Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Thursday, September 13, 2012
“'All things are lawful', but not all things are helpful” (1 Corinthians 10:23 ESV)
We live in a Church culture that can sometimes be described as "legalistic." Many of us would not think of ourselves as legalists nor do we aspire to be such, but none the less the attitude is prevalent. Part of the problem is we really don't know what we mean when we use this term. Generally speaking it gets used when someone else believes something that we don't like. An easy refutation is to label it and negate it. For example we look at Church culture in the 1960s and we find a staunch opposition to men with long hair. We then respond with "gee they were so legalistic back then." We find this sort of thing in the worship wars today between traditional and contemporary. One side indicts the other for being legalistic and not adopting their worship style. Many Churches have adopted certain moral norms they believe to be Biblical that other Churches deem legalistic irrespective of their own set of moral norms that they think are Biblical. As you can see its a vicious cycle. Why is this the case?
One suggestion is that we don't have an understanding of ἀδιάφορα (adiaphora)or things indifferent. In the Christian understanding of things indifferent we have an entire category devoted to beliefs that are Biblically indifferent. Therefore there is no need for name calling or confrontation, and the best part is that unity can take place on essential teachings of Scripture. I have attached a fragment of John Calvin's teaching on adiaphora because it is one of the best I have come across. Do not be put off by the antiquated language, you'll get used to it. Calvin is very insightful on this topic and well worth the fifteen minutes to read it. This section comes from book 3 chapter 19 sections 7 - 12.
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
As a convert to evangelicalism from Roman Catholicism (RC) I have been curious over the years of the increased numbers of evangelicals making their way to RC. Even more interesting is the delay in making this observation by evangelicals. However, this phenomenon is in the open now being discussed and books being published attempting to explain or defend this movement depending on what side of the discussion you’re on. I will take it one step further and say that the movement isn’t solely to Roman Catholicism, it seems to be across the high Church liturgical (HCL) board covering Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, and Episcopalian. Is there something here in this movement for evangelicals to take notice of?
“Evangelicalism” popularly understood by its adherents is a “Bible only” approach to the faith free from the religious fetters and empty ritual of “those dead old” HCL Churches. In a sense popular evangelicalism is a response to the HCL model of Church which is seen as an antiquated model for a bygone age. What popular evangelicalism offered was a fresh new and “worshipful” experience allowing for a freedom of worship expression, contemporary Christian songs, and a message “that speaks directly to our generation”. This was more commonly known as the mega-church model in evangelicalism.
Ironically with all its successes we now find its adherents becoming increasingly dissatisfied looking for a more experiential Christianity. These believers have had the best that the mega-church model can offer and came out empty handed. In their desire for a more spiritual worship experience they have returned to some of the traditional elements of HCL (candles, incense, icons, aesthetics) with a contemporary flavor (music, preaching, and general culture). What is interesting about this movement is the absence of theological justification. Their desired end is the experience which doesn’t necessarily require justification.
Evangelicals are also making a move to HCL Churches. Some of those that I have had personal interaction will give reasons such as the lack of theological unity in evangelicalism, the trivialization of worship, and a detachment from history. Are these points warranted? Possibly, but I have found theological disunity in HCL Churches and evangelicalism as we know it today isn’t completely detached from history but is currently in the act of making its own history. As for the trivialization of worship I would have to say that claim is more subjective saying something more about the individual making the claim than evangelical worship.
In closing I will say that theological unity is an issue significant enough to warrant some serious attention among evangelical leaders. I think many have wrongfully chosen to conduct their ministries from a non-theological or anti-theological approach. In so doing true theological unity will never be reached and adherents will continue to be uninformed about the fundamental tenets of their system of belief. It is only when we are open to discuss our theology that we can begin to unite in the essentials while we might differ on the non-essentials. We must keep our Lord’s high priestly prayer in mind when He asks for unity in the church.