I was raised in a progressive Lutheran home. In my late teens and early 20’s, I found myself in the angry-atheist and apathetic universalist camp. From there, I became a believing Christian in a Non-Denominational church, and now I’m a Baptist who studies at a Presbyterian seminary. What does that mean for me? That means, more often than not, I find myself counted among “The Others.”
How do you know when you too are a part of The Others?
When you realize that most problems could be solved with a both/and answer and not an either/or.
When you realize that the American church has just as much indivualistic selfism as the culture surrounding it, and the answer to this problem might lie in appreciating, recognizing and understanding the church and saints of history past…
…but that doesn’t mean glorifying the past, either.
When you realize that you’re too conservative for the progressives and too progressives for the conservatives…
…because maybe we can all agree that regardless of your stance on marriage, being bullied, discriminated in the work force, or pressured into depression and suicide for your sexuality is wrong?
…because even if you count yourself among the feminist crowd, maybe you can agree that its harmful to your ideals to be a part of a society where women are dropped off at abortion clinics by their fathers, husbands and boyfriends who are forcing them to kill their daughters simply because its inconvenient?
…because maybe we can all agree, regardless of your stance on global warming, that we have a mandate by our Creator to be good stewards over his creation?
…because maybe we can agree that attempting change for the benefit of society is better than watching a bunch of out-of-touch politicians debate without getting anything done?
…because true tolerance and societal flourishing will only happen when all views are equally welcomed at the inter-religious/inter-cultural table, not just the ones who agree with you.
…because you realize that the first time Christ came he tore apart the conservative Pharisees and the progressive Greco-Roman Empire, and he’ll do the same thing when he comes again.
When you realize that asking the right questions might be met with a wrong response.
When you realize that being unpopular is better than setting aside your convictions.
When you know that faith and science agree on far more than they disagree on…
…and asking good questions in this area doesn’t make you a heretic.
When you reject anything that looks like post-modern thought, but you realize that those who hold to it aren’t the enemy, they’re the lost.
When you realize that having a 100% commitment to the advancement of the gospel means having a 100% commitment to meeting social needs and justice.
When you realize that you’ve become too catholic for the evangelicals and too evangelical for the Catholics…
…because maybe there is something wrong with the glamorous mega-church evanjellyfish rockstar churchianity prominent in today’s culture, regardless of how comfortable you are or how much you don’t want to admit it.
…because you realize that having a strong commitment to understanding the Word of God through the guidance of the Spirit means we can’t reject what the Spirit has taught the church for the last two-thousand years.
…because you realize that strong theological commitments aren’t just a fight over opinions, but over what gives the most glory to God in the way he has revealed his holiness requires and deserves.
…because you realize that individualism in the church is a destructive cancer.
…because no matter what your strong theological commitments are, they can’t hinder the advancement of the gospel.
…because you realize that “this is what this means to me” theology isn’t how Christ intends to build his church.
…because you realize that holding fast to doctrine necessarily means excluding false teachers from the church.
…because holding fast to doctrine doesn’t mean you can exclude love and humility.
…because you realize that the answer to bloated hierarchy isn’t to have no hierarchy at all.
…because desiring a strong commitment to creeds and confessions in their proper place strengthens the power of the Word, it does not detract from it.
…because holding a complementarian view of the Scriptures must mean fighting male chauvinism and elitism at every turn.
…because holding fast to orthodoxy doesn’t mean being unwilling to ask questions about what is popularly taught and understood.
When you realize you need to listen more than you need to speak.
When you often feel like the loudest voices don’t speak for you.
When you realize following Christ means you probably won’t fit into any mold that the church or pop-culture around you wants to put you in.
When you find yourself thinking these kinds of thoughts, you too might be counted among The Others.
The following is an excerpt by highly esteemed scholar J.I. Packer from his book Affirming the Apostles Creed.
It is by strict theological logic that the Creed confesses faith in the Holy Spirit before proceeding to the church and that it speaks of the church before mentioning personal salvation (forgiveness, resurrection, everlasting life). For though the Father and the Son have loved the church and the Son has redeemed it, it is the Holy Spirit who actually creates it, by inducing faith; and it is the church, through its ministry and fellowship, that personal salvation ordinarily comes to be enjoyed.
Unhappily, there is at this point a parting of the ways. Roman Catholics and Protestants both say the Creed, yet they are divided. Why? Basically, because of divergent understandings of “I believe in the holy catholic church” – “one holy catholic and apostolic church,” as the text of the Nicene Creed has it.
Official Roman Catholic teaching presents the church of Christ as the one organized body of baptized persons who are in communion with the Pope and acknowledge the teaching and ruling authority of the episcopal hierarchy. It is holy because it produces saintly folk and is kept from radical sin, catholic because in its worldwide spread it holds the full faith in trust for everyone, and apostolic because its ministerial orders stem from the apostles, and its faith (including such non-biblical items as the assumption of Mary and her immaculate conception, the Mass-sacrifice, and papal infallibility) is a sound growth from apostolic roots. Non-Roman bodies, however church-like, are not strictly part of the church at all.
Protestants challenge this from the Bible. In Scripture (they say) the church is the one worldwide fellowship of believing people whose Head is Christ. It is holy because it is consecrated to God (though it is capable nonetheless of grievous sin); it is catholic because it embraces all Christians everywhere; and it is apostolic because it seeks to maintain the apostles’ doctrine unmixed. Pope, hierarchy, and extra-biblical doctrines are not merely nonessential but actually deforming; if Rome is a church (which some Reformers doubted) she is so despite the extras, not because of them. In particular, infallibility belongs to God speaking in the Bible, not to the church or to any of its offices, and any teaching given in or by the church must be open to correction by “God’s word written,”
That the New Testament presents the Protestant view is hardly open to dispute (the dispute is over whether the New Testament is final!). The church appears in Trinitarian relationships as the family of God the Father, the body of Christ the Son, and the temple (dwelling-place) of the Holy Spirit, and so long as the dominical sacraments are administered and ministerial oversight is exercised, no organizational norms are insisted on at all. The church is the supernatural society of God’s redeemed and baptized people, looking back to Christ’s first coming with gratitude and on to his second coming with hope. “Your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:3-4) – such is the church’s present state and future prospect. To this hope both sacraments point, baptism prefiguring final resurrection, the Lord’s Supper anticipating “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9).
The evangelical theology of revival, first spelled out in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the present-day emergence of “charismatic renewal” on a worldwide scale remind us of something that Roman Catholic and Protestant disputers, in their concentration on doctrinal truth, tended to miss – namely, that the church must always be open to the immediacy of the Spirit’s Lordship and that disorderly vigor in a congregation is infinitely preferable to a correct and tidy deadness.
The acid test of the church’s state is what happens in a local congregation. Each congregation is a visible outcrop of the one church universal, called to serve God and men in humility and, perhaps, humiliation while living in prospect of glory. Spirit-filled for worship and witness, active in love and care for insiders and outsiders alike, self-supporting and self-propagating, each congregation is to be a spearhead of divine counterattack for the recapture of a rebel world.
Here is a question for you: how is your congregation getting along?