problem nearly as much.

If you look at some of the emergent or "missional" churches, you'll see "sin" replaced with alternative words such as "brokenness". I think you probably have to live in an area where these churches are active, or attend one like it to see the problem. I don't think I'm fighting a battle that doesn't exist, since I have personally seen it happen. It concerns me that people are not being properly shown their sinful natures, and makes me worried about how they can truly appreciate Christ's sacrifice if they really don't think they're that bad.

sharon said...

Hello once again,

I commented on Nov 2. and noticed another comment and your response. There are common phrases like, "Broken people do broken things" or "Now, now, a little grace here, he/she is living out of a wounded heart." There is no denying life's experiences do have an impact on how we respond and live. Yet, again, it obscures the fact that people sin, because they are sinners. I cannot bring myself to say brokenness or woundedness is responsible for my sin. If that is the case, I'd have to ask who "wounded" or caused Adam and Eve to be broken that they had no choice but to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Thanks for the topic.