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Lone Ranger Christianity and Exception Obsession Syndrome

You know things are getting dark and wacky in America when a simple, clear (yet quite generic) call to encourage, pursue and support the building of the body of Christ on His terms as revealed in His word sends a fair amount of professing Christians – including many aiming to teach and lead others – into something of a tizzy.

Last month we made the following statement as the opening paragraph of a post on the Lone Ranger Christian phenomena:

Christians are to desire, seek, and encourage healthy local church bodies to serve in and biblically qualified elders to oversee them, submitting to those elders when God provides them. The perfect, sufficient Word of God lovingly makes this much very plain. (See Hebrews 13:17; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Acts 20:17-28; 1 Peter 5:1-4; and Titus 1:5 as some example reference points.)

Before we get into kicking around some reactions to this wildly controversial statement, let’s be clear about a couple of things:

  1. First off, we’re all works in progress and many who are advocating for Lone Ranger Christianity are some of my favorite people in the world. No joke. I love ’em, respect them and have benefitted mightily from what many of them have had to share on other subjects.
    .
  2. We’re all works in progress here. We’re all learning as we go and we all have to understand that whatever any one of us has in the way of accurate understanding regarding anything in God’s creation is itself a gift given us by the very same God who made the thing that we rightly understand. (For more on this, please read Never forget that apart from God’s grace you and I are complete morons.)

That said, I want to take a moment here to tackle one of the more bizarre/frustrating (to me, anyway) aspects or attributes that seems to very frequently attach itself to Lone Ranger Christianity advocates. By “very frequently” I do not mean “always”, though I will say that it’s become so thick and prevalent in interactions I’ve had and witnessed with scores of vocal Lone Ranger Christianity advocates over recent years that I’m beginning to view it as an almost-always-attached kind of deal. Which is one reason why I thought it might be worth addressing.

The “it” in question is what I’ve come to call Exception Obsession Syndrome.

Exception Obsession Syndrome manifests itself in several ways, but with one basic theme in play, that being the relentless pursuit of exceptions or alternatives to a position rather than dealing with said position head-on in a straightforward manner.

To some extent, I’d say we all use (and often should use) exceptions and alternatives to a position in order to contrast, juxtapose or make other sorts of valid points in a variety of ways. This is legit. This is normal. This is good.

And that’s not what I’m talking about here.

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That’s not what I mean by Exception Obsession Syndrome.

Exception Obsession Syndrome (EOS) is the appeal to exceptions, conveniently reshaped/reworked propositions and any other rabbit-trail alternative that can be concocted and chased after instead of dealing head on with what is actually being said by the person daring to tackle and correct core aspects of the Lone Ranger Christianity perspective.

EOS also inspires people to cite exceptions to (or direct violations of) rules that they don’t like in order to discredit/dismiss the rules themselves. Thus, when a Christian defends normative biblical prescriptions for things like local church elders and discipline, the Lone Ranger points to every corrupt, perverted example of unbiblical approaches to church leadership and discipline that they can find in order to critique biblical church leadership and discipline.

Having covered some basics pf EOS and having already shared the first paragraph from the post we recently made addressing some dangers of Lone Ranger Christianity, let’s have a look at the second paragraph from the same article:

This is the biblical norm. This is the rule, though, as with many rules, there may be exceptions for a particular season or in particular circumstances. These seasons and circumstances notwithstanding, it is the biblically prescribed norm nonetheless, and we should thank God for its clear presentation in His Word.

Now, just to give you the full opening in context, here are both paragraphs – the first two in the article – as they appeared together here last month:

Christians are to desire, seek, and encourage healthy local church bodies to serve in and biblically qualified elders to oversee them, submitting to those elders when God provides them. The perfect, sufficient Word of God lovingly makes this much very plain. (See Hebrews 13:17; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Acts 20:17-28; 1 Peter 5:1-4; and Titus 1:5 as some example reference points.)

This is the biblical norm. This is the rule, though, as with many rules, there may be exceptions for a particular season or in particular circumstances. These seasons and circumstances notwithstanding, it is the biblically prescribed norm nonetheless, and we should thank God for its clear presentation in His Word.

Please note that the bold print emphases above were not just added for the benefit of this post you’re reading now. That’s how they were presented from the get go. The bold print reference to “exceptions for a particular season or in particular circumstances“, for example, was there from the start.

But that didn’t prevent (or even slow down) the same old canned, prepackaged lines of defensive attack from being regurgitated and lobbed around. Diversions and distractions describing how I must be advocating or defending “mandatory local church membership” in order for a person to be considered “included in the body of Christ”, or some such similarly absurd contention, were made again and again and again and again in response to the above statement.

Really.

And, has sadly become the near-always norm in these contexts, these attempts at diversion were often accompanied by endless appeals to all sorts of approaches to church, religion, God, discipline, and leadership that I am not and have never defended or advocated in this or any other context.

“But what about [insert past abuse of authority in a structured religious setting here]!”

“And what about [insert past abuse of authority in a structured religious setting here]!”

“You’re basically a papist!”

“You’re an authoritarian!”

And stuff like that.

Early, often, and with eerie persistence.

There was accompanying ad hominem stuff too, and some ludicrous attacks on my local church body, but that’s not the kind of diversion/distraction we’re focusing on here.

The focus here is on the tendency of Lone Ranger Christianity advocates to go everywhere but to the clear, simple statement actually being made rather than dealing with it head on.

This is something to be aware of and prepare for as we mix it up in a hopefully helpful and productive way with those who are pitching a very destructive set of teachings on some very important subjects.

Again, let me emphasize that several in the Lone Ranger Christianity camp, including many who regularly display EOS, are some of my favorite people in the world. Really. Many of them have remarkably good and biblically sound things to share on many important subjects.

Even so, the positions they hold and advocate with regard to local church composition, leadership, and discipline are dangerous. Profoundly so. As such, they must be lovingly and firmly confronted and corrected in accordance with the Gospel-fueled Great Commission.

So the next time you see, hear, or personally share a simple, clear, accurate appeal to the Word of God as to how His body is to be built here on His earth, don’t feel any pressure at all to chase after the literally limitless number of rabbits that will be thrown out there to distract you (and anyone else reading/listening) from the crystal clear core point being made.

Don’t let the Lone Ranger Christianity advocate skirt the choke point and move on to more accommodating targets.

Don’t let ’em skip over the bottleneck and on to questions or positions they’re more comfortable dealing with (which they’re happy to craft themselves and attribute to you just to make things easy).

Don’t let ’em swap out your simple, clear statement for something fundamentally different and then argue against what they’ve concocted as though they’re actually dealing with what you’ve said.

Don’t let ’em run to the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Catholicism or Jim Jones or “Hey look, it’s Elvis!” in order to avoid what dealing with what they apparently know that they can’t deal with at all.

The true Church of Jesus Christ as defined in His terms and perfectly, sufficiently recorded in His Word is something we have been called and equipped to proclaim and model.

Even (and perhaps especially) in the face of Lone Ranger Christianity and its propensity toward Exception Obsession Syndrome.

Republished with permission Fire Breathing Christian


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About Scott Buss

I’m a husband, father, speaker, author, blogger and member of Christ the King Church in Middle Tennessee. Through my writing here at Fire Breathing Christian, I hope to equip and encourage Christians to better understand, proclaim, and apply the lordship of Christ in every realm of His creation.

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