Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Throwing out the theological baby with the institutional bathwater

I was reminded this morning of a post I wrote back in December of 2008, one of the earliest posts about my concerns with and journey out of the institutional church. It was my way of trying to tie together some of the swirling thoughts that I was trying to reconcile in my head. One thing that I wrote in this post 3 1/2 years ago struck me this morning. Here it is:

I am trying to be cautious so that in my looking askance at the institutional church I don’t fall into the trap of throwing the theological baby out with the institutional bathwater.

That is still a concern for me, perhaps more now than back then. In so many places people tend to swing between the extremes. In abandoning, and rightly so, the institutional church some seem to at the same time chuck anything that the institutional church has ever believed. Just because the Reformers failed to reform the church doesn't mean we should ignore what they recovered regarding the Gospel. I see this tendency to chuck everything in a bunch of places but especially in places like gender roles, boundaries on human sexuality and the exclusivity of Christ. A serious study of the Scriptures will lead to a very different understanding of the church but that same study should lead to a deeper grasp of the Gospel. We just need to be consistent. You can't take Paul at his word in 1 Corinthians 14:26 and insist (correctly) on a participatory gathering but try to ignore or explain away what he said a few verses later in 1 Cor 14: 33-35. The same Jesus who cared for the poor and healed the sick was also preoccupied with the Kingdom of God and unequivocal in needing to be born again.

Below is the entire post, So where is this all going? It is interesting that I am still asking some of the same questions years later, indicating that finding all the answers has been harder than I thought it would be.


So where is this all going?

Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
An' if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know...

Should I Stay or Should I Go? - The Clash

What is up with the meandering, sometimes smarmy, sometimes angry, sometimes resigned ramblings of late on this here blog?

Weary but wary

Fortunately my wife and my children are very flexible and adaptable, so they are being pretty understanding through all of this. I have grown increasingly weary of the institutional church, but remain somewhat wary of the house church. I need to think , study and especially pray my way through a lot of this stuff that is rattling around.

Institutional versus house?
If we recognize that the institutional church as it exists and has existed for hundreds of years and all of American history is not a Biblical model but instead is a cultural model does that mean we must reject it in total? Burn the whole thing to the ground?

I have concerns about the all or nothing model. It can sometimes seem that there are two factions that have drawn lines, planted flags and declared victory. “The house church people are heretic and have abandoned the historical fellowship of the saints, rejected the authority structure of the New Testament church and the proper ecclesiastical structure”. Or “The steeple house people are clinging to a cultural Christianity. It is in the house church that true Biblical worship and gathering of the saints is found, not in programmatic institutional Churchianity”. Both of these extremes seem a bit off. Not that one or the other is not the proper mode of worship. One has the benefit of the Biblical example of house worship. One has the full weight of centuries of church traditions.

Is a hybrid possible? A small church that meets on Sunday for worship, teaching, preaching led by the men of the church? Frequent and meaningful fellowship in the homes of believers or other communal activities?

Ecclesiology versus soteriology?

I am trying to be cautious so that in my looking askance at the institutional church I don’t fall into the trap of throwing the theological baby out with the institutional bathwater. I am and pretty much always have been a “T”ruth kind of guy. Properly gathering together is important, proper worship is important but it should not be at odds with the great theological truths of the Bible.

Can you be Reformed in soteriology and yet question the validity of the institutional church? Many would say no. For many in the Reformed camp, the visible church IS the church and the legitimate church cannot be found outside of the visible church. That is where the Word is rightly preached and the ordinances are rightly administered.Reformed theology is inextricably linked to classic Reformed ecclesiology. But it doesn’t seem to me that there is a contradiction between a high view of the sovereignty of God, especially in salvation or holding to the Five Solas and yet questioning the validity of the institutional church. While some, perhaps many, have strayed that way, it is not an inevitability.

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