Some Dissing Required

My friend Miguel asked this question on Facebook today, “Can Christians respect beliefs that are diametrically opposed to their own”. Well, I wasn’t certain if he meant diametrically opposed to Christian beliefs or diametrically opposed to doctrinal/tradition differences within Christianity.

Nonetheless, if it was in reference to beliefs within Christianity, I could help but reflect on a Facebook discussion that occurred earlier that morning. The discussion related to a post I saw associating baptism and communion with magical rites, which basically spit on the idea sacraments.

I agree wholeheartedly with my friend Laurie’s comment in that discussion

I am growing weary of this movement of people whose goal seems to be to dismantle Christianity and the body of Christ and recreate in their own image and to suit their own desires….and all supposedly in the name of Christ. It is one thing to try to address falsehood and error, but this is something altogether different, I think. It feels like mockery.

Yeah, if feels like mockery to me, too. And it typically is because something new has been discovered about Christianity that no one else has figured out until now.

church history chart cartoon

Now new doesn’t automatically mean bad or untrue. But when 2,000 years of Christian tradition is ignored for novel concepts with the accompanying attitude of having it all figured out, I can’t help but not see that as disrespecting the church that Christ said he would build. Now clearly there has been some doctrinal splintering. But even in the disagreements, we should be able to acknowledge some validity in historical development and elements of timeless tradition that are rooted in Jesus’ own commands (including his apostles’ teaching). This transcends doctrinal/denominational perspectives and is not just related to sacraments but any component related to Christ’s church.

So back to Miguel’s question, I hate to say this but when Christians dismiss and disrespect 2,000 of church history, some dissing may be required.

The Danger of Separation of Church and State (of being the Church)

church steepleAnother way to explain what I mean by my little play on words, is separation of church and state of being the church is the established church vs what that has always looked like. In other words, what are we doing compared to the history of the church?  Because the reality is the church has existed long before us and carries with her a rich tradition.

Tradition. There’s a word that raises hackles in a contemporary mindset. I find this especially true in independent Protestant church affiliations that disconnect from a 2,000 year heritage.  When the Reformation happened it was never meant to disconnect the church from its heritage only to source that in the authority of Scripture as opposed to authority in unwritten revelation and to correct corrupt practices in the church. We need to take the serious what has occurred in the past 2,000 years of church history.

In his book A High View of Scripture?, Craig Allert, a conservative evangelical, notes that disconnecting from tradition tends to result in traditionalism that imposes its own standards on the church. He expounds on J. Pelikan’s distinction between tradition and traditionalism – “tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.” Traditionalism forms its own tradition that can be blinded from its roots and in some cases, vastly deviate.

Defense of these essentials (of Christianty) has been emphasized at the expense of understanding their place in theological history and therefore at the expense of understanding their importance in the contemporary church. Thus, not only have certain nonessentials been given essential status, but also some foundational aspects of theology have been underemphasized or even ignored and therefore, undervalued, and this to the detriment of the body of Christ. The rich liturgical tradition of the church becomes confined to musically induced emotionalism. The importance of the community of faith for the life of the believer is reduced to crass marketing strategies and the newest ‘get spiritual quick’ scheme. The living voice of the Bible in theological history becomes lost in individual interpretation and defense of rather static propositionalism.[1]

Put another way, separation from the state of being the church results in myopic reductionism and an elevation of whatever novel concepts seem fitting for the life of the church in a contemporary context. It can also lead to arrogance in believing that we have it all figured out. Continue reading

Instead of Relevant…Go Retro

I’m off school for a couple of weeks, which has allowed me some breathing room and dig out from mire of Hebrew exegetical work and more. I still have a ton of school work but thought I’d catch up on some other reading as well. Since issues related to ecclesiology have been forefront on my mind lately, I picked up reading RetroChristianity, by Michael J Svigel from where I left off when the semester began. Now I confess I have a bit of a bias since Dr. Svigel is one of the profs in the Theological Studies dept at DTS, which is the dept of my ThM focus. But I also took him for Trinitarianism and Historical Theology I. Funny, Smart, a passion for church history (he loves the Apostolic Fathers), he has an even greater passion for Christians to think and behave Christianly and for the church to represent the faith well. This pours out of RetroChristianity and makes it a book worth reading.

In the past 500 years since the Protestant Reformation, things have gotten a bit crazy…and off course. Yet we live in the present and must contend with present realities. His solution is not abandon the present to capture the past NOR to forget the past and focus on the present (well actually we’re doing a pretty darn good job of the latter). Rather, he proposes reclaiming the past for the present.  In a nutshell;

RetroChristianity also acknowledges the egocentric nature of many evangelicals’ approaches to church and spirituality. We need to counter the preference-driven mentality rampant among so many churches, replacing it with a more biblical, historical, and theological framework through which we can make informed decisions regarding doctrine, practice and worship. This will help us wisely balance the vital elements of church, worship, ministry, and spirituality, avoiding excesses, extremes, distractions and distortions.(21) Continue reading

Integrity Doesn’t Stay in the Closet

I saw this picture on Facebook a few days ago with a very common saying about integrity. Well, I think it sounds like a good and reasonable definition. It denotes honesty. If we have integrity we will be honest people when no when is watching. In other words, it looking at integrity from the outside to the inside.

But I think there’s something more to integrity than this simplistic saying will allow. Integrity is about our actions lining up with beliefs. So whatever we believe about something or someone our actions will be consistent with that.  We lack integrity when we do or say something that is inconsistent with our belief. This means looking at integrity from a reverse angle – from the inside to the outside. Continue reading