One of the major repercussions of our religious system where local churches see other local churches as competitors for scarce resources is that we tend toward a severe form of tribalism. This tribalism leads to theological in-breeding, Christians only reading writers from their own theological circles. That makes Christians who are very well versed in their own theological brand but largely ignorant of or downright hostile toward other parts of the church. This is common in a lot of groups but it is epidemic in the Reformed/Neo-reformed movement.
This morning along comes an encouraging post on the blog of the Gospel Coalition, a blog where I rarely find much encouragement. The title grabbed my attention, Listening to our Anabaptist Brethren, and I was pleased to find some thoughtful writing. I expect the comments to be quite interesting as well!
There are two reasons I am glad to see a post like that on a widely read blog like the Gospel Coalition.
First because it raises some very important issues that are deeply embedded in the Reformed/Neo-Reformed camp. Issues like the cult of personality that infects Reformed Christianity that manifests itself in constant name dropping "I was reading *insert obscure Puritan author name here* the other night and....". Or issues like the narrow focus on the forensic nature of justification without ever fully reforming the implications of the Gospel and New Testament witness on how we relate as the church.
Second because it encourages those Christians who identify with the Reformed/Neo-Reformed movement to look seriously outside of their own circle of authors and speakers, something that is quite rare. Many Reformed types read only books and blogs written by the same small cabal of authors, a practice which serves primarily as an echo chamber. Not to mention that many leaders of the Reformed camp actively throw suspicion or cast aspersion on people outside of their own stream, especially the Anabaptist. Just referring to Anabaptists as brethren is a major accomplishment since many prominent Reformed teachers use Anabaptist like a swear word (White Horse Inn, I am talkin' 'bout you!).
I would encourage you to read and interact with this essay, even if you are not personally influenced by either Anabaptist or Reformed Christianity. These are the sorts of conversations we need to be having as we move away from a Christendom, prevailing religious cultural world and into one where Christianity is not only not assumed but actually actively opposed, a culture where the church will have no choice but to find ways to cooperate in the face of a increasingly hostile culture.