Category Archives: Church

PROTESTANT REFORMATION

“So deeply rooted in our hearts is unbelief, so prone are we to it, that while all confess with the lips that God is faithful, no man ever believes it without an arduous struggle.”

                                                                                                John Calvin

“For what is asserted without the Scriptures or proven revelation may be held as an opinion, but need not be believed.”

                                                                                                Martin Luther

“If there is any sense remaining of Christian civilization in the West, this man Luther in no small measure deserves the credit.”

                                                                                                Roland Bainton

 

FRIENDSHIPS: OLD AND NEW

A brief reflection of mine to a friend wondering if pastors could be friends with those in their congregation.  My answer is “yes,” but my advice for all Christians is to choose wisely.  Here is my brief reflection:

You may know that Augustine wrote more about friendship than anyone else in the ancient period so his perspective adds light to our discussion.  Cicero, whose writings Augustine loved, also wrote on friendship.  Cicero’s work is just a little before Christ so the two give nice bookends to the ancient world’s perspective on friendship.  Cicero said you can’t be friends with tyrants or sycophants.  Yes, I know there are loads of those in the churches!  And with the laxity on choosing elders there are plenty of them on elder boards.  But the perversion of a good thing does not eliminate the need for the good thing. 

THE BENEDICT OPTION

 

Image result for The benedict option

https://www.amazon.com/Benedict-Option-Strategy-Christians-Post-Christian/dp/0735213291

Scholars are rarely prophets and prophets are rarely scholars. I was reminded of this in reading the much debated, The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher.

Rod Dreher, journalist and outspoken Christian, is decidedly on the prophetic side of the scholar-prophet spectrum. This, however, does not mean that he is incapable of helping us better understand the far-reaching and practical ramifications of something as arcane as nominalism.

We must say right out of the blocks that Dreher’s book is not a jeremiad screed to head for the hills. Rather, Dreher advocates for “exile in place.” The preposition is key. We are to cultivate faithfulness with other like-minded folks not simply to hunker down in our religious enclaves. We should form these counter-cultural communities to strengthen our capacity to engage, not escape, our world. This is a clarion call by a gifted writer to let the church be the church.

I have my disagreements with some of Dreher’s analysis and antidotes. With respect to the former, Dreher is insufficiently aware of what the Protestant Reformers meant by sola Scriptura. As Keith Mathison memorably puts it, sola Scpritura does not mean solo Scriptura. Among other things, leaning on the thesis in Brad Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation made for a potted history. Dreher would have been greatly helped if he had availed himself of the work of either Mathison or D.H. Williams, especially his Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism: a Primer for Suspicious Protestants.

As to antidotes, I don’t share Dreher’s sweeping denunciation of public schools. For the record, our two sons attended Christian schools, had a few years of homeschooling, and went to public high schools. All three have their strengths and weaknesses. Sure, public schools can be a mess. I saw incompetent teachers and weak administrators, but I also saw bogus rules, unprincipled administrators and mean teachers at the Christian school. My experience, it needs to be noted, was both as a parent and a part-time teacher.

Dreher is rightly concerned about the corrosive effects of “moralistic, therapeutic, Deism.” I share his concerns. I also share Dreher’s conviction that “losing political power might just be the thing that saves the church’s soul.” As many have said, the church seems the most vital (and prophetic) when it works from the margins of power. Notwithstanding its shortcomings, Dreher’s book is a good reminder of that reality.

ANGLICANISM

Many American Evangelicals mistake the American variety of Anglicanism for either the British variety, or worse still, the liberal Episcopalian church.  The Anglican Church North America (ACNA) is decidedly under the authority of Scripture and quite clear about the work of Christ on the cross. 

I now gladly attend an Anglican church, but I am not Anglican.  There are four major reasons I give to those wondering why we shifted from low church evangelicalism to the Anglican church: an intentional theology of the body (and the physical world), a conscious tie to the whole church throughout its history and in the world today, truly keeping primary doctrines primary which translates to giving much space to differ over a variety of non primary doctrines, and a protection against personality cults emerging with respect to the ministers.  Much could be said about those things and perhaps later I will offer more details…

DONE WITH CHURCH

Dones are those who still believe in Jesus, but are finished with church.  Here is one perspective followed by my own reflection on why Dones exist and are growing:

An Alternative Theory on the Dones

I sadly know too many Dones. Several have shared their stories with me. Some were in positions of leadership, even serving as elders. Two frustrations predominated:

Lots of talk in church about what one should do (and how), but precious little about why.

There was not a safe place where any and all questions could be asked. People are left alone to marinate in their own doubts and struggles.