Monday, December 20, 2010

In Praise of Orthodoxy and Community

Most of what I have written about over the last few years has focused on the church, the purpose and form of the gathering, what the Bible means when it talks about the church, how we live as a community and adoptive family with one another while loving, edifying and exhorting each other, etc. This has been a marked change from the years prior. My blogging prior to 2009 is heavily weighted toward discussions of what we more typically associate with theology and doctrine: soteriology, baptism, eschatology, etc. I loved reading about, listening to talks about and blogging about theology. Like many Christians I “assumed” the church, figuring that we needed to look no farther than Calvin’s Geneva to see what the church should look like and that there were no problems in the church that more theologically sound expository preaching wouldn’t fix. Since around 2009 my “deep theology” content has been drastically reduced, both in what I am reading and what I have been writing although I think that ecclesiology is every bit as rich a topic as anything else we study.

That doesn’t mean I have lost my zeal for Biblical orthodoxy. Not at all. In fact I would say I am even more attuned to the need in the church for a greater understanding of Scripture especially as it relates to how the Scriptures fit seamlessly together. As an example, the truth of “all who call on the name of Jesus Christ will be saved” is a summary of the doctrine of justification by faith alone which cannot be properly understood outside of an examination of the differences between the Old and New Covenants which all are part of God’s eternal plan for the salvation of an elect nation consisting of both Jews and Gentiles foreordained before the beginning of time. I am afraid that many Christians, whether in a traditional church or a more organic model of church, never get past the “believe and be saved” stage of theology and the church has suffered because of it.

There is a very serious need for balance among the various doctrines of the faith. It can be easy to overemphasize certain doctrines at the expense of others. The doctrines of grace are magnificent but if your study of these doctrines means that you deemphasize the responsibility of Christians to ministry to the material needs of “the least of these”, your growth and ministry as a Christian will be stunted. Similarly, one can get so enamored of organic church meetings that intensive study of major theological topics can be missed. An organic meeting of the church in a home where the people in attendance don’t understand the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ is dangerous and fertile ground for false teachers (keeping in mind that the presence of a church building and a professional pastor with the “proper” ordination and education is no guarantee of orthodoxy!).

Solid grounding in the great theological truths of our faith and genuine community and fellowship among believers are not enemies. In fact, without both being present the church is naturally weaker. The evidence all around us bears that out. Cold and sterile academic orthodoxy coupled with ritualistic “fellowship” is spiritually crippled as is warm and loving fellowship among believers who cannot discern the core essentials of the faith. I love doctrine and theology. I have no interest in a gathering of the church where the big topics are never wrestled with and studied, where there is lots of talk about loving Jesus with no concept of who He is. I also love the people of God and have no interest in a sterile meeting where a theologically precise monologue is the spiritual highlight of the week and where we love the dead theological giants of yesteryear more than the widow and the orphan in our neighborhood. My desire is to see my brothers and sisters in Christ develop a love for theology and develop a love for one another, that we seek in Scriptures what it has to say about God, about man, about Christ and that we do so in a Scripturally sound community of faith as the adoptive family of God.

Theology and community are not enemies and only the Enemy benefits when we treat them as if they are.

1 comment:

norma j hill said...

Well said! Thank you!