Tuesday, May 03, 2005

On Being Irrelevant

A recent statement issued by some professors as their affirmation of the identity of their denomination was done to "clarify" where they stand and believe their denomination ought to stand. Unfortunately, anyone familiar with Churches of Christ will recognize the standard subjects: baptism, Lord's Supper, and a cappella singing . . . and the thoroughly discredited notion that Christian unity can be achieved through a common interpretation and practice of ancient church forms.

Hasn't that been tried? Isn't it a modern idea that human understanding and agreement will be the basis of Christian unity? Unity does not exist through common practice and belief, but by the Spirit despite dissimilar human practice and belief.

While I don't doubt the sincerest desires of these men (several have been my teachers) it is a clear example of institutional irrelevance. Concern for the preservation of the organizational identity of the denomination leads to focusing on 'internal' discussions over disputable interpretations.

We have an urgent need for Christian faith and life to be theologically incarnated in today's challenging cultural contexts. At least for me, nothing can be more irrelevant than spending time defending historical interpretive positions for the purpose of clarifying and preserving denominational identities. The three matters chosen as an identity show how form-oriented the discussion remains for what Churches of Christ have been.

6 comments:

Ken Haynes said...

Amen- echoing your spirit of giving everyone the " benefit of the doubt" on this...I guess modernist tendencies die hard. A movement founded and nurtured in Enlightenment thinking really has difficulty finding different modes to articulate unity. Knowing the names on the list...many I think would agree with your evaluation. Therefore it puzzles me what was exactly behind this ??!! It is also fascinating that academic institutions of denominations, non-denominational denominations have the most denominational loyalty. Guess that should not be suprising huh. Seeing similar affirmations done in numerous other denominations and even some of the stuff Evangelicals and Catholics have jointly documented continues to perpetuate some of these modernist impulses.

Frank Bellizzi said...

Wow! This is one hot post, Greg. Thanks for offering your thoughts about the statement.

If you haven't already, you should read the comments section where the statement appears on the web. Some of the signers weigh in (again?) explaining the decision to have their names attached to it. Interesting.

Greg Newton said...

Frank - I read the comments and "lame" is unfortunately the word that came to mind.

The inconsistencies of the whole affirmation (citing Greek Orthodox believers that these people by their own statement would not accept as truly baptized Christians) seems a deceptive ploy at best.

The whole idea that these three pet topics are what Churches of Christ have to offer the Christian world is to miss entirely that many other churches have richer theologies on all three matters - the Churches of Christ tend to practice diligently and obediently, but not theologically profoundly these matters.

Churches of Christ will teach the Christian world about Holy Communion? I can think of number s of other denominations which have deeper theology and practice. Frequency is not everything.

Fajita said...

This affirmation is an exercise in futility. It has the feel of going to the well just one more time after the thing has been dry for 25 years.

You think the old pickup will start up again?

It's like a bad relationship you keep going back to.

Unity through uniformity is a proven failure, yet here we are trying to raise it from the dead.

Fajita said...

This affirmation is an exercise in futility. It has the feel of going to the well just one more time after the thing has been dry for 25 years.

You think the old pickup will start up again?

It's like a bad relationship you keep going back to.

Unity through uniformity is a proven failure, yet here we are trying to raise it from the dead.

Edward Fudge said...

Good job, Greg -- thanks!