October 19, 2017

Response Part 1: The Biblical Worldview and Christian Experience

I now come to the last two posts in this series on The Unresolved Tensions of Evangelicalism. All four posts are accessible here.

In these posts I will write a response to each of the four topics of personal disillusionment: The Biblical worldview, Christian experience, Christian community and Christian commitment itself.

In my responses, I hope to say something constructive to those evangelicals who have left or are contemplating leaving evangelicalism, as well to loyal evangelicals within the church.

In this post, I’ll deal with the first two sources of personal disillusionment.

The Biblical Worldview

Protestantism’s soul is its tenacity in grasping the essentials and refusing to compromise on those essentials. The Reformation was a witness to the corruption of the simplicity of the Gospel. Luther, Calvin, the Puritans, the Wesleys: all of these reformers are on a quest for simple, essential Christianity; Christianity that can be expressed in a confession of a few paragraphs rather than requiring a pope, a magisterium and a library of books to even suggest what is the “deposit of faith.”

At the same time, it is Protestantism’s curse that it cannot authoritatively define what the essentials are. It is on a never-ending journey of reading, interpreting, confessing and applying the scripture. In that journey, there have been many opportunities to fail, especially by creating far more to the essentials of the faith than was necessary.

From this has come vast systematic theologies where nuances of predestination held the key to understanding divine truth, alliances of academics and theologians imposing their grid upon the Christian faith, and courts of Pharisees sitting in judgement on those who do not honor their particular jots and tittles.

So today the “Biblical Worldview” and “Biblical values” movement is busy hammering away and unity and simplicity by seeking to make sure that everyone who says they are a Christian has the same opinion on everything, votes the same way, worships the same way, talks the same way and consumes the same evangelical culture.

It is simply not necessary. Evangelicalism should confess its creeds and confessions and STOP THERE. If we surrender to some alliance between the culture warriors and the teachers of the Word we will destroy a credible evangelicalism for thousands.

Simply say “Enough and No More.” The Apostles’ Creed. The Nicene Creed. The Confession of your denomination. (Which is minimal if you are fortunate.) And that’s all. After that, “it’s none of your business.”

What we need is unfortunately what we largely don’t have: A confessionally simple catholicism. (Which is what Lutheranism and Anglicanism at their best amount to, but each one has found ways to be largely absent when evangelicalism most needs them as an option.)

If you leave because you can’t stand to be told that you must be a creationist and you must vote Republican, I completely understand. I work at a place that says it’s morally intolerable to have a glass of wine, which the Bible actually commands. I feel like a fifth grader.

But I will also say that you have choices on this score. There are plenty of places in evangelicalism to escape creationism, Republicanism and homo-obsession. I don’t like to use that “baby and bathwater” line, but it applies here. Most evangelicals could shed the majority of this problem without driving another 10 minutes.

But if you are an evangelical leader, and you’re paying attention, do this: Teach and preach what you believe are the essentials. Do it well, Biblically, often and persuasively.

Then stop and leave people alone.

Christian Experience

Frankly, you’re never going to get this one under control. Human beings are pretty squirrelly when it comes to religion. You couldn’t vacuum up the nut cases if you did nothing but vacuum all day long.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t determine to impose some discipline on the asylum.

For one thing, let’s agree that the spirituality of Jesus is the epitome of Christian spirituality, and if Jesus didn’t bark like a chihuahua or roll in the aisles, we won’t either. Even if you identity with the Charismatic gifts of the Spirit, you can agree that Todd Bentley was demanding we all believe that Jesus wasn’t really a good example of what the Holy Spirit does with a person. I think we can avoid that particular fork in the road by “keeping our eyes on Jesus.” Seriously.

For another, let’s nurture some spiritual directors in our midst. Learn that phrase and understand what it means: some people are gifted in helping us sort through spiritual experience and making real progress.

Read Alan Creech’s recent “Liturgical Gangsta” entry on spiritual growth. Don’t you agree we could use some of that sort of ministry among evangelicals? And this is one place we can learn a lot from Roman Catholics, whose track record of dealing with the varieties of spiritual experience is much better than our own. Spiritual direction is a an area where Protestants can benefit immensely from literature, mentors and academic study in the Roman Catholic context.

It’s also a good place to discuss the effect of the decisions evangelicals make about ordination. How long does it take to become a pastor in your church? What’s the training? Where are the mentors? Where is the spiritual direction and formation? For many of our friends, it takes years. For many evangelicals, it takes minutes. And we wonder why we get Todd Bentley.

Then let’s talk more about what it means to be human. Real humanity grounds us in the real world and doesn’t leave us assuming that we have to fly away to be a Christian. Take up a book like Being Human by Macauley and Barrs, and use it as a central text in teaching discipleship.

Our problem with spiritual experience grows out of a failure to understand the interaction of the Holy Spirit and the human personality. For that reason we ought to reconsider the role of pastoral counseling and guidance in the context of community leadership.

When we take seriously a Jesus-shaped spirituality, we will be looking for the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in fruitfulness and servant leadership, not in egotistical charismatic behavior. (John Crowder, your phone is ringing.) When our understanding of the processes and shape of Jesus-shaped spirituality demands leadership that is fully human, mature, accountable and full of the evident character of Jesus, we will put less emphasis on a spirituality of the miraculous and the bizarre.

But as I said, there is little that can be done apart from speaking honestly about these things, reading sane books and providing spiritual mature mentors and models. Religion breeds a special kind of excess.

The enamorment of evangelicalism with high powered claims and promises of spiritual excitement is massive. It dominates publishing, music, worship even the design of churches. It goes to the heart of the idol of the “big, exciting and growing” church. It cuts deeply into our need to feel the power of God in order to be convinced we are right.

To those who would leave over some disillusionment in Christian experience, I cannot blame you. But I can promise you that if you’ve found yourself in a corner of evangelicalism where God proves himself by dreams, visions, miracles and manifestations, and if you have been disillusioned and disappointed, I can safely promise you that is not all their is.

Again, our Anglican friends have such a wonderful balance in this area. Catholic Charismatic movements have shown a balance is possible. The Vineyard has grown in this area. Sovereign Grace churches have a balance.

You need not feel that all of Christianity is a collection of what you’ve seen or experienced. Reason, balance, mental health, truthfulness AND the power of the Holy Spirit are all available in the best examples of evangelicalism seeking to bring the fullness of the Spirit and the Word into balance.

It may take some sorting through, and it may take the humility to say that evangelicalism isn’t as bad as it looks in its worst moments. It may take some perseverance to stay with the Anglicans or the Vineyard folk from time to time.

But trust me, this does not have to be a rock to wreck upon. You don’t have to be a nut job, a liar or mentally unstable to be a Christian. (Though in some corners, it does help.)

In the next post, I’ll respond to the failures of Christian community and the abandonment of Christian commitment itself.

Comments

  1. Your critique is certainly thought-provoking. And your dissatisfaction with much of the “trappings” of Christianity is widely shared and a very real issue.

    But there is a curious contradiction between your attraction to the RC practice of employing spiritual directors (and I agree, there is much we could learn from them) and your rejection of any theological content to Christianity beyond the creeds.

    The Gospel of course is not about a political party or a political agenda – and yet, if it does not have anything to say about the great cultural issues of our day, of what use or relevance is it?

    It is politically and culturally unpopular to assert that the Bible has something to say about creation, abortion, and homosexuality.

    No, those things are not at the core of the gospel, but if we pretend that the Bible doesn’t address them, we are bowing to a desire not to be unpopular or “uncool.”

    Schaeffer (the elder, not the younger) had it right: “There is only one good reason to believe in Christianity, because it’s true.”

    But if its true, then it speaks to cultural. Its fundamental message about the true nature and identity of man, God’s provision for our forgiveness, redemption and transformation needs to be at the core of the gospel proclamation.

    But if that is ALL we do, then we risk falling back into pietistic separatism.

    BTW, it’s possible to be a Christian, reject the evolutionary creation-myth, vote Republican AND enjoy a good cigar and a glass of sherry!

    blessings!

  2. RedhatRob:

    Christians can organize and do whatever they wish in the culture war. But CHURCHES aren’t politicall lobbies. It’s not the church’s job to tell me I have to be a Republican or how to vote or that I must be a creationist or loathe gays.

    Confessional minimalism is for the church as a worshipping people of God. But the people of God can go into the culture and be salt and light as they are convinced they should be.

    What’s that got to do with Spiritual directors btw?

  3. By “confessional minimalism,” I understood you to be implying that the church should be silent on cultural issues such as abortion and sexual immorality.

    I think for the church to do would be to beat a retreat from being salt and light into a position of pietistic separatism.

    The RC practice of “spiritual directors” goes beyond simply offering counsel on one’s prayer and devotional life – thought it certainly has its focus there. But the RC church has consistently sought (with varying degrees of success) to work out the cultural implications of the gospel. One’s spiritual director is quite likely to want to include a discussion of how the Christian life is being lived by the postulant/counselee. This will include such practical examinations as works of charity, practicing the fruit of the spirit, and refraining from acts of immorality.

    Which will necessarily bring us all back to those pesky, annoying, “uncool” issues of biblical behavior.

  4. Steve in Toronto says:

    What healthy sense of theological humility. I have no problem with confessions (just as long as we don’t treat them as if that were simply a better organized version of the Bible) and I think creeds are essential but we need to keep our focus on what C.S. Lewis so eloquently described as “mere Christianity”

  5. GRIN, I cannot resist. Schaeffer, the younger, was so burnt out by his father’s forays into the Republican Right that he left it all, converted to Greek Orthodox, and now writes for the Huffington Post. That is most certainly going from one extreme to the other.

    Christianity does speak into the culture. However, what both Catholicism and Orthodoxy share is a very painful history of what happens when you let your theology dictate your politics. The Catholic Church “experimented” with the Church as the compass and director of the State. The Orthodox Church “experimented” with a partnership with the State, in which the Church was supposed to be able to speak into the State on moral matters. Neither worked.

    Mind you, we were not the only “experiments” in Church/State relations. The Calvinist City of Geneva, the Lutheran German states that cheerfully forbade Anabaptists, as well as some of the Puritan expressions, as well as the Anabaptist Bruderhofs, etc., were also all interesting “experiments.” But, they did not work either.

    Everyone of those “experiments” had serious problems. It is apparent that many in the Religious Right forgot those “experiments” and have returned to what have been shown to be failing behaviors. As a result, if I could say it from the viewpoint of a Church that has been there, the Religious Right returned to the same slop that has so often been proven wrong in Church history.

    But, to comment more directly on what IMonk has said, we do need to remember the difference between what the Church has declared to be True and what the Church has left open to the changes of country, culture, and century.

  6. Mr. Whipple says:

    The Gospel of course is not about a political party or a political agenda – and yet, if it does not have anything to say about the great cultural issues of our day, of what use or relevance is it?

    The good news of the kingdom of God has lots to say about my need to repent and be reconciled to God. IN that respect, it is eternally relevant.

    But those within the kingdom can read the same sacred texts and come to very different conclusions about abortion, gay rights and theistic evolution. You seem to be saying that the “Bible has something to say about creation, abortion and homosexuality” as if it said only ONE thing when Christians often disagree about what that one thing is.

    Isn’t the point that these are not essentials?

  7. Wow. Great post.

    “Evangelicalism should confess its creeds and confessions and STOP THERE.”

    Amen. To confuse these first things with second things based upon a professed allegiance to the “full counsel of God” is the Achilles heel of Evangelicalism. This is what makes conservative Evangelical theology so brittle.

    “What we need is unfortunately what we largely don’t have: A confessionally simple catholicism. (Which is what Lutheranism and Anglicanism at their best amount to, but each one has found ways to be largely absent when evangelicalism most needs them as an option.)”

    So … do you think Evangelicals will ever flock to these sources of “confessionally simple catholicism” on their own? What keeps them from doing so? What keeps Anglicans and Lutherans from reaching out to Evangelicals? (I have some ideas … but they’re still hazy and unformed.)

    “let’s nurture some spiritual directors in our midst.”

    Again, amen. This is most needed.

    In fact, Amen to the rest of it as well. Christian humanism. The Holy Spirit and the human person. Christ as a model. I could go on, but enough is enough. A very sane and satisfying response.

    I also like the direction you propose as a way forward. And I suppose one simply has to accept that “speaking honestly about these things, reading sane books and providing spiritual mature mentors and models” will never compete (humanly speaking or in a consumerist, market economy of ‘ideas’) with the “high powered claims and promises of spiritual excitement” endemic to the “big, exciting and growing” church.”

    So would you say to those who would embrace the former and reject the latter that we must be content with a “place in the wilderness” for now? Do you have a monastic vision for what you’re up to here? Preserve something? Keep it alive? Or is there a way to retake the Evangelical witness from the polish of the Christian publishing industry, mega-church approaches, etc?

  8. RedhatRob and Michael,

    I am 100% with Michael on this one. If you compare the Canadian and American experiences you will find that the emphasis on the Culture war has deeply harmed the Evangelical witness in the United States.

    RedhatRob states that “[Christianity] fundamental message about the true nature and identity of man, God’s provision for our forgiveness, redemption and transformation needs to be at the core of the gospel proclamation. But if that is ALL we do, then we risk falling back into pietistic separatism.”

    The problem as I see it is that we have spent so much time and emphasis on secondary issues that we have completely lost our emphasis on the primary issues. Abortion, for example, is not THE problem, it is but a symptom of THE problem. THE problem is a world without Jesus Christ. Yes, you can make people feel better by treating the symptoms, but at some point you will be a lot further ahead if you focus on defeating the disease.

  9. I’ll say this one more time and then I won’t be repeating it.

    The church teaches the gospel. It does not dictate how I apply it. It teaches sexual morality. It cannot tell me how to vote. It teaches sanctity of life. It does not tell me how to legislate.

    James Dobson is not my pope. The church is to teach the scriptures. The church is not a political lobby.

    Christians are to be involved in politics, culture, etc. but the church doesn’t dictate that involvment.

    Redhat: You sound as if you believe parachurch organizations like Focus on the Family are the church.

    peace

    ms

  10. I have enjoyed your series.

    Your comments that Lutheranism (and Anglicanism) have “… found ways to be largely absent when evangelicalism most needs them as an option.” and your problem with “…you must be a creationist …” struck me as related. I can’t disagree that Lutheranism is too quiet in many ways. I think it is a denomination that is wary of emotionalism and has trouble finding its voice when confronted by the tide of evangelicalism. But this is related to your other point because Lutherans will tell you that you should be a creationist. Not because it will directly jeopardize your salvation, but because the notion comes directly from Gods word, which Christ authenticates.

    If you reject creationism you must hold contradictory views about the inerrancy of scripture. The same goes for those who reject the real presence in the Lord’s Supper. This is My body…This is My blood. Means what it says. Can we comprehend creation or the Lord’s Supper? No, but we must accept them because they come from God.

  11. I assume that all Christians are creationists. I also assume the Bible does not dictate what scientific evidence says or what place I give to that evidence in a particular setting.

    Creationism in my vocabulary is Young Earth, Ken Ham/Kent Hovind creationism.

  12. iMonk, again, this is not a knock on you (cuz we all doin’ it), but aren’t our assumptions; like:

    I assume that all Christians _______;

    aren’t these the things getting us into trouble in the first place?

    E.g., I’m not a young-earth-creationist. Am I not, thereby the assumption, christian? [Or, insert pet culture war issue here.]

    Where do we (individually and corporately) draw the line?

  13. I simply mean we all believe that God created. Creation isn’t an optional Christian belief.

    But the church can’t dictate scientific outcomes to us or how we apply them.

  14. Perhaps I’m just a pessimist, but I’ve noticed that when a church focuses on secondary things, the primary task of proclaiming the gospel gets really messed up, including a considerable amount of eisigesis rather than exegesis of scrupture. For me, the consistent focus on something other than the gospel and Jesus Christ sure feels a lot like a kind of idolatry, and because people like their idols, it may be difficult to put an end to it.

  15. ________ isn’t an optional Christian belief.

    Pressing the issue, I am… where is this line drawn? A Magisterium doesn’t help; nor do synods, conventions, or men’s business meetings. There will still be the outlier in any believing community who does not fit the belief bill. Do we still leave them alone as you suggest?

    This is an issue in my mind for two reasons: 1) the Apostle Paul exhorted the churches to exclude people on the basis of immorality, not varying belief, and 2) Jesus stated his disciples are known by their love, again not by their belief.

    Yet, the church has made it practice to separate and bully each other based on beliefs — creeds, statements of faith, catechisms, etc. This, to me, seems to be the real disconnect, and not just in evangelicalism.

  16. Fr. Ernesto I would just like to point out that the “experimented” was more out of necessity rather than functional dogmatic planning.

    In the State will do what is best for the State not the Church of the People.

  17. “The church teaches the gospel. It does not dictate how I apply it.”

    In general I think I agree … but how would you square this with something like Paul’s epistles? For instance, “That guy who’s married to his father’s wife? Hand him over to Satan!”

    Is there … a threshold? I would fear your principle could end in a completely spiritualized Christianity. Help me understand what you mean.

  18. It doesn’t dictate EVERY situation where I apply it. Let me be clear: It does dictate SOME application, but even then there is disgression.

    I’m pro life. Does my church have the right to tell me the EXACT legislation I must support?

    If you haven’t read this blog, please don’t throw me out as an emergent. I’m a conservative confessional Baptist.

  19. Jeremiah Lawson says:

    Fr. Ernesto, Schaeffer the younger seemed to spend a lot of time explaining in Crazy for God that he got the elder into Republican politics and not the other way around. It seems like there was a synergy going where the younger argued the elder back into some of the fundamentalist tendencies from earlier years. Frank seems pretty open about that, at least in his book. He downplays it a lot in Huffington, which I don’t quite get.

    Not that I’m taking issue with your response to RedHatRob in the least in terms of content or principle, but Frank’s memoir tells a story of him being a major influence on his father’s move into Republican politics.

  20. “For another, let’s nurture some spiritual directors in our midst. Learn that phrase and understand what it means: some people are gifted in helping us sort through spiritual experience and making real progress.”

    Yes, yes and oh yeah – yes. Spiritual direction coupled with rediscovering some of the spiritual masters both west and east (nod to Fr. Ernesto) – would be one gift I’d like to give to my evangelical brothers. Spiritual direction can help an individual attain new depths in spiritual development.

    On spiritual directors and direction RedHatRob writes:
    “This will include such practical examinations as works of charity, practicing the fruit of the spirit, and refraining from acts of immorality.”

    Yes – but it would not get to the level of who to vote for, whether you should lean towards Boneventure or Aquinas, or if your using NFP or not.

    Most spiritual directors that are worth their weight also have a spiritual director.

    Note too that most Catholics do not know what a spiritual director is….

  21. Several thoughts pop to mind, and I will mention them in reverse order.

    Jeremiah – yes, Frank has been somewhat over the whole map. He has also been known to issue rather strong critiques of the Greek Orthodox to which he belongs. He is critique and “big picture” oriented, for better and for worse.

    Giovanni – yes, it was out of necessity. When the majority of an empire becomes Christian in name, you end up being stuck having to make some statements about what is right and wrong. However, the Church let itself get drawn in so deep that it risked being co-opted by the State. This was true Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. The Religious Right has just as often made just as many “authoritative” pronouncements about economic policies, immigration policies, and penal policies, as it has about moral policies. There they began to repeat some of our old errors.

    iMonk made some good comments on Biblical worldview. Had the Religious Right allied with a party that fostered its moral views without necessarily endorsing that party’s views on other policies, they would not be in the trouble in which they currently are. In fact, they would not be known as the Religious Right, but as a religious force within conservatism. But, in endorsing the economic, immigration, and penal policies of that party, they closed the door to any believer that had serious questions about the way in which those policies were worked out. [Note: the way in which a policy is worked out often does have moral implications, but these were ignored by the Religious Right.]

    Justin – if a Magisterium, synods, conventions, men’s business meetings, etc. do not help, then there is no way to draw any lines. Let each believe what they want, it was what happened in the Book of Judges. However, if the Acts 15 meeting of leaders from Christendom means anything, it is that there was a way to resolve these issues in an authoritative matter. Just because medieval Roman Catholicism was wrong on many issues does not mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Also, the Church in Scripture did exclude people on grounds other than behavior. As St. Paul said, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” And again, “Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. . . For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you . . . And the rest I will set in order when I come.” — 1 Cor. 11.

    Brian – I believe in an inerrant Scripture, provided it is interpreted by sound canons of hermeneutic. Be cautious how you define inerrancy because that word has just as often been used as a club to force Christians to impose a certain type of interpretative structure upon Scripture.

    iMonk – yep, Protestantism’s curse is that it cannot authoritatively define. The multiplicity of Christian groupings is one of the arguments both Orthodox and Roman Catholic use as an apologetic towards Protestants to suggest that the Reformation was not all that it was cracked up to be. The Reformation brought some significant and needed change, but, like all revolutionary movements, it also brought some unintended destruction.

    Unless Protestantism seriously deals with its unintended destructions, it will not only continue to splinter, but also continue to have discussions of identity every few decades, just like it has since the Reformation. After all, Methodism, Baptists, Nazarenes, Salvation Army, the First and Second Great Awakenings, Pentecostalism, Charismatic Movement, etc., were all movements that tried to reawaken the dying flame, to define anew Christianity, to regain its “lost” identity. None of them succeeded because they were not dealing with the negative parts of the Reformation.

    Mind you, Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism have their own baggage . . .

  22. Thank you, Fr. Ernesto.

    if a Magisterium, synods, conventions, men’s business meetings, etc. do not help, then there is no way to draw any lines.

    Agreed. I believe that is the reasoning behind St. Paul’s exhortations to Titus and Timothy to appoint elders to the office. I may not have been clear on this, but I agree lines have to be drawn. I don’t want to throw the baby out. But, the Jerusalem Council was very limited in scope, and dealt with behavior, not belief per se.

    Let each believe what they want, it was what happened in the Book of Judges.

    Call me a cynic, but this will happen, regardless of what leadership decides. Some people just will not give up their freedom of thought. I don’t think they should be expected to.

    What I think they should be reasonably expected to do is, if one determines to submit themselves to spiritual leadership (i.e. Magisterium, synod, board of elders, pastor, etc.), then toe the “line”, esp. with regards to behavior. I think that is part of “submitting to one another in love”. I don’t think that opens the door for some type of accepted cognitive dissonance, however. We retain the right to disagree, don’t we?

    Also, the Church in Scripture did exclude people on grounds other than behavior.

    With regards to the acts of public teaching, as a representative of the church, yes. With regards to acting as an servant organizing activities within the body, yes. All assuming the person has determined to submit to the leadership of the church. But nowhere, to my understanding, is anyone excluded based on belief. Take 1 Cor. 15 and the issue of resurrection–their non-belief in resurrection was leading them to behaviors: 1) teach wrongly and 2) act like pagans, again. Paul addressed their belief, for sure, but it was their manifested behavior that caused the trouble he set out to solve. Paul was not determined to stamp out mental dissent, was he?

  23. The ship lists to port away from the course. Fr.Ernesto, I respectfully and rarely disagree on the latter part of your statement. Methodism, Baptists, etc,etc, did not fail at all. Millions were able to know their Savior through these vehicles. They are still serving the Kingdom, but yet diminishing as individual entities. The “Protestant[ do not like the term]” side of the kingdom I do not believe should be judged by duration of denomination, but by the brightness of it’s trancendant flame. Protestantism is always in a state of flux. It is a constant revolution and that is what keeps it fresh!. One will die out but another be born to take the Gospel to a new and changing culture. We need to let some of these things go. the Puritans are not viable now but had a role in history, is it so bad if history places Baptists in the same light?

  24. Back on course. Biblical word view. We are proof of one. Here, on this blog. We are very different, but we converse based on a commonality, The Truth that is God. Maybe none of us have it just right, but it is a View. We stand on the same hill and look out over the same landscape. We see things differently based on our backgrounds and vision, but the world sees not at all.

  25. Christian experience:
    With Jesus, sweet! Divine! Glorious!
    With Christians, sucks.

  26. I like what John Fischer said on Steve Brown Etc this last week. It was essentially that non-Christians are lost moreso than wrong. Lost people need to be found; wrong people need to be corrected. I think our vision of non-Christians being wrong leads to our emphasis on correcting them (read secondary issues) vs. trying to show them the Truth and let God do the transforming (read primary issues).

    Great series of posts! Definitely got me thinking.

  27. correction,
    with Christians, mostly sucks.

  28. Father Ernesto I see what you are saying and agree in part, however I think you are not identifying what I mean when I say out of necessity. You have to remember that in the west after the fall of the Western Roman Empire there was not much left of civilization in fact the only civilization left was the Church. So it was up to the Church to or should I say forced on the Church by the need of the people to rebuild what had been destroyed. While the Church in the East was making partnerships and growing and flourishing, the Church in the west was building and restablishing a society shaken to its very core.

    So the Church in the West experimentation with giving authority to a temporal State was mainly due to the fact that at a certain point in history it was the Church and only the Church that was left to constructed.

    The problem with Protestantism was never their protest, Luther made sence there was much abuse in the clergy, there were many pastors that were not teaching the Gospel, and did not know how to teach it, even as far back as Wycliff I would say that their grievances had merit. Many of the Bishops in the west were hard headed and in truth lazy they did not want to deal with the problems of translating the Bible and having to explain it. They would much rather supress the movements and deal with it in their own time. By then the Bishops time became God’s time and the revolt began. Even then it took the Bishops 40 years to get it all sorted out. However it “was” sorted out, and Trent settled it, as far as the Church is concerned.

    However those that had stepped out never looked back, they were too busy making up myths about the Church in order to keep people out of her.

    Protestantism curse in the end is authority nothing more and nothing less. What is the Church,? Who speaks for her,?

    Which is ironic Father Ernesto because in end that is the problem between Orthodox and Catholics as well. Look forward to hopefuly a new true ecumenical council in which both West and East (the whole east) can give us the good news that we are one again.

  29. Father Ernesto, I’ve appreciated your insights in this post and the “The Liturgical Gangstas” 🙂

    “But, in endorsing the economic, immigration, and penal policies of that party, they closed the door to any believer that had serious questions about the way in which those policies were worked out. [Note: the way in which a policy is worked out often does have moral implications, but these were ignored by the Religious Right.]” Exactly! Amen! That’s why I voted for Senator Obama. (but I probably can’t say that out loud at church 🙂

    I have a few questions about this part of your last comment:

    “The Reformation brought some significant and needed change, but, like all revolutionary movements, it also brought some unintended destruction.

    Unless Protestantism seriously deals with its unintended destructions, it will not only continue to splinter, but also continue to have discussions of identity every few decades, just like it has since the Reformation. After all, Methodism, Baptists, Nazarenes, Salvation Army, the First and Second Great Awakenings, Pentecostalism, Charismatic Movement, etc., were all movements that tried to reawaken the dying flame, to define anew Christianity, to regain its “lost” identity. None of them succeeded because they were not dealing with the negative parts of the Reformation.”

    First, OUCH 🙂 Is Pentecostalism/Charismatic Renewal dead? (a lot of past tense, I’m A/G 🙂

    Is reawakening the dying flame good, bad, or even needed?

    Do you feel that your movement is burning brightly? (I sure feel you as an individual are, how is the spiritual life of the whole denomination?) (I live in Southern MN, so I do not know any Orthodox folks)

    Do you feel the (movements, awakenings, revivals) listed were purely human efforts to “define anew Christianity, to regain its “lost” identity,” or is there a God side to them? (Did God show up, when people were hungry for Him, or is that not possible outside of Orthodoxy/Catholicism?)

    Thanks for any answers you might give.

  30. imonk –

    I agree with your heart and thoughts in your articles as a challenge to evangelicals. It is much needed, no doubt. This is a voice crying in the wilderness. But (and I am sure you sensed the big BUTT, I mean but, coming) I do have a couple of questions/thoughts to consider:

    1) You had stated – ‘But if you are an evangelical leader, and you’re paying attention, do this: Teach and preach what you believe are the essentials. Do it well, Biblically, often and persuasively. Then stop and leave people alone.’

    Does this again relate to your heart that we teach only what the Scriptures directly espouse, rather than how to apply it to daily life in all the nitty-gritty? Because, though I would say things like mode of baptism are non-essentials, I wonder if we should just only teach that we need to be baptized (an essential, though some would say it isn’t), but leave out any teaching on mode (definitely more of a non-essential)? And this goes across the board. Obviously, there has to be a line as to what we emphasize, but maybe it is broader than just ‘essentials’. Maybe it is important to passionately (yet not with condemnation) teach on such ‘non-essentials’. Just a thought.

    2) No doubt Todd Bentley and others have stepped over the line. But we must consider God is a God of the non-normative, and sometimes the wild. Consider Jesus, the proto-type of how to live a God-oriented life. He had a spitting ministry (Mark 7:33; 8:23). Not your normal everyday Christian occurrence. Or consider Isaiah’s ministry in the nude (Isaiah 20). Please understand my heart, I don’t think these are the normative every day Christian life experience. But, though Bentley and others have stepped over the line way too much, there is no doubt we will be called to step over the line.

    Again, I am an adamant believer that the God-life to be lived is through conversation, meals, sex with one’s spouse, walks along the river banks, etc, etc. But we must embrace that God will call us to be a little ‘wild’ at times. As Lewis put it in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, ‘Is he [Aslan] safe? Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.’

  31. Ky boy but not now says:

    imonk said:
    “1) You had stated – ‘But if you are an evangelical leader, and you’re paying attention, do this: Teach and preach what you believe are the essentials. Do it well, Biblically, often and persuasively. Then stop and leave people alone.”

    Then ScottL said:
    “Does this again relate to your heart that we teach only what the Scriptures directly espouse, rather than how to apply it to daily life in all the nitty-gritty?”

    Do the first from the pulpit.

    The second is for all the other conversations. Small Groups, dinner table, classes, etc… This is where it needs to be a discussion, not a lecture. And reasonable people can and will disagree on many details.

  32. Scotti has a bit of Joseph Garlington in him, I think. 🙂 I look forward to iMonk’s response….

  33. “What we need is unfortunately what we largely don’t have: A confessionally simple catholicism.”

    This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! In a single sentence you’ve said what I’ve had trouble explaining in volumes of conversation. Wow and thanks!