Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The 'wiki' nature of the church: Why not convert to Catholocism or Orthodoxy?

While there is a bit of a lull in the previous thread, i thought I would post a couple of paragraphs from a great post today by McKnight in jesuscreed. He is answering a letter from someone who is asking him if he admires the historic communsions (RCC and EO) why he does not go all the way and convert to one of them from evangelicalism. His response is classic ... I recommend that you go do and read the entire post ... It is called Why I am not Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.

Here is a portion of his response:

"Third, the reason I think this way is seen in how Tradition plays itself out in each Church: for each of these communions the Tradition becomes massively authoritative and, in my view, each of these communions has become un-reformable. They read the Bible through Tradition and I believe in reading the Bible with Tradition. (my emphasis, not McKnight's)

And reformability is central to the “wiki” understanding of how God speaks: God spoke in the Bible in ongoingly fresh ways; that reveals the importance of returning to the roots in order to gain fire for the present. Return for reformation is the very essence of my “wiki” understanding of the Bible and of how God speaks.

I believe both the RCC and the EO, even with routine observations to the contrary by its adherents, are un-reformable.

I value, and value with profound respect, the great traditions of the Church, including Nicea and Chalcedon and Wittenberg and other moments as well. I check interpretation against these; but that does not mean I don’t think fresh light emerges or that something could be improved or modified (COMMENT: thats what I'm talking about! Let's have that conversation...)

Fifth, what this means — if you are still with me — is that I believe in ongoing discernment of what the Spirit is saying to the Church, and I believe this discernment is a function of church leaders and churches in communion with one another. Discernment for the day is different than infallible teaching for all time. Therein lies a major difference." (COMMENT: this 'discernment' is what I have been calling for along the lines of the Sons of Issachar...but there is a lot of pushback)


Brian Emmet said...

I really enjoyed the McKnight post--thanks, Joseph, for finding and sharing it! I was intrigued by his "wiki" approach to Scripture, and liked the phrase "truthful timeliness."

OK, Jose, you've been right all along! I'm ready to strike my colors!

Bruce said...

If the alternatives were between RCC+EO on one hand and an outreach-startup group, there's no competition, RCC+EO wins without thinking hard.

The saving grace is that we don't have that false dichotomy, it's not either or. But if one is RCC+EO, and is wrestling with how to be in the present truth and present move of God, one is already in the long term truth and move of God. If in a startup, one has just reinvented the wheel and is overly surprised when you discover that you can attach a transmission and motor to four of them.

smokin joe said...

looks like we are on bloggers vacation...

Have any of you seen the trailors for Bill Maher's new spoof of religion called 'religulous'?

talk about ironic perspectives! It does actually have some funny moments. I guess it is good to laugh at ourselves...

Bruce: not sure I agree with you if I understood you correctly.

Brian: I'm not sure if you are being 'ironic' or what you are referring to.

off to school!

smokin joe said...

oh... and one more thought. What if in this thread, we went through McKnight's reasons for remaining Evangelical rather than converting to a liturgical tradition point-by-point?

Bruce said...

To clarify, re Joe.
The gospel didn't come from nowhere.
RCC, EO, and we might add, the Reformers, all acknowledge a continuous community of the faithful.

In a forced choice between a continuous community of the faithful, and a discontinuous Bible-dropped-out-of-the-sky approach, we have a duty to side with the saints everywhere, everywhen. We're the community of the faithful, not individual followers of a Platonic philosophy of the Good.

Hence my disclaim: we don't have that false dichotomy. So I'm not in the RCC, EO, or Reformed church.

Brian Emmet said...

Joseph, I was attempting humor. I found McK's presentation, along with your "That's what I'm talking about!" inserts to be helpful... and since I'm often somewhat on the other side of you in certain of our discussions, I was just trying to affirm the reality of how much I agree with you.

Bruce, I'm not sure the choice is between "historic continuity" and "Bible-dropped-from-the-sky." I thought McKnight's phrasing, "reading the Bible with Tradition" (as opposed to "through" Tradition) made the point nicely.

Bruce said...

I don't think it's either-or Brian. I was making the distinction more clear.

BUT, if someone were to grow up in the Lord mainly based on Bob Mumford or Derek Prince, one might think that the Bible just showed up one day, out of the blue. And that we are the church.

John M. said...

I thought McKnight's post was very helpful. I am one who has wondered at times if EO was more "orthodox" than contemporary evangelicalism, and consequently wondered, not recently, if becoming EO demonstrated more integrity than being evangelical.

I would have to say that, unlike Scot, I have been tempted to embrace EO institutionally, but it was always that (the institution) that I couldn't embrace.

The most helpful resolution I came to was Robert Webber's counsel to stay with your "family" -- even if you have strong criticisms of your family it is still yours and God has put you there for a purpose.

Ever since I heard him say that several years ago, it removed, for me, the issue of "joining" EO .

Scot's article was helpful in clarifying some objective reasons for not becomeing institutionally and ecclesiastically RC or EO.

I have a hunch that those who hold to biblical inerrancy will have a hard time with McKnight's "wiki" understanding of scripture -- or am I misunderstanding what he means?

Btw, I don't think we're done with the last thread, so I'm still talking over there, too, if anyone's interested. I'm getting ready to put up another post about the KOG over there.

smokin joe said...

John, what do you think about Scots critique of EO (and RCC) that it is un-reformable and that it captures the authority of the Spirit within the Church?

John M. said...

On a human, naturalistic perspective I think he's, right -- altough the comment someone made about Vatican II and some of the recent Papal whatever you call them's definitely pushed back at that idea.

But the short answer is that, yes, I agreed with Scot and thought his perspective was insightful.

I might frame the question a little differently by asking, not if it's impossible to reform, but do I think that it will reform itself. The answer is, probably not. I understand what Scot means, that given the perspective of seeing God and the scriptures through tradition and the Church, that it is impossible to reform.

I don't want to cast it in concrete, though. Who knows what God might have planned?

My question is, is the reformation reformable? Is protestantism reformable? Again I would reframe the question to be, "Will it reform?"

I think that is partly what the "emergents" and "neo-evangelicals" are doing. I think they have concluded that evangelicalism in its current state will not reform itself, so they are pushing beyond to find their own reforms.

Some might say that that is evangelicalism reforming itself. I guess historians who write after we're gone will need to decide that question.

david said...

joe, i wonder if an answer to your questions on reformation and the Spirit can be found in some of the latest responses on the jesuscreed thread - see responses number 43 and 81.

smokin joe said...

hi David, I went to jesuscreed and right the comments you mentioned. Good stuff.

John, I think the reformation has reformed itself many times ... John and Charles Wesley and the Methodist movement come to mind, as does the Moravian movement. Also, the Pentecostal explosion in the early part of the 20th century. Evangelicalism in the 1950s was a sort of reformation of crystallized and antagonistic fundamentalism. I believe we are in the midst of a significant reformation right now .. but it is difficult to get perspective to "see" it clearly while in the midst of it.

I liked Brian's questions (in this thread or the previous?) about what we need to repent of.

Perhaps another question would be what needs to be reformed within Evangelicalism ... (we can leave that question for liberal Prot. Anglicans, RCC and EO for themselves to discuss).

Here are a couple of things I think need a "wiki" updating with Evangelicalism....

1) Evangelicalism in general needs greater humility and needs to stop judging those who are outside of the faith in accordance with 1 Cor. 6.

2) Similar to this is, Evangelicalism needs to learn how to genuinely love others ... essential to living in pluralism. This and #1 together are what McClaren has called "A Generous Orthodoxy."

3) Perhaps most importantly, Evangelicalism needs to learn how to help people through a process of spiritual formation ... i.e. genuine biblical discipleship. This is the heart cry of Dallas Willard among others. This is the resolution to most of Barna's bad news ... genuine spiritual formation that results in identifiable character-of-Christ growth. This was the central message of CGM back in the day ... and continues to be the greatest problem facing the contemporary church.

It may be said that the RCC and EO do not do a very good job of getting people 'born again' but it must also be said that Evangelicals are not doing a very good job of making and growing disciples.

We need to move the emphasis away from church attendance, or making and growing churches, to making and growing disciples. I have tried to do this for years, but I have been very disappointed in my own efforts.

4) The last point is my current passion but I think is less important than #3, although still hugely important in its own right. We need to learn how to communicate and demonstrate good news to unchurched, secular people who have no clue what is in the Bible and do not grant any special authority to the biblical tradition. If we do not learn how to do that missionally, in another generation the U.S. will increasingly look like Europe. #3 is more important because if we do not learn how to make true disciples, it can be argued that there is no point to evangelism ... making them twice the sons of hell that christians sadly sometimes can be. We don't need any more sickly, sub-standard, embarrassing christians, which is largly what the mega-churches are giving us.

Those are my 4 theses ... but I can find a church door to nail them to! I need to try to come up with 91 more ...

I realize that Bill Maher has a large amount of hostility towards God and faith... but I suggest we go to see him movie prayerfully, asking God to open our eyes to how the world sees us ... and for revelation on what really needs to change.

smokin joe said...

sorry, I forgot #5. The fifth area where we Evangelicals need a wiki updating is the very area that Steve, Brian, John and Robert have been emphasizing, and that Scot McKnight talks about so clearly in his post: we need to recover the whole history of the church, and learn to love the whole church. We DO need to learn to drink deeply from RCC and EO wells of profound devotion and theology, while not throwing out the Reformation, or giving up the "wiki" work of the Holy Spirit. Again, I think this is the idea behind the emerging concept of generous orthodoxy and Ancient-Future faith.

this is an area that you guys have helped me see and to begin to appreciate.

John M. said...

Good stuff Joseph. Good points about the Reformation being reformed.

If you find a church door, it will probably be glass, so you may need to just take some duck tape along!

Randy R. said...

Sorry, gentlemen, my contributions have been few and will probably continue to be so. Just a point, which everyone may already know. The "church door," upon which Luther tacked his statements was essentially the town bulletin board. That was the key vs. being attached to the church. Also, many scholars believe that were it not for the invention of the printing press, only a short time before 1517, that the Reformation would probably not have had the effect that it did. In fact, when a poll was conducted by Time Magazine at the close of the last millennium, as to what was the greatest invention of the past 1,000 years, the vote was the printing press! Gutenberg printed the Bible as his first offering from his new invention. I believe that today's blogs and computer generated bulletin boards are the "bulletin boards" of the 21st Century. Therefore, Joseph, you ARE tacking your thoughts on a "church door." I know that was A LOT to say a very little!!!! Perhaps, I should become a politician!!!!

Bruce said...

Sometimes I talk a long walk around my block and just say hi to people while walking, because I like people, and incidentally feel a spiritual responsibility for my home town of Arlington. The other day I walked with a guy down the road returning from a corner store, and another friend (from church) stopped to give me a ride home and that he wanted to talk to me. The first guy thought I must be running for office!

Randy, you are nowhere near "too loquacious." Your stuff is always good.

John M. said...

Joseph didn't even accuse ME of being "too loquacious"; he just said that I was loquacious. I read that as a huge difference.

Being "too loquacious" sounds really serious. So Randy, I'm glad that neither of us are "too loquacious"!

Just being "loquacious" kind of has a lilt to it; almost like a compliment.

Bruce said...

Ha, ha, yes, loquaciousness is indeed a nonquotidian termination for verbophilic brethren. Common to politicians and bloggers who go on and on. =D

John M. said...

Since there's not much going on here today, I'll tell you about a book I'm currently reading, Scot McKnight's "A Community Called Atonement". Although I've been reading his blog for a while, I have not read one of his books util now. I am impressed. Here he applies his "wiki" to the nature atonement.

His basic premise is that just one theory of atonement cannot adequetly convey all that God accomplishes and envisions through Jesus' birth, death and ressurrection.

He likens selecting one theory, and trying to push all of scripture through that one narrow grid, is akin to trying to play a round of golf with just one club.
McKnight's desire is that evangelicals will begin to use all the clubs in their bag, meaning that they will draw from a synthesis of all that the Church contains historically, forming a "Community Called Atonement".

In the first section McKnight draws from what he calls the "Lukan Thread" to unpack the importance of the the Kingdom, and Jesus' message of the Kingdom in understanding God's purpose in atonement. Section one where he does this dovetails nicely with the discussion in our last thread.

Here is McKnight's definition of the KOG: "The kingomd of God, in short compass, is the society in which the will of God is estabished to transform all of life.

The kingdom of God is more than what God is doing 'within you' and more than God's personal 'dynamic presence'; it is what God is doing in the world through the community of faith for the redemptive plans of God -- including what God is doing in you and me. It transforms relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the world."

Here are a few selected quotes: "We will argue here that atonement is only understood when it is understood as the restoration of humans -- in all directions -- so that they form a society (the ecclesia, the church) wherein God's will is lived out and given freedom to transform all of life. Any theory of atonement that is not an ecclesial theory of the atonement is inadequate..."

"Jesus' kingom vision and atonement are related; separating them is an act of violence."