December 2, 2020

Mark Galli on Being Protestant in This Moment

Castle Church, Wittenberg

By Chaplain Mike

Mark Galli, Senior Managing Editor at Christianity Today, is writing a book that reflects on Rob Bell’s controversial Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Adam Palmer, one of our Internet Monk writers will weigh in with his own review of Bell’s book on Thursday. In last week’s Saturday Ramblings, Jeff directed readers to Galli’s recent “Soulwork” column in CT entitled, “Rob Bell Is Not a Litmus Test.”

More about Rob Bell later. That’s not my point today.

Instead, I simply want you to read some strong words from Galli, affirming the Protestant way of being the church and dealing with differences on doctrinal matters, such as those raised in the Bell blow-up.

As a “Reformation” believer myself, I affirm these words heartily and long to see God’s people actually live like this. At the same time, this is not the whole story, for it still raises questions in my mind about the nature and structures of authority (and lack thereof) in the Protestant world.

Be that as it may, I find Mark Galli’s words bracing, challenging, and worthy of discussion.

We are wise to nurture an atmosphere in churches, and families, and websites where any question can be asked without fear of judgment, where theological ideas are addressed and not merely dismissed. We sometimes act as if Jesus said, “I might be the way and the truth and the life—unless a better idea comes along.” No, we can have complete confidence in the face of any question because we know that whatever is true has its origins in God’s truth in Jesus Christ, and that Jesus Christ really is the Truth that sets us free. This will require in many instances some sensitive listening and hard intellectual work. But who said love, even loving God with the mind, would not entail suffering?

We have to become radically Protestant again. At times like these, there arises a longing in Protestant breasts for the magisterium, for an authoritative body to pronounce a final verdict to deal with the troublemakers by edict. But that is not a Protestant theology of the church and the Holy Spirit. We believe that God is sovereign in his church, that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, that through discussion and debate, a sifting process allows the truth of God in Christ to deepen and broaden. If Jesus is truly Lord of his church, his truth will make its way into the church’s life, one way or another. Our job is to prayerfully read Scripture, talk with one another in the bonds of love, and, yes, when the time comes, make the tough calls. Again, a congregation or a denomination has the perfect right and responsibility to say, “This conversation is over for now. This is what we believe. Let us move forward in mission grounded in this article of faith.” There are times to call a spade a spade, and to say clearly that someone is engaging in false teaching and it’s damaging the health of the church. All this is part of the sifting process of the Holy Spirit in history. But we are wise not to end some conversations before they’ve even started, especially when it often seems that the Spirit may be starting the troubling conversation afresh in the first place.

I’d love to hear what you have to say, Protestant or not.

Comments

  1. When Galli says,

    “But that is not a Protestant theology of the church and the Holy Spirit. We believe that God is sovereign in his church, that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, that through discussion and debate, a sifting process allows the truth of God in Christ to deepen and broaden.”

    I can’t help but be reminded of Robert Barclay’s Apology, specifically the second proposition, “Seeing “no man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son revealeth him”; and seeing the “revelation of the Son is in and by the Spirit” (Matt. 11:27); therefore the testimony of the Spirit is that alone by which the true knowledge of God hath been, is, and can be only revealed; who as, by the moving of his own Spirit, he disposed the chaos of this world into that wonderful order wherein it was in the beginning, and created man a living soul, to rule and govern it, so, by the revelation of the same Spirit, he hath manifested himself all along unto the sons of men, both patriarchs, prophets, and apostles; which revelations of God by the Spirit, whether by outward voices and appearances, dreams, or inward objective manifestations in the heart, were of old the formal object of their faith, and remain yet so to be, since the object of the saints’ faith is the same in all ages, though held forth under divers administrations. Moreover, these divine inward revelations, which we make absolutely necessary for the building up of true faith, neither do nor can ever contradict the outward testimony of the Scriptures, or right and sound reason. Yet from hence it will not follow, that the divine revelations are to be subjected to the test, either of the outward testimony of the Scriptures, or of the natural reason of man, as to a more noble or certain rule and touchstone; for this divine revelation and inward illumination, is that which is evident and clear of itself, forcing, by its own evidence and clearness, the well-disposed understanding to assent, irresistibly moving the same thereunto, even as the common principles of natural truths do move and incline the mind to a natural assent: as, that the whole is greater than its part, that two contradictories can neither be both true, nor both false.”

    http://www.qhpress.org/texts/barclay/apology/prop2.html

    While this is certainly a tradition that emerged out of the reformation I’m not sure it is THE tradition that emerged out of the reformation. The Augsburg Confession, The Westminster Confession, The 39 Articles of Religion, etc. did and in some cases continue to function as magisterial texts saying precisely, “This conversation is over for now. This is what we believe. Let us move forward in mission grounded in this article of faith.”

    The fundamental question is whether or not the reformation is over. Or if it can ever be over.

  2. I love what Mr. Galli has to say. I long to be in a church where questions can be asked and discussions had without fear of judgement. I’m not interested in being argumentative or getting my way, I just want to have an honest discussion and at the end of the discussion I want to feel like I am still a valued member of the body of Christ, not a pitied soul on the slippery slope to who knows where. I live in a very small conservative town and my church options are limited. So, I have sort of given up on what Mr. Galli describes. I have tried at times to ask questions or start a discussion, but my attempts are usually met with silence and raised eyebrows.

    The first I heard of the recent Rob Bell hubub was when my pastor interrupted a conversation I was having with his wife to let her know that he’d just heard that Rob Bell wrote a book questioning the existence of hell. He went on to say that he’s been warning people about this guy for years. Of course, that was before the book even came out. That is why sites like this one are so valuable to me. I don’t comment very often, but I really appreciate what you do here. You IMonks are a bit of a lifeline for me. Thank You!

  3. What I see is that the protestant world in America is beginning to feel threatened due to the evangelical collapse. This forces them to try to adopt some solutions that are not typical of protestants. For example, in my hometown we just went wet, (started selling alcohol), and in my church my Pastor is saying it is proof that the end is nigh, while completely disregarding scripture that conflicts with this “prophesy” . So because they (we) feel threatened by the modern world we will do say and do things that compromises our own protestant identity in a vain attempt to stave off an inevitable collapse. I believe that as the evangelical collapse becomes more real, the more we will see some longing for type of central “inquisitorial” type of christian body to keep Christians “pure”.

    AT least that is my two cents.
    RalphB

    • I know some counties in Northwest Arkansas that just went wet and I can just hear the preaching on it.

      • WalMart in Benton county has totally changed the demographics. Despite Ronny Floyd and his franchises, a greater % of the population is no longer Southern Baptist and, when it’s all said and done, alcohol sales mean $.

        I just wish that Madison county would see the light and follow suit.

        T

    • Wonder what the Puritans would have thought of this vision of the future had they seen it. Would they have given up Rum at their church ‘picnics’ ?

      • If they saw what Protestant Christianity would become they would have stayed in England. hehe

  4. i read the Christianity Today article a few days ago when it was mentioned before in a previous iMonk article…

    there is a seeming ‘vacuum’ of final authority that can provide loving, supportive, careful, accurate, but firm direction & voice to point out concerns, clarify, make sense of, encourage more thoughtful review or simply point out error.

    because such a vacuum exists & nature does abhor such, there are many self-appointed sheriffs filling the void today. some do it in blogs that are take great pains to avoid name-calling & vicious anathemas, others are hell-bent heresy hunters seeing doctrinal devils under every rock. and they are quick to point out these perceived errors with no grace or humility or even recognized authority. funny thing that. we were only recently talking about the entertainment elements infecting the way church is choreographed (orthopraxy?). those of sufficient web site personality that bark the loudest or have the ‘coolest’ features & supportive readership get the Golden Thumb Up award for amateur apologetic-rhetoric & they become celebrities in their own right simply by being the most popular+controversial+persistent.

    the number of arm-chair doctrinal police out there scrutinizing every jit+tottle of religious perspectives in print or preached (with sufficient audio+video clips) is truly discouraging. no one really appointed them & no one gives them much heed, but they are convinced they are doing the Good Lord a great service pointing out the egregious doctrinal errors they religiously rail against…

    the cacophony is counter-productive though. it is a clash of soapbox pronouncements trying to be heard above the rest of the rhetoric. all wanting some attention or confirmation that yes, they have some perceived power to do what they do & how they do it…

    [sigh]

    i think the need or reaction of some just itching to ‘correct’ others of their deficient theological perspectives a symptom of ego & pride, not humble apologetic defense of doctrine. it is just a blind spot of religious self-righteousness & self-importance that supposes their perspectives moat/speck free & able to point out the log in the eyes of others. they think that the shear weight of their perspective sufficient to point out error with the unrepentant attitude of superiority. not sure what the draw is for those that keep listening to such clanging cymbals, but after a loud clang or two i simply ‘tune’ them out. no need for such doctrinal detective-perspectives since i can ponder & think & conclude on my own after looking into any supposed issue being raised…

    there are those that speak up most loudly when they should remain silent, but conversely, there are those that remain silent when crazy or silly or very questionable stuff is promoted! the crazy charismatic crowd can get a free pass while the more conservative Calvinist camp all a-twitter over the likes of Bell & his theological considerations. what is up with that??? 🙁

  5. I agree with his sentiments on the whole, but I would say that in some senses, NOT having a magisterium can make it more difficult to have dialogue and the kind of “sifting” that Galli longs for, because then all sorts of informal and unofficial “magisterial” authorities rise up and end up functioning as doctrinal police. It allows people with loud voices to have a quasi-official role in deciding the limits of the debate.

    Also, for the most part, functionally speaking, the Catholic magisterium does allow for this kind of discussion and sifting, in spite of the oft publicized cases where a particular author gets silence (i.e., Leonardo Boff, or more recently, Elizabeth Johnson). When you look closely, you’ll find quite a bit of diversity in Catholic theological discourse and a willingness to engage tough questions (although I suppose there are certain issues on which there is little flexibility).

    Perhaps the ideal would be a very generous magisterium, one that was hesitant and slow to pronounce its verdicts!

    Having made those qualifications, I do agree with his main point – that we need an environment where we can patiently endure difficult theological conversations in the knowledge that the Spirit will not abandon Christ’s church. There is a prevailing attitude of fear and anxiety around these issues among many evangelicals, and I don’t think such fear is warranted. We don’t need to be paranoid about heresy and doctrinal slippery slopes.

    • James, the Catholic Magisterium fits what you describe: it is slow to pronounce dogmatic verdicts. Only when it is clear that a teaching needs to become dogma does it happen, and then the dogma is usually minimal in what it binds the consciences to believe. Dogmas act like the boundary fences around a huge field–within that field open dialogue is possible and encouraged–but the fences protect Christians from going over the edge of the cliff and being crushed on the rocks below.

      • Thanks Devin – I suppose it is true that the Catholic Magisterium does function that way. I think it is quite misunderstood by protestants. In principle I am quite drawn to it, though I’m not OK with some of the specific dogmas (Marian assumption and Papal infallibility).

        • Just a reminder that there are only a fistful of doctrines which have been codified under the rather small umbrella of papal infallibility. James, I am sure this is not news to you, but many are under the erroneous idea that this doctrine refers to anything any Pope has to say.

        • Cool, James! I’m writing my second book right now and include some common-sense arguments for the Marian dogmas and papal infallibility. They’re big issues for Protestants (they were for me!), so they need to be continually examined and discussed.

          God bless!

  6. This was ultimately the issue which brought about my return to Catholicism. A common question from my Protestant friends is “Why would you want to be told what to believe by Rome?” I’m rather pleased, therefore, that Mark wrote “At times like these, there arises a longing in Protestant breasts for the magisterium”.

    But rather than turning this into an apologetic response, I’d just like to say that I really do feel for members of Protestant churches when stuff like this happens. I’ve been around churches which have been split down the middle over a particular issue (re-marriage, homosexuality etc.). Considerable strength is needed to stick around, work things out and to keep loving those in your congregation (or leadership) with whom you disagree. The temptation to just get up and leave and find another congregation is incredibly tempting. A lot of grace is needed.

  7. quote: “But that is not a Protestant theology of the church and the Holy Spirit. We believe that God is sovereign in his church, that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, that through discussion and debate, a sifting process allows the truth of God in Christ to deepen and broaden.”

    If Jesus was God’s final Word, logos, to us, then why is it that a conversation, even a “protesting” one, needs to continue forward?

    God spoke and all Creation came into being. God spoke, and our means of salvation came into Being. God speaks… there is not conversation. There is no debate. There is no discussion. So why, then, does a relatively young system of theology believe and teach, indeed stand upon the foundational presupposition “that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth (indeed, Scriptural!), …through discussion and debate, a sifting process [that] allows the truth of God in Christ to deepen and broaden.”

    Hasn’t the Triune God already said everything that needs must be said? And hasn’t that already been verified in the Ecumenical Councils (accent on “Ecumenical”) in the first few centuries when the Church was truly One?

    • The first council were anything but Ecumenical. They systematically excluded large groups of Christians (Be they Arians or Monophysites) . There function was to end discussion and make controversial books and teachings ‘litmus tests’ for the faith through the pronouncements of anathemas. They were headed by the heresy hunters of their day pronouncing, “This conversation is over for now. This is what we believe. Let us move forward in mission grounded in this article of faith.”

      • That’s a pretty charged take. I don’t think you can say that without some hefty evidence. The first councils were not dictates by a small minority, but had the broad support of the people.

        • Population statistics for this period are of course fuzzy. The entire church in Ethiopia and Armenia (And a large minority in Egypt) were monophysite, Nestorians made up the majority of Christians in the far east (Assyria, Persia, central Asia, and China), and Arians had a large (Ans sometimes majority) presence in Byzantium and the West.

          I doubt at any rate that most of “the people” of the time were much different than the people of today and understood what ‘hypostatic union’ even means.

          • You don’t need to know what hypostatic union means to determine whether or not Jesus is God.

          • “If anyone shall not confess that the Word of God the Father is united hypostatically to flesh, and that with that flesh of his own, he is one only Christ both God and man at the same time: let him be anathema.”

            (link removed)

          • Sure, that is the formal specification. You don’t need to understand the formal specification of a thing to know the thing is true or false.

          • Then why would the council fathers have bothered to include the concept of hypostatic union in the anathema?

          • You want an official ruling to use highly specific terms.

          • and all somber sounding anathemas much more ominous when spoken out loud in Latin…

            “Mufasa”…

            {shivers}

            “say it again…!”

          • So the council father’s decided to use the phrase ‘hypostatic union’ because the council was official and as such demanded the use of specific terms and not because it was key to understanding and believing the the gospel?

            I have never encountered this way of reading the councils before. Could you suggest a book on the use of rhetoric in the councils that might explain and justify this reading further?

            I would recommend to readers to read The Epistle of Cyril to Nestorius (Council of Ephasis) which provides the context to the 12 anathemas that follow:

            http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.x.viii.html

          • Correction:

            Council of Ephesus

        • Also as a matter of accuracy the first councils were voted on by a small by a small minority, bishops. And of those bishops only a minority of those invited were able to attend (At the First Council of Nicea 1800 bishops were invited and, at most generous estimate, less than 400 attended). I don’t know of any scholarship that claims more than 500 bishops ever attended any of the first seven ecumenical councils. The majority of bishops never attended any of these early councils.

          • Yes, only bishops (and only some) attended. But the bishops weren’t making things up from whole cloth. They represented the thinking of their people.

          • And their people represented a minority of Christian voices as the time.

          • I don’t believe you. Where are the Arians today? If they are such a vast majority where did they go?

          • I never claimed a large contemporary Arian population but a large Arian population during the periods of the seven ecumenical councils.

            I’d recommend Jaroslav Pelikan’s The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition, 100–600, vol. 1 of The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (Chicago, 1971) for more information on the historical popularity of Arianism.

            Contemporary movements sharing some similarities to Arianism are Oneness Pentecostalism, some forms of Unitarianism, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

          • Ok, but if Arianism is true, then it should be present today (or the truth has died).

            Oneness Pentecostalism is recognized as heresy by everyone. Unitarians and JW’s aren’t Christians by any measure.

          • The discussion of the nature of truth is an interesting one but I’m afraid it would ultimately be tangential to our debate considering that both Monophysites and Nestorians are still present today while both were condemned in the seven ecumenical councils.

            I’m also not very interested in defending Oneness Pentecostalism, Unitarianism, or the Jehovah’s Witnesses and offered them merely as contemporary religious movements which are similar in some respects to Arianism. To my knowledge there are no proper Arians and I never claimed that there were neither do I think their existence or non-existence has anything but a tangential relationship to our debate.

          • Dan Hugger says:
            May 10, 2011 at 4:19 pm

            And their people represented a minority of Christian voices as the time.
            nedbrek says:
            May 10, 2011 at 4:39 pm

            I don’t believe you….

            Nedbrek, you have never heard of Athanasius Contra Mundum?
            It was his stance against the Arians that led to his banishment for decades.

            “The year after Arius died, Constantine died. His son Constantius, seized power in the Eastern Empire and ruled as Constantius II. He would reign until 361 and he favored the Arians. Under his sponsorship, the Arians largely controlled the Church in the Eastern Roman Empire.”

          • And this quote form John Henry Cardinal Newman is of interest:
            “THE episcopate, whose action was so prompt and concordant at Nicæa on the rise of Arianism, did not, as a class or order of men, play a good part in the troubles consequent upon the Council; and the laity did. The Catholic people, in the length and breadth of Christendom, were the obstinate champions of Catholic truth, and the bishops were not. Of course there were great and illustrious exceptions; first, Athanasius,…

          • The process was messy (amazing how God uses people in spite of that), but it articulated and strengthened a generalized consensus on some core issues.

          • Hi Michael, yes Athanasius is a good example of how orthodoxy survives. The “majority” were in favor of Arius, the political power favored him, even many church authorities favored him. But the Bible showed he was wrong, and orthodoxy survived him.

    • “Hasn’t the Triune God already said everything that needs must be said?”

      What He has revealed is sufficient, although not exhaustive. However, we continue to need enlightenment for vague issues, for issues in which we have new information (scientific, archeological, etc…), and for new times (new approaches at understanding and applying). Although we will probably never have exaustive answers, we still are drawn to look for answers.

      In regards to the early councils and creeds, we “stand on their shoulders” as we seek those answers. They passed along the organizing of Scripture, the early formulation of creeds, the baptismal confessions, and the Rule of Faith as resources for us to build on.

    • “So why, then, does a relatively young system of theology believe and teach, indeed stand upon the foundational presupposition “that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth (indeed, Scriptural!), …through discussion and debate, a sifting process [that] allows the truth of God in Christ to deepen and broaden.”

      One good example is slavery. From fact of life during Paul’s life to despicable practice during ours, driven by the Holy Spirit illuminating the trajectory of scripture.

      • Slavery is actually a bad example. The slavery described in the Bible has little resemblance to the American institution.

  8. Dan Crawford says

    The Protestant theology of the Church has never worked. The attempts at imposing church discipline have led to nothing but schism and heresy: a garden where a thousand poisonous flowers have bloomed to paraphrase the great Helmsman, Chairman Mao. The assertion in Article XXI “Of the Authority of General Councils” that when such councils “are gathered together . . ., they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God ” could lead someone of a skeptical cast of mind to ask, “Then why should I assume the Articles of Religion are less erroneous and more authoritative than other such church pronouncements”. In some areas of Anglicanism, the Articles are placed among the “historical documents” in the Prayer Book and paid no more attention to (and occasionally less) that newspaper headlines. The Archbishop of Canterbury claims he has no authority to speak on any doctrinal issue. Dioceses in the Episcopal Church submit articles of the Creed to votes at Diocesan Conventions. The ecclesiology that Noll claims Protestants should reclaim was dead within a hundred years of the 95 theses on the cathedral door of Wittenberg. Congregational churches, once staunchly reformed, became unitarian churches in less than two hundred years..Something more is required than directing us back to “classic” reformation documents.

    • I’m curious what you mean by “theology of the Church”. Protestants hold that “the Church” is people. The true (invisible) Church is made up by those who are saved. The visible (local) church contains both wheat and tares.

      As local churches become dominated by tares (with tares in leadership), they disappear. This is what Revelation refers to as “the removal of their lampstand”. And what Romans refers to as “the breaking off of branches”.

      • I have to admit that the concept of “visible” and “invisible” church confuses me. Are there Scripture references that present a distinction between the two? How does one know who is part of the invisible church?

        • only the saints with no moats/specks or logs in their eyes can rightly ‘see’ who is part of the invisible church… 😉

        • Matthew 13:25 is a quick an easy one.

          There is also Matthew 7:15, although that is speaking more to false leaders inside the church (not everyone in authority is automatically trustworthy).

          Matthew 7:20 (just a few verses later) tells us we can judge the true from the false by their fruit.

          Of course, our judgments are not perfect. This judgment is referring to trusting leaders. Best not to trust some leaders (as long as you are trusting some to a large extent).

          When it comes to salvation, you can only know that for yourself.

          • Hmm, I dunno. It seems to me that Jesus instituted a visible Church (Matt. 18:17). Acts 8 records the persecution of the Christians, which was a visible group that Saul went hunting for house to house. In Acts 15, we read about the Church’s first council, which was a visible, authoritative body that set doctrine.

            Yes, there can be those who fall away, and Jesus makes that very clear in a number of parables. But I don’t see where that makes an argument for an invisible vs. visible church. It just speaks to the necessity of perseverance to our salvation.

            Maybe it’s semantics, but I can’t find where the Church taught that there was an invisible church for at least the first 1500-1600 years of Christian history.

          • That depends largely on your notion of “those who fall away”. If you believe than you can be truly “in” the church, then still fall away – then there is little need for visible and invisible (there is only the visible, those who fall away are out).

            But if you believe that the elect are held in God’s hand, and no one can snatch them away, then you must explain why it is that some appear to be elect, but then fall away (they were part of the visible, but not the invisible).

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      Y’know, I was thinking the same thing regarding the earliest Reformers and their groups. They tended to be confessional and creedal (including a very high respect for the Church Fathers). In my studies of Church History it seems that it was the more radical Protestant groups who tossed out every authority but the Bible and the Holy Spirit. And in my reading of Church History, it seems that these guys were the ones that were the biggest troublemakers all around. Their view of biblical authority was just too subjective. Because we’re sinful people, we cannot be 100% self-regulating. We need the community of faith (including its leaders and traditions) to help keep us in check.

      The Church is certainly in need of constant reform. I definitely applaud the call for a willingness to examine some of the doctrinal assumptions we take for granted. But I don’t think that needs to equate to putting everything up for grabs.

      I don’t want to see a doctrinal free-for-all, but Galli’s point is a good one. One wonders, for example, what gives Piper and others who seem to be the accepted authorities within Evangelicalism their alleged authority. The legitimate and historic boundaries of orthodoxy seem to be the last things to be appealed to or discussed in today’s Evangelical Protestantism. For example, may not recognize the Westminster confessions as binding to me as an Anglican, but at least that gives us a common point of reference for discussion.

      • Isaac, if you don’t like Piper, who would suggest as a better authority today?

        • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

          For me? My bishops. My parish rector and other priests. Our clergy receives its authority from the bishops. The bishops receive theirs from prior generations of bishops. All together that authority ultimately rests in our denomination’s understanding of the boundaries of orthodoxy which ultimately rest on the Scriptures itself. But I wouldn’t expect someone from outside the ACNA to look to our bishops as their authority. I wouldn’t expect someone from outside of our parish to look to our clergy as their authority.

          My real point, however, is what makes folks like Piper such a widely accepted authority? The best I can tell it’s authority by popular opinion that they are those authorities. Heck, I’m not even saying that Piper wouldn’t be a good person to have in authority. I’m just questioning how Evangelical Protestantism views authority. How does one get authority in Evangelicalism? What does it mean to have such authority? How does this relate to the historic ways of having and passing on authority in the Church? Just because someone has a following doesn’t mean that he or she should be leading. Just because someone has a popular voice doesn’t automatically make him or her a valid authority.

          • Anyone can have a following, you are correct in that.

            For the new “orthodox”, we use the standard of Scripture. Consider Acts 17:11, the Bereans compared what was preached to what they read. We do the same. If someone is faithful to what has been received, they are afforded respect. If they contradict it, and can make a good Biblical case, that is integrated. If not, it is heresy.

            Ultimate authority lies only in the local church. Leaders who know you, and see you often. Piper (or better, John Macarthur) is a respected teacher to me – I know they are faithful men of God, so I take their teaching seriously. But they have no real authority, they don’t know me and can’t reprimand me.

  9. “We have to become radically protestant again”. I’m not sure I understand what he means by this statement. Theological division is one of the most defining characteristics of protestantism. If the Holy Spirit really is leading protestant churches into the Truth, that implies that He is leading them into unity, since there is only one Truth. But from the reformation forward, the opposite has happened – protestant churches have divided further and further to the point where there are thousands of protestant denominations today. So to me, protestantism is becoming more and more “radical” every day because individual biblical interpretationism (I think I just made up a new term), which is the foundation of protestantism, is leading to its natural consequence.

    • I too did not understand what he meant by that phrase. His whole history of the Reformation seems off. He sounds more like the “radical reformation” than Protestant.
      The Reformers all wanted a Theocracy & Christendom, if you were a heretic (or called one) you were burned at the stake. The Church & State were one – this is not a market for ideas!
      In history, I don’t see the Protestants any more open to ideas than the Catholics.
      William Penn’s Religious Experiment may fit better.

      • “Radical” as a word means going back to the “roots.” And at the roots of Protestant faith lies the robust discussion in the churches of theological issues.

        • Forgive me for asking…but didn’t we just have a discussion about the problem with the word “radical” and how it is used? I’m not trying to be difficult here….

        • Even with this understanding of the definition, I still don’t understand…Is there some golden age of protestantism that he is hoping to return to, where robust theological discussion took place in an irenic manner? I don’t know of any such time.

    • filioque says

      The most radical Protestants I know have become Catholic

  10. “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” – Winston Churchill, from a speech in the House of Commons on 11 November 1947.

  11. The Reformation needs to be ongoing.

    We have a bent to ‘the self’. We are constantly looking for more generous words, or words that lift up ourselves, that place ourselves in the center.

    Jesus Christ and His gospel for the forgiveness of sins needs to be always at the Center.

    There are far too many, either on the left, or the right, that make the gospel into a ‘program for salvation’ instead of the ‘proclamation of salvation’.

    • David C. says

      “The Reformation needs to be ongoing.”

      That’s the problem. It’s never stopped.
      The Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, et al., splits have only proliferated exponentially.

  12. i do think though, that the minor differences between the RCC & Eastern Orthodox as well as the minor+major differences between RCC & Protestant/Evangelical/Charismatic/Pentecostal really necessary issues that must be raised & dealt with no matter which side of the pew one is camped out in…

    having been both RCC & Evangelical/Charismatic/Pentecostal, i can identify what the issues were pro+con on every one of my faith expression experiences. i can sense truths & traditions that have deep religious significance. i can also see what are real concerns that resulted in unnecessary posturing which in turn ended up in schism.

    i do not know if unity of faith expressions is what God wants at this time in history. i am not convinced any of the 3 faith expressions fully represents the Christian faith or can claim sole identity as the One True Church. it seems to me the different flocks do provide a service of sorts that identify critical shortcomings which in no way undermines critical doctrines IMHO. if the RCC allowed priests to marry, then what have they lost? there are elements of tradition that do not impact the core issues of Christianity, although there are those that do make them out to be theological mountains of molehill importance…

    those that do not have a spiritual connection or sensitivity to certain liturgical/traditional expressions do not need to adapt to a one-size-fits-all approach, do they? it is not a question of the individual being deliberately insensitive, it is how they are when first founded in the faith.

    would it be too much of a consideration to think that if cell phone video & internet distribution were available 2,000 years ago we would discover that even then there were definite differences in how the faithful gathered, worshiped, expressed themselves within the culture they lived? from the interactions with many RCC & Orthodox believers on various message forums over the years it seems there was this standardized methodology that never wavered from their ‘traditional’ one. everyone did it this way everywhere with no exceptions. and since theirs is the earliest such tradition it must be the one the Apostles expected to be practiced everywhere throughout all history…

    that is the argument i can understand from its historical position, but not from a more vibrant, expressive, grander-in-scope appreciation of what the Holy Spirit has actually done in & thru all 3 faith expressions…

    one cannot discount such Holy Spirit inspiration, blessing, courage, strength, zeal, etc. of those persuaded of God’s call & anointing on their lives no matter their Church affiliation. it would be easy enough for the Holy Spirit to simply ignore the belief systems of alternate faith persuasion & let it wither like the proverbial unfruitful branch. that should be simple enough. do the Ananias+Sapphira precedent on any so-called anti-traditional, anti-liturgical types that got a burr up their rear & took their bibles home with them not willing to play along with the others nicely. can a faith expression get so encumbered by traditional lines they no longer can be flexible? i do not mean willing to be flexible, but simply incapable?

    having experienced the worship expressions as well as looking into the underlying theological teachings that support them i can appreciate the wider scope none of the Big 3 would be able to incorporate. good or bad this is where i think the reasons to either hold fast or eschew certain traditions+expressions not as serious as some doctrinal purists attempt to convince others of. i do not fear the slippery slope arguments every faith expression warns its faithful about. yet i can understand the fear of losing identity or significance in how to express faith through corporate worship. could there be a trinitarian expression of the One True Church? not that i wish to proclaim a new doctrine, but does it prevent God from being known or available or active within them all?

    • “…not that i wish to proclaim a new doctrine, but does it prevent God from being known or available or active within them all?”

      No, it doesn’t. But we want people to have the freedom that Christ Jesus has set them free for.

      And not be bogged down in spiritual ladder climbing or trying to add something to the cross, where it is not necessary. This is happening EVERYWHERE, and it take Christ out of the center and places us there so we can be little gods of our own making.

    • People get all twisted up looking for the One True Church. The one true church is invisible – it consists of all those who are saved. Are you saved? You are in the one true church.

      As someone saved by God’s grace, you should enjoy the fellowship of other Christians. And you are called to fellowship. So find a group of local Christians and hang out with them. That’s church. Have someone read the word and explain it – that’s a pastor/teacher. He (yes, he) should also “oversee” (episkopos, bishop) your spiritual health. And he (yes, he) shouldn’t be alone. You need a bunch of elders/bishops.

      Singular people get weird.

    • Many EOCs assert that the RCC and Protestants are two sides of the same coin, and that they have more in common with each other than the EOC has with either one of them.

      • True. That was probably the most distressing aspect of my reviewing an Orthodox Study Bible.

        • Well, you know that the Filioque is the Sum of All Heresies:

          http://dialectic.wordpress.com/ and

          filioque.com/resources.html

          • Yea, that is a weird hangup. I actually think they have a good point, but then I say, “So?” I mean what is the impact, one way or another?

          • Well, you know that the Filioque is the Sum of All Heresies:

            it isn’t the nuanced change to the wording, which is a slight expansion of the earlier creedal wording, but it was how it happened…

            power, control, influence, disregard for ‘tradition’, etc. all human elements of posturing, intrigue & who got their way. not much of a theological issue which really would be more neutral, scholarly & objective. but when personalities & egos & power plays & posturing are involved, it is not simply a theological disagreement, but fightin’ words that unfortunately fire up the human passions as much today as it did then…

          • Joseph, that’s interesting. But why then don’t they see Protestants as moving in the right direction against human authority?

          • my introduction to the filioque was on a message forum where a recent convert from Evangelical to Eastern Orthodox actually picked up the centuries long ‘offense’ of the Eastern (Greek) Church being bullied by the Western (Latin) Church which was the main reason for the East-West schism in 1054.

            from the passionate posts & comments i originally made that were more tongue-in-cheek than serious, i opened up a veritable can-O-worms (not in reference to a diet of them ;))! it was as if 950 years had not passed & this only happened yesterday!

            i brought it up because this one point & all the earlier anathemas bantered about amounted to what? what was the end result?

            and yes, the obvious similarity of “the Pope (er, Bishop of Rome) can’t tell us what to do!” reaction of the EO to the RCC how much different that the Reformists stance?

            religion & the history of the Church much more in common in its disunity that is commonly held???

  13. Not only is it not necessary, it is HARMFUL to faith.(adding to what Christ did on the cross, or trying to )

  14. I am afraid that, in general, the more radical the Protestantism, the more different truths there will be.

    I don’t think that fear of questioning or conversing is a primary cause of the plethora of doctrines out there.

    The primary cause IMHO is our human nature of rebellion, especially here in the US where we were birthed by rebellion, found our nationhood through rebellion, and are always ready to question anything’s authority over us as free people.

    • It’s true that we do have too much trouble submitting to authority, and it’s also true that the threshold of what will cause us to divide is often much too low. But there also *has* to be a point where we say, “I love you as my brothers and sisters in Christ, but there is so much error here and so little prospect of reform, and my life is so short and the preaching that my family hears is so important, that I have to leave you and go to another congregation. God bless you and I pray the best for you.”

  15. Galli: “We believe that … a sifting process allows the truth of God in Christ to deepen and broaden.”

    Surely the truth is no deeper or broader today than it was yesterday?

  16. if one googles Chief Apostle there will be many references to those claiming such a title. pretentious? only if you happen to ignore such titles/positions of authority, power, influence, oversight, etc.

    or google popes & see how many actually claim to the be one, true, authorized, unsullied, direct heir, etc. to the Throne of Peter. seems to be no end to the claims of those wanting to be recognized as God’s appointed church official.

    wow. who would think that is the majority willing to support their religious leader(s) that makes for right/accepted orthodoxy. if you look up Chief Apostle Eric vonAnderseck (Elder of the Second 8th Week???), you will notice quite the lengthy list of divine credentials including this grand commission: “…to restore the church to the purity of Christ.”

    so, anyone here ready to jump up on that bandwagon? seems the goal & the extreme qualifications of this Chief Apostle trumps most anything the other camps can come up with…

    why the hesitancy then? is he just another kook for Jesus? a truly deluded individual of questionable sanity? a neophyte needing some much needed maturity to exit such a pedestal?

    he is not alone in his claims & religious efforts. can anyone take such a person seriously? he has his following. he is a regular commenter on most articles posted on Charisma Magazine’s website.

    has there been so many such types crying “wolf, wolf!” (appropriate reference IMHO) that no one bothers to listen anymore? is this why Protestantism’s cry to doctrinal purity is ignored because too many have taken upon themselves the mantle of restored Apostolic authority apart from the Orthodox traditions???

    too many kooks spoil the rallying cry for doctrinal correctness? everyone else preceding them wrong & they alone the bright shining light to illuminate the true way???

    Lord have mercy… 🙁

    • 17 Popes, Pee Wee Herman, and the Rockets can all claim to be the Chief Apostle…but ALL authority resides in the Word…ALONE.

      • yet that does not clarify just how that ‘authority’ is to be exercised & how the Word is to be repeated from generation to generation…

        such is the reason for differing views of biblical interpretation+application along with what traditions were founded by the Apostles & expected to be universally applicable…

        therein lies the rub…

        no one of orthodox Christian belief denies Jesus is the Word or the Head of the Church or that said Church was built upon a foundation the Apostles first set in place. it was their responsibility to ensure correct teaching & protect the message from error as it was transmitted from generation to generation & culture to culture. sorta like the telephone or grapevine game children play. the Word at any time or setting or cultural expression must have correct context to be consistent with its original meaning. although there was consensus about theology & doctrine throughout the Church’s history, i still have to individualize the faith as a separate entity even though i discover i am part of the body. as such it is important that the major aspects of the faith unquestioned while the manner which they are expressed can be more flexible/inclusive…

        it may not be much of a surprise to most, but the written New Testament part of the earliest tradition of the Church. yet it existed without it & even thrived. it relied on giving charge to faithful men+women to rightly repeat the critical teachings while emulating a holy lifestyle resulting from a real encounter with Jesus thru the ministry of the Holy Spirit. eventually, the writings we now know as the New Testament were recognized as divinely sourced/guided & officially accepted/recognized. before there was any Sola Scriptura there was living by faith thru repeated oral history & patterned lifestyle. and here is where the beginnings of certain traditions were also practiced/repeated although the emphasis or significance of them & how they were to be passed on to other cultures/generations is another sticking point for the Big 3 faith expressions…

        i do not want to make any one particular point or start another discussion, but simply want to point out how we seek to be as close to a godly example of faith in practice the same today as it was then. living out the day-to-day reality of this faith we profess still one of becoming more like Jesus. i am not sure just what part of Jesus has me becoming a defender (apologist) of the faith & how much is my own effort at trying to articulate teachings/knowledge as i acquire a certain level of understanding it. even in these impersonal comments there are elements of unsanctified ‘me’ that gets represented more than the Jesus i claim as my Lord & Savior…

        anyway, enough of my ramblings for this consideration…

  17. That was supposed to be Rockettes (BTW) 🙄

  18. I guess I’ve seen some disturbing micro-evidences of the desire for simple, direct authoritative solutions to problems that really require thoughtful investigation and Christlike behavior. I’ve been going through some pretty complicated and stressful circumstances over the last several years and have watched much of my connection with the Christian community evaporate. Not too long ago I was trying to reach common ground with a young pastor in a very emphatically evangelical Protestant denomination that holds Christian freedom to be central to its identity. He informed me that God works through the church — the implication being that the interpretation of the organized church leadership per se was trustworthy and even authoritative in assessing my life circumstances, despite the fact that there has been no investigation or meaningful participation in my life. I’ve been kicking myself ever since for not asking if he regarded that to be a Protestant position, much less the Biblical grounds for his assertion.

  19. Elizabeth says

    We always have that tendency to want an earthly king instead of the One True King…it’s so much easier to just follow rules sometimes! It doesn’t require any creativity! 🙂 I have to applaud Galli for reminding us that’s a big part of why we’re “Protestant,” although I hesitate to take on that label myself.

    • I have read all they way down through these posts. You Elizabeth are sitting here at the bottom and you have nailed it. I have to say that this whole discussion sounds as though Jesus is not being put in His rightful place and the Holy Spirit is being for the most part ignored and God is being second guessed. Just lay it down and worship the One who is waiting for you to give Him honor as you recognize His omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience. You all sound so confused. Look at 1John 26 and 27 “These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you, you abide in Him.”

  20. Not that anyone is going to read this – but can’t we let God be God. He is well aware of any change in the written word and culture through the centuries. I do not believe he has laid us out here to rot because we do not have the proper original text as given. He knows exactly what is going on and we are going to be responsible for what we know and how we apply it, not for some obscure word that has been lost in the dust. If you refuse to take the cannon we now have as it is written then you will be responsible for your choice.

  21. Religions and Institutions produce and require “magisteriums”. Relationships grounded in trust and honesty produce “friendships”.

    I’m inclined to think that religious developments are usually departures from faith.

    T

  22. One of the many reasons that I remain RC is a very real concern about my personal ability to understand and follow scripture IF that were my only guide to God. Since I am unable to read any of the ancient languages that scipture was recorded in, I am leery of the layers of translations over the milleniums. I have no more that a passing understand of life around Palestine or the mores, customs, and implied cultural knowledge of any of the groups and tribes that existed then, so I fear there is a lot I wouldn’t “get”. And, of course, I will never have a chance to look at all of the scrolls that didn’t “make the cut” to weigh their merits on my own.

    With that said, I feel much more grounded joining others who have come before me over the ages who DID possess these skills, and can also place them in the context of other knowledge and means of understanding the Lord that were never transfered to the written word.

    • So why pick a communion that for well over a millennium kept and read those Scriptures only as filtered through a fourth language, Latin, that none of the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek Scriptures were written in – a language that belonged to a culture that, too, was foreign to the Jewish culture in which the Scriptures were written, including the Hellenistic Jewish culture of the LXX? ISTM that the reasons you stay with the RCC are the same reasons that should make you leery of doing so. 😀

      • Not gonna debate about my personal faith….but kindly recall that Latin was the “universal” language of educated men for quite some time….the Esperanto of the time. So, your point sorta kinda doesn’t make sense, unless you are proposing that all other Christian denominations got their scripture 100% straight from the ancient scrolls…..so the conundrum remains.

  23. Charles Fines says

    Chaplain Mike, your comment as to the origin of the word “radical”, as in radish, was an epiphany for me. I think I must have already known that but somehow only realized it when you said it. I consider myself a radical Christian but don’t often connect well with others who stand under that umbrella. In fact what I see myself doing in my studies and conversations is attempting to get back to the Root before Church and Doctrine and Creed muddied the waters. Thanks for being the one to turn the light on that.

    Now what would really complete my day would be for me to discover that Dan Hugger lived within walking distance.