Mark Galli: A Hidden Treasure

Yes, God transforms people, and many immoral lives are turned around by the power of the gospel. Sometimes it happens in an instant, but usually only after decades of struggle. The gospel remains the power of God to save. Yet in the church of the Crucified (versus the church of visionaries), we’re going to find a King David””that “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22) who still dabbled in adultery and murder. We’re also going to see a lot of weeds. And a lot of pious people who display impressive religious behavior and proven effectiveness””what’s more effective than casting out demons or doing mighty works? ””but don’t know Jesus.

Jesus told us not to judge who is in and out of the kingdom, lest we be judged. And he told us not to weed ahead of time, lest we pull out some wheat as well. Instead, he suggests we put aside our grandiose visions of what the church should be and learn to live in the church as the paradoxical thing it is.

That will mean, of course, that we’ll always mystify the scientific pollsters and visionary reformers. They’ll continue to point to survey after survey and conclude that the church looks pretty much like the rest of the world, and they’ll continue to wail and beat their breasts. That’s because they do not have eyes to see the treasure lying hidden in the cracked and decayed earthen vessel called the church.

I am with Mark on the brokenness and earthiness of the church, but this is too Protestant. There needs to be also a sense of the church as a sign of contradiction as the Roman Catholics understand and too many of us do not. Read it all–KSH.


Posted in Ecclesiology, Theology

8 comments on “Mark Galli: A Hidden Treasure

  1. DonGander says:

    He has some excellent points, such as: “Jesus told us not to judge who is in and out of the kingdom, lest we be judged”, is exactly how I see that Scripture as reading. But, like you, I go cold with his indifference to sin within the Church.

    But, Mr. Harmon, his is not the Protestantism that I grew up with! We were accountable to each other in the Church. Being accountable and repentant before a man is much easier than being so under the gaze of the Almighty. We were expected to, at the minimum, be lovers of the Ten Commandments. Spiritual groth was expected.

    I believe that the one message to the people of this age is the one where Jesus ask His followers, “Why do call me, ‘Lord, Lord’, but don’t do as I say?” (my version)

    Where is faith without obedience? Where is love without faith? Where is forgiveness without gratitude? Where is repentance without an Almighty God?

    How can we, Protestant or not, who have tasted His broken flesh and drank His sinless blood, look just like the world?

    I know that I feel a stranger in evangelicalism today, but I am not changed. Protestantism has changed. I just don’t think that the problem is “too Protestant” as you suggest.

  2. TonyinCNY says:

    Mark and his family were members of St. Mark’s in Glen Ellyn, IL when I was asst. there. He renounced his Presbyterian ordination to be confirmed in pecusa. I don’t know where the Gallis are members after the Anglican crisis hit St. Mark’s.

  3. Harvey says:

    #1 You got that right!

  4. MikeS says:


    I think I’m missing something here. Maybe it’s the fading Protestant in me. What did you find too Protestant about Galli’s essay and what were you referring to when you spoke of the Catholic view of the church as a sign of contradiction?

    Most Protestants that I know view their church as a bulwark against the tides of culture, even as they get overrun by culture. Many of them even work hard at taking stands that contradict the stream of their culture in many ways.

    So I think I’m missing something important in your critique of Galli that is clear to you, but not so clear to me. Could you explain a little more what it was that you saw?

  5. RobSturdy says:

    Speaking strictly in terms of culture, I remain unconvinced that traditional Christian morality helps the Church stand apart from culture or is in any way provocative and/or alluring to people immersed in culture (whether it be postmodern or modern culture).

    I am unconvinced that traditional Christian morality helps the Church stand apart from culture because, to put it quite frankly, there is a strong argument from non-Christian men and women who displayed stronger moral vitality than their Christian counterparts. The Christian Church has many wonderfully impressive moral examples, but they do not stand apart from their secular or other faith counterparts. Rather than set apart, they are grouped together as fine examples of the “good” moral life. Surely the culture at large has, morally speaking, lost its way, yet Christianity through morality alone does little to set itself atop the hill through good behavior.

    Because of the first point (Christianity is not distinguished by morality alone), the second point is nearly self-evident. If Mother Teresa can be grouped easily with Gandhi because they are both fine moral examples, then what is particularly provocative about Christian morality? In what way is it a distinguishing mark?

    Please don’t get me wrong, I believe that the Holy Spirit through sanctification will distinguish the elect in special and provocative ways. One of these ways is of course both a redirecting of the moral compass, with the subsequent spiritual strength to follow the course that this compass sets before us. Yet I do not believe (as should be obvious by my previous remarks) that morality is the principal means of distinguishing the Church from culture and making provocative to culture the Christian faith.

    What then gives the Church that beautifully distinguishing characteristic found on the “city on the hill”? Simply put, it is grace. Grace is what is learned at the altar, not discipleship. The flesh and blood of Christ after all were “broken for you,” and “shed for you.” No amount of morality or Christian accountability will ever change those words. Yet within those words we learn something that is truly provocative, and truly distinguishing.

    First we learn that if the body was broken for me, and the blood shed on my behalf, it must have been done for a reason. This shatters my illusions of self-sufficiency and moral excellence. In this sense, rather than distinguishing the Church from culture, we immediately lump them both together, for Christ died for the sins of the world. Here we will not accept your good works, your faithful attendance in church, your clean appearance or your stable marriage. The executive in the suit, with the pretty wife and well behaved children is no better than the drug addict sitting in the back pew because the body is broken for each of them, the blood shed for both. Who else within this culture fails to see the difference between the outwardly righteous churchman and the outwardly sinful addict? Only the Christian Church says on the inside both are the same, both need grace, both need the blood of the cross. This is distinguishing. It is immediatly provocative.

    Secondly, and here is where I believe we are to be at our most provocative, our most distinguished, is though the churchman and the addict are equally deserving of wrath, both receive mercy through a very costly sacrifice. Knowledge of that costly sacrifice will change their lives. But it will not change their lives to the extent that they will lead “good” moral lives, (though this is clearly an effect of such knowledge 2 Pet 1.9), but they will begin to lead lives of grace, reconciliation, forgiveness and mercy. In the North American capitalist culture, a culture obsessed with blame and punishment, where you always get what you deserve, this is truly provocative and counter-cultural. My apologies for the length of this post.

    Robert Sturdy

  6. DonGander says:


    You’ve an interesting treatise there. I hope that someone else can do it justice. The only thing I have time to say about your ideas is that you have left out one particular thing. It is the one thing that, as I read Scripture, make more difference to God than anything else that we do – that is “faith”. You should probably add faith to your equasion somewhere.

    Also, you say, “Grace is what is learned at the altar, not discipleship.” Well, I’m not sure if what I learn is that exclusive or not but if what you say is soley true then the 12 disciples should have been called “12 Gracians” or something.

    Like I said, I hope that someone else does it justice.

  7. RobSturdy says:


    Thank you for a kind and thoughtful response. I found your comments particularly helpful in clarifying my thought. You are right to call me out on not featuring faith more prominently. I failed to mention it I believe primarily because I was trying to find a distinguishing mark of Christianity over and against culture. As I said before I believe this is primarily grace. Soteriologically, you are quite correct. We are saved through our faith in the grace of God revealed through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Our faith, and the salvation resulting from it, are invisible marks that distinguish us before God. My only correction to your statement is that faith is not “something we do” but something that the Holy Spirit does in us (1 Cor 12.3; Eph 2.8-9). As it is a gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12.9), our only distinguishing mark before God remains not of our own, but a gracious gift from Him. Before men, you and I both remain sinners whom God has had mercy on with nothing to boast of in ourselves.

    You are also right that I was too quick to make the Eucharist “exclusive.” I will try and incorporate the issues at hand, and at least present my understanding of them, however inadequate. Concerning discipleship and the Eucharist, I think it may be helpful to distinguish between the quickening and strengthening of a disciple at the altar, as different from but not opposed to the witness of the sacrament to the heart as a “sign of grace.”

    What is taught at the altar, in my understanding, is the witness of the sacrifice of Christ’s redemption. The lesson is grace. Those of us who take our sins seriously (I presume you and I both!) have difficulty placing firm faith in the sufficiency of Christ’s death on the cross, and would at times rather put our trust in our own feeble righteousness. For me this is not an active belief in my own righteousness, but at times an inward terror at the blackness of my own heart, where I cannot but wonder if a Holy God would indeed receive me in fellowship, much less adoption. This is a conclusion born only on reliance in our flesh. Otherwise, why would I fear if I were FULLY relying on His sacrifice? To combat this temptation of Satan, God as a wonderfully gracious gift, has given us the body and the blood, tangible evidence, a witness that the precious sacrifice was indeed offered once and for all for the forgiveness of sins. It is our assurance, our “wedding band” to remind us that we are indeed betrothed, and that the bride, no matter how adulterous (or to use contemporary language, slutty!), will not be abandoned by the Bridegroom.

    As for discipleship, a topic of great importance, I would say that it is an outward working of a lesson learned deep within the heart. The lesson is grace, grace applied is discipleship. The witness of the God’s love for the ungodly (Rom 5.8) through the breaking of the bread, quickens and strengthens the heart, and allows the believer to live for others in the same way that God has lived for him (the believer). Look closely at 2 Pet 1.9 and see why the Aposlte believes people are not living as “disciples.” It is because they have not learned or have forgotten the lesson of grace (though admittedly the altar is not mentioned in this discourse).

    Finally I’m quite happy to call them the 12 “Gracians,” “or something” ☺. There is much scriptural support for the understanding that disciples are not disciples by zeal or works, but by calling and grace. Yet rather than rattle off a list, I will simply leave this verse, and pray it strengthens you and I both! “By the Grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God within me” (1 Cor 15.10).
    Another long post. Forgive me, I had a double espresso with my dinner.

    I will pray for you and you pray for me! May the Holy Spirit increase our knowledge of these terribly important things so that we might be better ambassadors and servants of Him who loves us.

    Grace and Peace,
    Rob Sturdy

  8. DonGander says:


    I thank you for yor long note. I don’t mind the length at all. I should emulate your good communication but that does not seem to be my gift nor discipline. God has heard, however, my prayers on your behalf. To petition God to increase our knowledge of these terribly important things so that we might be better ambassadors and servants of Him who loves us is one of the most exciting things one can ever do in this life!

    After reading your post and after prayer, I want to ask what must surely seem a foolish question. My intent of this question is to explore your Biblical view of Man – who is Man and what is his purpose? I really ask that you try your best to do so with just a couple of sentences – I don’t need the details nor proofs, just a couple of sentences in your own words.

    Question: In Gen 2:19, Scripture reads: And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought [them] unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that [was] the name thereof.

    Why does it say, “to see what he would call them”? Didn’t an omniscient God already know what Adam would name the animals?

    Rob, it is my prayer that this question will open God’s plan for Man more fully to you. Depending on your theological background, it may well be a nearly impossible question for you to answer. But it is NOT a trick question.

    I am also thankful of your prayers for me. Very much so.