“Congruence Principle” and the Church of God

I’ve heard that the following principle attributed to Blaise Pascal as “Pascal’s Congruence Principle,” though I have been unable to wade through the mathematic formulas he used to arrive at the conclusion. In laymen’s terms it was described to me in the following statement from the perspective of a 2008 church leader:

It is impossible for a person (or organization) to live too long where there is incongruence between their belief and their behavior.

The resulting logic, according to Blaise Pascal’s mathematics, is that if you want to change someone’s behavior, change their beliefs. And, if you want to change someone’s beliefs, change their behavior.

As seen in only a singular issue, the resulting correlation to the Church of God is:

  • Since 1942, we have believed that the Evangelism and Home Missions Budget is to be spent on new field work and in the case of emergency, small church assistance.”

Unfortunately, our behavior is to spend those millions of dollars annually on whatever we want. In 2008, the Executive Council has now determined that we should no longer believe that and has proposed to strike this language which articulates our belief held for the past 66 years without striking the requirement to remit these funds.

I’d propose that if we are going to strike this language as we have already stricken this practice, we better head over to our mission and vision and also strike this pesky little statement under “Church Planting,” that says, “We commit to focusing designated resources of the local church, state/regional offices, and the international offices for planting new churches.”

What you are seeing is Pascal’s Congruence Principle in action on a grand scale.

There are a number of other issues that can be snapped in line with Pascal’s principle inside the Church of God. Perhaps, these behaviors illustrate the largest theme of incongruence between the behaviors and beliefs in the Church of God. The most frightening at this juncture may very well be the incongruence between the stated policy that the General Assembly is our highest governing body and the behavior that other bodies WILL HAVE the final say.

Congruency will be achieved eventually, either in the favor of our stated beliefs or in the favor of our practiced behaviors. I’m praying we live up to what we say we believe, repent for our broken covenant, and repair the decades of damage which has been passed down from one administration to the next.

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11 Responses

  1. Wow Travis… I hate math, but numbers don’t lie. I think you’ve got a sermon topic or two in there too. Not only could this principle be applied to the COG, but also to peoples’ personal Christian life.

    Do we really act on what we believe?? Usually, No. At least not on every issue. This issue with the EHM Budget is a larger symptom of the depravity of man.

  2. First let me throw out a big Amen!

    Thanks Travis for a thought provoking post and a stated truth that could be seen through the thickest fog.

    I must confess that I’ve seen both the good and the bad on this issue in my journey. When I was in San Francisco (www.hotdogchurch.com), the State supported my new work to a wonderful level both prayerfully and with funding. The State council and the overseer at that time were the best of the best.

    On the other side of the coin I’m here in N.C. planting a church and it’s seems to be the very opposite. There is prayer of course but the funding is nothing because of over spending. It seems the previous administration spent like wild fire and now there is nothing left for new church works. The administration that is in charge now is doing its best to turn it all back around and I look forward to when new church works can get the help they need.

  3. More preacher math…

    First: I would recommend to all of you Blaise Pascal as a Christian writer. His Pensees are a masterpiece, even though he never formally compiled them into a book. Although full appreciation of his Provincial Letters takes some background in Roman Catholicism, the issue he deals with–attacking “well respected” people (in this case the Jesuits) who are attempting to lighten up Christian morality to acheive greater acceptability. And they are an absolute scream as a satire.

    Now to the matter of congruence: my mathematical dictionary defines congruence as “a statement that two quantities are congruent.” That masterpiece of tautology leads to the definition of congruent: “Figures that can be superposed (placed one upon the other) so that they coincide.” That definition dates from Euclid, the father of geometry, who lived three centured before Our Lord walked on the earth.

    Things which are congruent are those which are basically together in every way. If our ways are congruent with our beliefs, then they are a perfect fit for each other. The result of that is transparency, both as believers and as a church.

    An old business associate of mine who is now President of Kissinger Associates gave a speech at a conference put on by the Fed in San Francisco last fall. He discussed the Asian Bank Crisis of 1997. One thing he emphasised is that, to help prevent repeats of crises such as this (to say nothing of what we’re going through now) Asian countries would have to adopt more transparent banking, financial and legal systems. This is common advice to developing economies. I’ve seen non-transparent systems in action and it isn’t pretty, as I found out here.

  4. correction — “centured” should be “centuries”

  5. The “Pascal’s Congruence Principle” is a mathematician looking at the world with numbers and logic. We all know that 1+1=2. That is because on both sides of the equal marks we have the value 2. Making the problem look more like this makes more sense 2=2. Within the Pascal’s Congruence Principle we are asked to make moral judgments in the same way. Does belief=actions? In an America that has song writers stand up and thank God for their talent to write a song about having sex outside the world of marriage makes one wonder. Pascal’s work, I always felt, was more about presented belief and less about subjective belief. He looked at what ones actions and drew conclusions one what they believed. He would have written his formula more like this; Actions=Belief. Pascal was more worried about actions and less worried about declarations of faith(not a shot at COG).

  6. Yeah, the money issue is becoming a big deal all around the COG. I say “is becoming” because I’ve only been around the ministry side of things around 4 years now.

  7. Although I have not frequently used the word “congruence.” I have a fair idea of what it means. The word that I prefer is “INTEGRITY.” There are many definitions for integrity but my favorite is “having all your ducks in a row.” A long-time friend used to say that it means that you use your turn signals – even if no other car is around.
    *ALL* of our actions and beliefs should be in congruence if we are to claim our integrity. Job realized that the accusations of his “friends” were actually assaults on his integrity (Job 6:29, NIV). He also knew that it was his integrity that God honored (Job 2:3).
    Let us be men/women of integrity in ALL our actions/beliefs. Then (remember the “first stone” principle), we should do what we can to reclaim the integrity of our organization.
    It may be that the EHM fund issue is only a SYMPTOM. Are we – as individuals & as a community – demonstrating integrity in all that we do and believe? I ABSOLUTELY believe in transparency in church finances. BUT, I also believe that there is a difference between the BUSINESS of finance & the WORSHIP of finance. If we worship in our giving, we are not as concerned about the end result. We all criticize those who want to pay their tithes into the youth (or whatever) fund. Yet, we must be careful not to play that same song as we attempt to bring about needed change in our denomination.
    That said, I agree with the need for change to bring us into congruency: I do not know of any Biblical commandment that we specify 2.5% (or any other percentage) toward evangelism or any other area of ministry. BUT, if we are going to collect the funds for that purpose, then we ought to spend it for that purpose.

  8. See the previous post… “not as concerned about the end result”
    What I meant was we are not as concerned about WHERE the money given will eventually be spent. Those who misuse God’s resources (does that include the earth? ) will have to give account to God (& perhaps to man) for that misuse.

  9. […] begin the difficult process of realigning our stated positions with our behavioral realities. […]

  10. […] expression redefined by “mission drift” and the response is to eliminate our commitment rather than alter our behavior, then on what basis or what principle can we declare that any behavior is […]

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