The framers of the US Constitution recognized three steps for sustaining liberty. Christians generally dislike the second step. That’s why our house is not in order.
The framers understood America is an experiment. Can a nation sustain liberty? They studied history and recognized no nation ever had. All eventually failed. So the framers came up with a solution—“a new order of the ages” (notice the American dollar bill: novus ordo seclorum). Three steps. Liberty must be won, ordered, then sustained.
Order is as old as Genesis. In the beginning, the earth was disordered mass (“formless and void”). God (Father, Son, and Spirit) ordered the disorder, creating a pristine yet primitive planet. He then created us to be the Son’s bride, further ordering the earth and becoming like Christ, our Bridegroom. This is how two become one—marriage.
Then Lucifer duped Adam and Eve. They fell (Gen.3). Pristine order began to reverse to chaotic disorder. Now our task is “toil and trouble” (Shakespeare). We must properly order disorder, rebinding creation to what it ought to be. That calls for religion.
Religion means to rebind. Hence, we see older faith traditions forming religious orders seeking to rebind a fallen world to what it ought to be. The most effective orders are modeled after the one Jesus was a part of—the order of Melchizedek (Heb.7:1-21).
The order of Melchizedek featured four offices. Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of El Elyon. In Genesis 14, he’s redeemer, refreshing Abram. He’s a prophet in blessing Abram with a message from God. Melchizedek is priest, prophet, redeemer, and king—a prototype for all religious orders as these are the four offices of Jesus.
These offices align with the gospel—creation, fall, redemption, and the final restoration. Priests (clergy) remind us of how the world ought to be (creation). Prophets point out what is disordered (the fall). They’re contrarians, playing devils advocate. Redemption is what God did—and we can do—to order a disordered world. As King, Jesus predicts what will come in eternity (the final restoration, pictured as a wedding banquet).
All religious orders (monastic, Celtic, Wesleyan, etc.) operate as circles. All four offices are included. These four order the church’s mission, the renewal of all things, including our freedom in Christ (Col.1:18-20). Freedom must be won and ordered to be sustained. The framers recognized this, even though many were not Christians.
The four offices also align with brain research. Priests and prophets reflect right hemisphere thinking, what neuroscientists call “the outside view” and “prophetic.” Redeemer and king reflect the left hemisphere, “the inside view.” Organizations that sustain innovation are ambidextrous, ordered around right- and left-brain leaders.
This is the order for any business seeking to sustain an innovation. Innovate is the Latin translation of the Greek renew. Yet 40 years of Harvard Business School research indicate few organizations have the insider/outsider ambidextrous structure to sustain innovation. Pixar, for example, lost its innovative culture over the last three years. It became insider. Outsiders, the prophetic (and often disruptive) voice, left the company.
This has happened in the faith community as well. The Roman Catholic Church had a prophetic office (popularly known as the Devil’s Advocate) but reduced it in 1983. A few Protestants circles included prophetic voices (e.g., Wesleyan Bands of the 1700s and the Clapham Sect), but that was long ago and far away.
Modern faith communities are not-for-prophet, so they’re not properly ordered. I see this on the local level. I tell friends I’m considering forming a religious order. They make a face. Ugh. They imagine Gregorian chants and robes. I tell them Jesus was part of an order. They make a face. Huh? We’re supposed to be like Jesus.
We see disorder on the national level. Decades of sexual abuse by Catholic priests have eroded the moral authority of the Catholic Church. Now evangelicals are also losing moral authority—and members. Recently, several megachurch pastors have resigned over alleged sexual scandals. It’s time we put our house in order.
G.K. Chesterton wrote that Americans imagine institutions as “cold and cramping things.” Orders are institutions. They’re not cold. They keep renewal on track. The framers of the Constitution recognized this. The faith community ought to as well. If we don’t form religious orders, it’s unlikely we’ll get our house in order.
 G.K. Chesterton and Iain T. Benson, The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, Volume VII (Ignatius Press, 2004), 286.