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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Friday, June 30, 2006

Unity and Diversity in Spiritual Formation

Recently in a chatroom I was in conversation with someone whom I have chatted intermittently with many times over the years. This person would never tell me her church's statement of faith and even denying that it had one at all. However, she finally gave me a website where I tracked down the statement of faith. Her pastor and church are from a dispensational theological background and her pastor was a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, one of the flagship dispensationalist schools in the country.

My complaint with the church is that it seems doctrinal teaching is falling by the wayside. The Wednesday and Thursday services are aimed at expositional teaching straight from the Bible in the original Koine Greek. I find it commendable that the pastor is taking time to teach church members the original languages.

However, if any one discipline in the Christian life is emphasized above all else it may become unhealthy and even disasterous to the individual and to the body of Christ as a whole. I can liken this to a savant child who can excel at math or music but cannot speak about any subject coherently or even dress himself or herself. There are savants who are geniuses at reproducing music they've heard, including classical music of great complexity. There are savants who are geniuses at math and can perform math seemingly with the speed of a calculator or a computer. But they are so handicapped in all the other areas of their existence as to almost possess no human personality or soul.

In the same way, churches which ignore church history, systematic theology, and church discipline are creating Christians who very much resemble savants. They may quote Scripture or even know Greek grammar and how to parse verbs and conjugate nouns, adjectives, and articles. But they have little to no knowledge of the first 2,000 years of church history, the history of their own church's theological tradition, or systematic and dogmatic theology. What good is it to create a savant with a wealth of knowledge about one small part of Christianity but with no overall general knowledge of the entire faith? While it is true that we can become so focused on the particulars that we lose sight of the larger picture, (we cannot see the forest for the trees), it is also true that we must focus on the particulars of the faith so that we can have a better understanding with more precise thinking and better definition. But if we focus on only ONE particular to the exclusion of all else, then we have lost sight not only of the forest but of all the other individual trees as well.

It is truly sad that most Christians have no idea what the Protestant Reformation was about, what caused it, or why it is essential for Evangelicals to hold fast to the principles established in that reform. We may have unity in the body of Christ but that unity comes at the cost of cancers that eat away at the health. To feed on only sugar and not meat is to have one's health ruined. The teeth fall out, diabetes sets in, and the body in general deteriorates. This is the state of Evangelical churches today which focus only on popular music which merely recites a meaningless chorus like a mantra in endless repetition. God is not a girlfriend who needs us to woo Him. Rather He is a God who is to be understood and to be emotionally connected with. To focus on only one aspect of God at the expense of who He is in totality is to become like a savant with great gifts but no personality, no depth, and no true understanding.

If the Renaissance teaches us anything as Christians it is that we should develop every area of our being so that we may worship God with all that we have. This means the mind and the intellect is as important as our emotions or our sanctification. It means that doctrine and a systematic understanding of the Bible is essential and that church history is completely relevant to understanding where we are today. The old cliche applies to Evangelicalism: " Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it."

May the peace of God be with you!

1 comment:

John Meade said...

Charlie,

Thanks for this post. I have become convicted of this in other areas as well. I am one who loves the languages and I do believe they take priority in theological formulation which I know you agree with as well. However, a study of the text in Greek and Hebrew should not exclude other studies.

You mention church history and systematics, but what about the humanities in general: literature, art, philosophy etc. These things are being pushed away more and more from education in the church and society as a whole. The church has lost or is in the process of losing its place in teaching these subjects as well. Loving the Lord with all our Heart and Mind has changed to Loving the Lord with all our emotions. Emotions are important of course, but I have been working on a little piece for the church I am a member of. Check out Psalm 100. All the language about praise and worship and singing, but what is at the center of the text? "KNOW that Yahweh, He is God, He has made us and we are His, His people, the sheep of his shepherding." The Psalm focuses on this very point. The singing and praise commands seem to be the result of KNOWING the LORD. Furthermore, verse 5 provides a reason which out worship should be grounded in, "Because Yahweh is good, his steadfast love endures forever, his faithfulness through all generations.

My sermon is almost done, but it is interesting to note that this Psalm talks of knowing God and supplies a reason for worship. The affections must be stirred by the our conception of God, which comes from the Text and Theology and Church history, and even some forms of Art (barring that they are grounded in the Christian metanarrative as well). If all we have is emotion, it seems that we will not honor God the way we ought because our emotions and worship in general must be in accord with our knowledge of God.

Charlie, thanks for the post. Also, you have done this in the past, but continue to provide relevant examples which will demonstrate for us the necessity of studying church history. In what specific ways does it bear on our experience today? Thanks again brother.

-John M

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