Monday, September 15, 2008

Out on a Limb

Did you hear the one about the Catholic, the Presbyterian, the Greek Orthodox, the Anglican, the Pentecostal, the Methodist, and the Anabaptist?
Sounds like the beginning of a really bad joke, doesn't it?
Imagine for a moment that these seven folks walked into the same room to be confronted with a series of questions:
"Do you believe that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God?
"YES!" they all reply in unison.
"Do you believe that he died on a cross for the sins of humanity?"
"YES!" they all shout together again.
"Do you believe that he rose again on the third day and ascended to the right hand of the Father?"
"YES!" they shout, with at least one pump of the fist and a "Hallelujah!"
Then the inquistor asks, "What do you believe about church government?"
A brief silence, followed by a passionate shouting match.
What's the moral to this story?
There are things that the church universal has affirmed for centuries, things about the divinity of Christ, the resurrection, the forgiveness of sins, and the supremacy of the name of Jesus above all other names, on heaven and on earth.  This is the "mere christanity" of C.S. Lewis, Richard Baxter, and St. Vincent of Lerins.  These are central tenets of our faith.
But matters of praxis, like church goverment, ministry models, and worship style do NOT fall into that category.  Those are matters on which the historical church has held widely varying views. I am not comfortable straying from the majority of the Christian community when it comes to those things about which there has been essential agreement.  But matters of practice are a different story.  
Liturgy vs. Open, participatory meetings.  Episcopal government vs. Congregational.  Guitars vs. Organs.  House church vs. Steeple-topped sanctuary.  For these things, there is no clear and authoritative consensus.
So here will be, out on this limb, along with possibly millions of Anabaptists, Baptists, Waldensians, Moravians, Priscillianists, Bogomils, Cathars, Albigensians, and who knows how many others across the centuries.  With (seriously) all due respect for the faith of our fathers, I'm pretty comfortable out on this limb.  It's a big, strong Tree.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I reckon it's a good thing that we Are a limb,

9:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings! The Cathars and the Albigensians were one and the same.
Have a safe day!

Brad Hoffstetter
Communications Division
Assembly of good Christians

6:31 PM  
Blogger Home Is Where The Heart Is! said...


Beautifully stated. I can not wait (although I will be forced to) for the day that all this is revealed to The Nation of God and we all get a great laugh at what we have actually put our minds on during our visit to earth (We are aliens you know), that is if the Glory does not blind us so that we forget about it in the first place.

Out on The Limb with you,

11:17 AM  
Blogger A. S. Tatum said...

This is quite a late response but I'm glad to see this posted. I was raised United Methodist and have been in Baptist and Episcopal churches for the past ten years. And I love what the Moravians have done in claiming:

In essentials, Unity;
In non-essentials, Liberty;
In all things, Love.

3:40 PM  

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