Volume 18 Issue 11
Creative destruction is a term coined by Joseph Schumpeter in his work entitled Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942) to denote a process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one (investopedia.com).
The idea of creative destruction is not limited to economic jargon. The phrase is probably becoming overused, but nevertheless it is heard more and more in discussions of American culture and may well describe one of the fundamental issues facing the whole of society. Sometimes new things are created without giving thought to the consequences of how the new things or new systems destroy the old. In many cases, destroying the old may be a good thing; however, novelty does not always equate improvement.
I am writing this article having just put down the September 16, 2008 issue of the Wall Street Journal with its ugly headlines about the shocking negative influence the bankruptcies and the speculative investing and sub-prime mortgage-buying of certain U.S. and U.K. financial institutions is causing on the world market. The shoe has hit the floor. When the U.S. Congress canceled regulatory controls (during the Clinton administration) on the banking and investing industry, based on the premise that the wise and gentle, good-ole monetary elitists (both democrats and republicans) could control themselves, be fair, and prosper while still taking care of the average Joe, the rules changed. And as always it seems to be the case, they play, and you, the average person, pay. The Main Street man was exploited by the creatively positioned economic structures of Wall Street that have jettisoned America into the largest financial crisis in more than 100 years.
Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board Alan Greenspan has repeatedly discussed the implications of creative destruction, saying The problem with creative destruction is that it is destruction, and there is a considerable amount of turmoil that goes on in the process. Certainly, America is living out the turmoil of the creativity of our financial geniuses, to borrow a characterization from Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. The figures are accumulating rapidly as daily companies are issuing more dreaded news releases. Lehman Brothers $639 billion bankruptcy and $700 billion evaporation of retirement plans and government pension funds are a fraction of the staggering numbers.
The application of the creative destruction principle is helping frame the debate in issues of technology as well. For example, we are just beginning to ask, what are we losing by embracing new forms of communication? Take e-mail. I use it, I like it, I am not suggesting that we stop using it. However, everyday I must acknowledge that the romance, beauty, warmth and feeling of handwritten notes have been destroyed. What a loss! I have a box of my mothers handwritten notes. How does that compare to e-mail stored on a hard drive? What limited joy it would be to find a hard drive of Abraham Lincolns e-mail as compared to finding his personally penned notes written to a friend. And what about love letters from when my wife was 16, single, and jotting down her feelings? When the envelopes are opened, even after 45 years, one can still smell the slight trace of perfume. That is sweet.
Speaking of creative destruction, what about the issues surrounding gene manipulation, DNA research and abortion? Although these advances represent an amazing increase in the knowledge base, they subsequently represent destruction. We gain this or that, but we lose something in the process. In time, two profound questions emerge. First, what is lost? Second, is it worth it?
The Wall Street Journal issue referenced above had an interesting below the fold secondary headline. It read, Old-School Banks Emerge Atop New World of Finance. It is insightful that the institutions that maintained basic core values, even when huge profits were being amassed by others, are now winning the day, emerging atop the new world of finance. Well, of course!
I fear that creative destruction is attacking the Church. It deconstructs, then reconstructs. It tosses aside Bible doctrine. It smashes the core values of Christianity. It rewrites definitions and codifies new language all in the hope of capturing new markets and breaking free from the perceived restrictive core values and Apostolic doctrine that some feel limit innovative methodology and ultimately revival. The Emerging Church crowd, for example, suggests that it is time for a new understanding of truth. They creatively advocate a mosaic sense of truth or truths gathered from all religions, not just Christianity. Jesus is good, but not the doctrine of IN CHRIST ALONE.
Let us create, they preach, a new day, a new way, a progressive approach that frees us from the Bible. The Bible, they argue, is intended to be a living document anyway. All smart people, they mock, know that it is, especially in terms of its minutiae, unreliable. Furthermore, the Spirit is speaking new things to new prophets and new apostles.
Clearly, change (whatever that means) sells. It sells politically and it sells within the Church. Modernity and progressiveness have become values that usurp the Spirit in matters of direction. Numbers and popularity are accepted as indication of success. Spiritual discernment and perspicacity have been replaced with business acumen.
Despite the allure of creativity, the Church must resist the destruction of its message because therein lies the ultimate hope. The Apostle Peters Day of Pentecost Sermon revolutionizes the atmosphere wherever it is preached because it strikes at the issue of sin and demands repentance. It is core. It is the basic premise and doctrine of Christianity. No departure from it can be allowed. It must always be the first principle of our fellowship. The gift of the Holy Ghost changes everything. It is the source of the peace that all men crave, end of discussion. If we forsake the Acts 2:38 message we capitulate to institutional Christianity. We will no longer be independent from the religious systems that corrupted the pure message of Christ. Our creativity, our talent, our money, our personalities, our ideas are futile weaponry against the power of darkness, humanism, secularism, evil spirits and false doctrine.
One may spike his hair, whitewash his sneakers, tear his jeans, tattoo his forehead, spike his tongue, publish the Bible in slang, lounge on a couch strumming a guitar, substitute bingo for prayer meetings, upload the latest YouTube hit, but without the power of anointed preaching there is no catalyst, no real change. Many things can be used to advance religion, or individual ministries, but only what was preached in the Upper Room on that Pentecostal morning will further the Church. Ultimately, style changes. Chasing cool is an elusive task. The innovations of today will look foolish to tomorrows innovators, probably as foolish as our financial geniuses dealing in sub-prime mortgage bungling.
Soon the revival headline will read, Old-School Values Emerge Atop the New World Revival! because God does not traffic in untruth. He hates all lies, including dishonest living, and He does not dwell in unclean temples. Should the church flee negativity, hurtful politics, self-righteousness and legalism? Of course! Should the church be creative, fresh and open to new ideas? Of course! But perhaps, through prayer and fasting, we can be innovative while resisting imitation. God forbid that our creativity becomes creative destruction.