Proper Christian

Below is a quote from the book Immanuel’s Veins by Ted Dekker, taken from pages 233-235 of the hardback edition. I’m a fan of Dekker’s writing and I enjoyed this offering as well. He writes a lot of action. Thrillers and fantasy stories. This book is set in the medieval age. The time of lords and castles and crusades and such. The conversation below is between a war hero and a bishop. The hero has encountered something beyond his special training, something that cannot be overcome with a show of human force. He determines it is evil and runs to the cathedral for divine help.

The bishop faced me, stern. “You never been baptized?”

“No.”

“You’re not Christian?”

“Of course I am.”

“But you aren’t a member of the body of Christ. You’re not in the church. So then you cannot be Christian.”

“I am a warrior for this church, fellow!” I tried to calm myself. “I have killed a thousand of her [the church’s] enemies. Forgive me, Your Eminence, but I must know how to defeat evil. I love the woman!”

“While I appreciate your loyalty to defeating Christ’s enemies, you’re clearly ignorant. You speak of love? I can tell you that passions of the heart have nothing to do with defeating evil.”

“Then what does?”

“Obeying the church. Fleeing immorality and washing your hands of all sin. Fastings, almsgiving, holy communion, repentance, unction; these will cleanse you. You must believe in the triune God, the death and resurrection of Christ, and the bride, which is the church today.”

“I don’t have time for all of that tonight. Come with me. You can expose this evil for what it is! Bring your crucifix and your holy book and help me strip [this man] of his charade.”

“He’s a Christian, you fool.”

“Then he’s an evil Christian who drinks the blood of innocents.”

That statement brought an immediate scowl to the bishop’s face, and I regretted making it. “No Christian can be evil,” he said. “They are cleansed by the church.”

“Please, I don’t know what makes a man good with God. I only know that I need you to rescue [the woman] from this evil. If I were a proper Christian, I would do it myself.”

Further down the page—

“So then, you will be able to help me?”

“We’ll see. With God’s grace, I think we can set you straight.”

“It’s not me I care about. It’s her. It’s him!”

“So you’ve said. We will dispel evil, I can promise you that.”

I tried to keep this from spoiling the book in the event you decide to read it. Even with its lack of action, this segment stuck in my head. I have thought about this off and on for days. I don’t think this conversation is too far-fetched to have today. Remove the old style of speech and this thing could have happened this morning. What do you think about the war hero and his coming to the church? How about the bishop, any thoughts on his answers to the war hero? Do you think evil was dispelled? How do you think this exchange relates to church today?

Do you feel like you’re not a “proper Christian” sometimes? What does it mean to be proper?

12 thoughts on “Proper Christian

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  1. Sounds like a fantastic book – I love reading Dekker’s stuff.

    Well, I wasn’t baptized for a few years until after I became a Christian. I wanted to actually understand it before I did it (imagine that!), which is pretty unpopular in the circles I run in. I also have a huge beard, which is weird in any circle. I don’t hope to grow up to live a “comfortable” or even “safe” life, which is pretty weird in the American Church. Heck, we were doing a pseudo-church assignment, and I swore I would only take a salary of $10k/year as our pseudo-missions minister. That’s definitely not Christian.

    But hey, who really wants to be proper anymore, anyway?

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    1. I think you hit on something when you wrote ” who really wants to be proper anymore, anyway?” There are many and varied ideas about what is proper floating around out there. Then there are at least as many ideas about not being those things. I think some of things you brought up were exactly what Dekker was figuratively pointing at with this exchange.

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  2. Definitely sounds like a good’n.
    From what I could gather from the excerpt- it seems like the Bishop wanted to play God, and parcel out what he deemed to be salvation. Meanwhile, the hero wanted to get in on the work- he wanted to care about the actual cause Christ cared about, and pour his life into that (instead of pomp and circumstance). But that’s just my take.

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  3. Even after drinking my coffee, I am still trying to process the conversation in the book. I think I am going to have to read it at some time. Mother’s Day is coming up. Please tell me this isn’t the sixth book in a septology.

    Interestingly enough, just after reading this, my oldest made some comments during our devotional about it being hard living in a Christian family because it is hard to live up to the example set by parents. I couldn’t help laughing because I do NOT consider myself a model parent. She and I have had enough head butting in the nearly 13 years of her existence, some of which involves decidedly improper Christian behavior on my part, to make me wonder if she is confusing me with some fantasy mother. I had to hug her for making such a sweet comment and assure her than the Christian walk for most people resembles a drunken pirate walking along the deck of a ship during a hurricane (or Captain Jack Sparrow’s normal walk). At least that is my story. So my daughter thinks I am a “proper” Christian, though I don’t see it at all.

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    1. This is not a book in a series although for Dekker fans there is some kind of slanted references to other series/characters.
      That is such a good compliment from your daughter. I agree the Walk for me is a little more of a shuffle.

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  4. It kind of reminds me of when Mychal despises David for not being proper and dancing so scandalously in front of the ark. Sometimes we need to just shove the ceremony and do the right thing.

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  5. As I read the excerpt, I could not help but think of the Pharisees. It seemed the bishop only cared about the outward signs of Christianity, the show. The warrior got right to the heart of what Jesus teaches us. Worry about cleaning the inside and the outside will be taken care of, too. It’s the whole ‘washing the outside of the cup and ignoring the inside’ thing.

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    1. That’s it. The bishop is pointing to a check-box type of theology that doesn’t actually cleanse the heart. He also tosses out the idea of love having anything to do with it. Thanks for reading.

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  6. Who, but God, determines what is, and is not, proper? Even more than the outward signs of Christianity that the bishop in the above excerpt was so concerned about, is that (at least here in the West) we are often more concerned about winning converts to our POV, than we are to Christ.

    Wrote a bit about this at my place today.

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