The law of capability

By Dave Henning / July 22, 2014

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”- Galatians 5:1

Tullian Tchividjian begins Chapter 3 (“Confessions of a Perfomancist”) of One Way Love with a discussion of the negative, even vicious, demands of performancism.  Performancism is a world in which successes aren’t really successes- they’re simply nonfailures.  One of Pastor Tchividjian’s favorite teachers called this “the law of capability”.  It’s a law that judges us unworthy if we’re not capable, can’t handle everything life throws at us, or don’t meet our own or other’s expectations.

Paul Zahl explained this “law” in his book Who Will Deliver us?  The Present Power of the Death of Christ:

“If I can do enough of the right things, I will have established my value.  Identity is the sum of my achievements. . . . In Christian theology, such a position is called justification by works.  It assumes my worth is measured by my performance.  Conversely, it conceals a dark and ghastly fear: If I do not perform, I will be judged unworthy.  To myself I will cease to exist.”

Legendary football coach Urban Meyer (now at Ohio State) once described building a winning football team as taking passion and energy.  Maintaining that success, however, was fatiguing.  Success became a beast.  Coach Meyer became, a reporter noted, ” a man who destroys himself running for a finish line that doesn’t exist”.

The good news, as St. Paul wrote in Galatians, is that Christ has set us free from that yoke of slavery.

Today’s question: In your previous ministry or vocation, to what extent did performancism dictate your actions?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Big-L or little-l law”

About the author

Dave Henning

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