The expression "it looks good on paper" is one that we encounter often in the sporting area, to describe a team that, when it is selected, has all the necessary ingredients to appear capable of winning. But the use of the description indicates an underlying dissatisfaction with how the team has actually performed over the recent past, thereby indicating doubts about its worth in the present tense.
When an organisation begins looking for suitable candidates to assist them in the fulfilment of their goals (be it production, service, or otherwise), their first response is to evaluate the person "on paper". A whole industry has developed to help people "look good on paper" in their application.
One suspects that, were we evaluating the merits of the alternatives before us in the current election on paper only, we may be more predisposed to accepting and voting for them than appears to be the case at the moment. There is a deep suspicion that all of the promises and undertakings given lack real substance: they may look good on paper, but what we know of the authors calls its value into question.
It is perhaps one of the more common evaluations of the christian faith that "it looks good on paper". Implicit in the comment is the recognition that the church (and christians) have failed to perform what its teaching indicates.
The same challenge awaits us today, in the eyes of many of our family, friends and neighbours who are evaluating the christian faith by our life, particularly in relation to how christianity appears "on paper". The same could be said of our vision statement. If it only remains "good on paper" it is not worth much. And anything that only appears good on paper probably deserves to be consigned to another room, for another purpose.
February 18, 1996