I am blogging my way through Elton Trueblood’s book, “An alternative to futility”. So far we have looked at his argument that we need a movement that embodies the faith in redemptive societies, that these societies need to be adventurous experiments and that this movement needs a particular kind of membership. Today we look at Chapter 4 entitled, “The recovery of discipline“.

He starts the chapter with a quote by a counsellor,

“The kindly way of well-bred people who welcome all in their company who have a sense of humour and don’t raise their voices when they talk – seems an inadequate basis of maintaining membership in a movement which claims to be revolutionary in its impact.”

What do you think about this quote? Do you agree? Where have you seen this work or not work?

I personally think the work done in sociology regarding centred and bounded sets can be helpful here. Trueblood desribes the two tensions of dogmatism and empty freedom and the continuum between these two poles.

He then describes the distinct disciplines of different groups and states,

“There is not one unique feature that can be predicated of the practical life of the average member of the Protestant church … It is not a forgone conclusion that they are scrupulously regular in attendance at anything ..” p85.

Elton reckons that in the wake of secularisation the church became captive to a success ethic, which translates faithfulness to growing numerically. In order to attain this,

“Members are eagerly accepted in order to swell the rolls and give an appearance of success, when there is no serious attention to either belief or conduct. This way lies the very futility to which a redemptive society should provide an alternative”.p87

Which alternative communities have you seen or experienced?

Trueblood calls the lack of discipline “our popular cult of freedom”.p87

He explores different communities and their rules of life in the rest of the chapter and then surmises that they share similarities,

Firstly, “All agree,…, in the importance of of absolute faithfulness in both public and private worship.”
Secondly, “Another point of agreement is the emphasis on solitude”.
“A third point of agreement concerns silence, especially group silence”.
“A fourth point of agreement among experimenters is the necessity of social concern. The whole disciplinary enterprise is a failure if it succeeds only in producing people who cultivate their own private spirituality”.

He ends the chapter with a suggested “minimum discipline”,

– Worship
– Solitude
– Silence
– Humanity, ‘the concerned Christian must be identified with the sufferings of his fellow men and active in the lifting of burdens wherever found”.p.102
– Austerity

What would a minimum discipline look like for your community of friends?