January 19, 2021

Let’s Discuss: Needing the Whole Body of Christ


I thought we might have an open discussion today on some thoughts by Brian Zahnd. As one who has served in “charismatic flavored evangelicalism,” he found that he had become “arrogantly sectarian,” and that he “needed the riches of the whole church” if his life was to be fully formed in Christ. Click on the title below to access his entire piece.

Here’s a paragraph that well states what he’s come to learn and how he has changed. Read it, think about, and then let’s talk about it.

Above all, I’d like to know what you think about the following question. I know there is a multitude of angles and perspectives by which we might address this, and I’d like to hear as many as possible. What place is there for a “Premodern Sacramental Eclectic” and where might he or she find a home and suitable place to minister in Christ’s Church?

From my vantage point I’ve come to think that Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Evangelical expressions of Christianity generally have the same amount of truth — it just depends on what areas of truth you want to focus on. Yes, I actually believe this! I honestly don’t think evangelicalism has a greater claim to Christian truth than Catholicism. It’s true that I’m not entirely comfortable with the Catholic view of Mary and the practice of a male-only celibate priesthood; but I’m also not entirely comfortable with the Protestant view of Sola Scriptura and the emphasis on radical individualism. Another way of saying it might be like this: we need the whole body of Christ to properly form the body of Christ. This much I’m sure of: Orthodox mystery, Catholic beauty, Anglican liturgy, Protestant audacity, Evangelical energy, Charismatic reality — I need it all!

A Premodern Sacramental Eclectic
by Brian Zahnd


  1. I think it’s difficult to read a lot of theology from many sources with an open mind and come down completely agreeing with the doctrine of any particular denomination. I think this is called “having your own opinions”. As a practical matter this is common: as any survey of “what (Christian denomination) really believes” shows you. I personally think its important to belong to a community of believers even if you don’t agree with all of their official teachings, but I don’t think people aren’t Christian if they prefer to remain on their own.

    Obviously things are more difficult if you want to preach. Most church’s are going to expect you to stick pretty closely to official doctrine.

  2. There is some truth to this, but also a limit. For example: Evangelical energy. You can have all that without being evangelical. Each tradition has strengths which can be exported, and distinctives which cannot. Another example is Law and Gospel. You don’t have to be Lutheran to enjoy it. But you do have to be Catholic to have the Pope. It’s good to keep an eye on other traditions for good that can be gleaned (and the older the tradition is, the higher the likelihood you have already gleaned from them whether you know it or not). But not to the point that we blur the distinctions or begin to pretend that they don’t matter.

  3. George C says

    I have been a part of many churches and have found that the vast majority of people never really even investigate what their particular church’s official stance/theology was. I’ve also heard numerous sermons that contradicted the official theology.

    My wife and I will be moving to the states after two years away, and if I can bear to make myself go church shopping, I will be much more interested in a church that practices humility and an honest epistemology, rather than people who have come to all the same conclusions as myself.

    I really don’t buy the whole get out of the hallway view that CS Lewis recommends. The reality is that even in churches with very clearly defined official distinctives, the actual members don’t necessarily hold to them anyway. I am willing to learn and serve with anyone, but I am leery, of joining a team and being expected to endorse whatever the team does.

    • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

      The reality is that even in churches with very clearly defined official distinctives, the actual members don’t necessarily hold to them anyway.

      I wonder how much of that has to do with poor catechisis and discipleship in so much of American Christianity. Drawing points seem to be less substantial than theological and doctrinal distinctives in favor of stuff like good programs or music style.

  4. That is a shot across the Orthodox bow if there ever was one. The party line is that we don’t need any of y’all, least of all any bad advice we’ve already tried about Mary or icons.

    How it works on the ground is a different story. Sometimes the heterodox can be more orthodox than the orthodox.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      …least of all any bad advice we’ve already tried about Mary or icons.

      Are those references to (1) Mary-bashing and (2) Iconoclasm?

  5. Michael Z says

    That idea of combining the best of different traditions is what is behind the older “ancient future” movement and the newer “emerging church” movement. The emerging church that I’m a part of combines the rhythm and structure and sacramental focus of liturgical worship with the energy and outward focus of evangelicalism, with a heft dose of Orthodox soteriology thrown in.

    But, it lacks other things (such as age diversity) that other “flavors” of Christianity have. It’s really not possible to find everything in one place, and looking for the “perfect” church can easily get in the way of putting down roots somewhere.

    • combines the rhythm and structure and sacramental focus of liturgical worship with the energy and outward focus of evangelicalism, with a heft dose of Orthodox soteriology thrown in.

      Yes! Brilliant! That, imo, is a great way to make lemonade out of the Evangelical circus. I think that is just what the doctor ordered, and had I been able to find that, I may have remained content as an Evangelical. I honestly expect to see much more of this popping up in the future.

  6. That’s not a “premodern eclectic”; it’s based on a very modern protestant ecclesiology. Catholics, Orthodox, and (probably) high church Anglicans simply don’t agree with the modern protestant definition of “Church.” I would suggest that anyone interested in understanding a premodern (and pre-medieval) perspective immerse themselves in the writings and descriptions of the councils and disputes from the first thousand years of the Church. It’s not possible to reduce Orthodoxy and Catholicism and fit them into the framework of Protestant denominationalism. They don’t accept any of the underlying assumptions that are generally unquestioned on the Protestant side.

    • My thought kind of paralleled yours, Scott. What a uniquely American question this is!

      I don’t mean that disparagingly. It’s just that that assumption that one can actually draw from multiple wells is a very American construction. Like all approaches, it has it’s advantages and it’s challenges.

      • Yes, but, the Roman Catholic church freely does this in spades. Their churches freely borrow protestant hymnody and charismatic praise songs. In fact, I don’t believe Christian ecumenism is more clearly seen anywhere besides the songs sung in various churches. We all borrow Catholic stuff too, on a regular basis. This should tell us something.

        • Hence, the dreaded sobriquet “Cafeteria Catholic”

          Honestly, i can’t see any difference between Mr. Zahnd’s approach and the cafeteria approach. I am Lord, or at least the Viceroy at the end a very long communication link. I decide what I need and what I don’t.

          Once you adopt this attitude (and we all have to one degree or another), it’s hard to stop at Christianity. After all, a little Sufi’ism, a little Theraveda Buddhism, a little Taoism adds much more vindaloo to the mix

          • cermak_rd says

            Why shouldn’t the individual decide for himself what he needs or doesn’t? Is it any different from a Synod or an Ecumenical Council or a Pope or a Prophet to decide? Individuals all.

            Also, if the Sufis have a better type of meditation or a purer understanding of the Divine, why not borrow it? One can, after all, engage in a prayer and meditation with beads without saying Aves or Paters.

            Each individual human has different ways of approaching and understanding the Divine. Eclecticism therefore makes perfect sense and, in my opinion, the diversity within Christianity has been one of the geniuses of it, making it fit for individuals all across the personality spectrum.

          • I decide what I need and what I don’t.

            It seems to me that everyone has to do this in someway or another or not. You may decide to submit yourself as fully as possible to Orthodoxy, but I would not suspect you do it mindlessly. I’m sure there are limits (or at I would hope) to your submission. In fact, I suspect that allowing freedom of conscience is one thing that separates true Christianity from a cult.

          • Sufis are a kind of Moslem. You don’t want to convert to be a Moslem do you? They totally reject Jesus as Lord. Instead they engage in occult practices like yoga or meditation, or twirling around and around until they fall over in order to see spirits. Anybody who thinks this is better than Christianity doesn’t know his Bible.

          • This is why I am a firm advocate of confessionalism. It is the conscious decision to trust the wisdom of your collective church body more than your own. We don’t accept our church confessions mindlessly or without critical scrutiny, but neither to you hastily throw away whatever is an inconvenience. This allows for greater unity amongst churches and consistency of message. Ultimately, every congregation or church body has a confession, whether it is written or not. Choose your confession wisely, compare it against Scripture and church history, and you won’t have to be your own personal Pope just to be Protestant.

            As a confessional Lutheran, I do find there is much about the BoC that is quite a challenge to believe/understand. But I know it’s substance. I’m willing to accept any errs it might contain, since they are significantly short of damning errs, for the benefit which the thrust of its teaching gives. I imagine that such is the case with most Christian traditions. Yes, learn from other traditions, but first, pick one for your own, and learn it well, I say. Then you have a home base to anchor you in your exploration.

          • I think there is a world of difference between the “cafeteria” approach that is trendy today in some circles and the more cautious approach that Mr. Zahnd is suggesting. The cafeteria approach tries to make Christianity into a democracy, where I create my own Christianity by deciding what I want to believe and what I do not want to believe. I become my own point of reference. I think what Mr. Zahnd is suggesting is just the opposite of this. There is only one true faith, which was declared through the proclamation of the Gospel in the New Testament, and it is my job to discover what God has revealed, not to create it after my own liking. However, no one particular denomination or movement has accurately captured every detail of that message perfectly, hence the need to learn from Christians who may be a part of other traditions. I think what Mr. Zahnd is advocating is an openness to learning from other Christians as we seek to understand the implications of the New Testament, not a “pick and choose” mentality that makes the individual the final judge of what is and what is not the Gospel.

        • melissatheragamuffin says

          The Mass I attend on Sunday doesn’t have any music at all which appeals to my Quaker sensibilities.

    • I’ll shift the reply back to the level of a reply to my initial comment since I believe, at least in part, my point was missed.

      First, there is the idea, fundamental to much of Protestant ecclesiology, of an invisible church. That’s the concept that underlies discussions of taking from the “whole” church and all similar expressions. Orthodox and Catholics (and to some degree high church Anglicans) simply do not believe in the Protestant invisible church. The Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions absolutely believe in a thoroughly visible, incarnate Church and they believe — with good arguments on both sides (though I believe the Orthodox claim is the stronger one) — that they are the continuing embodiment of the one, visible Church. They are willing to grant that same status to each other, with the caveat that the other is in schism with the one, true Church and their grace diminishing as the schism continues. But neither extend recognition as “Church” to Protestant denominations. Catholicism calls them “ecclesial communities”. If the Orthodox have an official term (to the extent that there’s an “official” anything in Orthodoxy), I don’t know it, but the sentiment would be the same.

      Neither (at least today — we’ll step over medieval Catholicism) would assert that all such groups are somehow “non-Christian” (though the only Orthodox council to fully consider and respond to Calvinism anathematized it as heresy) or that those within the groups are somehow condemned for their association. They would both acknowledge that the Spirit moves where he will and that many within such groups are working out their salvation in fear and trembling as best they can. And they acknowledge that the piety and actions of individuals in such groups can often be praiseworthy. But both would hold that such groups are impoverished by their separation from the Church, which their radical deconstruction into myriad splinter groups over just a few short centuries illustrates.

      Second, people talk about how it is up to the individual to determine what they believe. While in a sense, that’s true, I don’t think most people recognize how utterly secular and modern that perspective is. It’s not one that existed in the ancient or medieval world. Every state had a formal religion. Every nation had their “gods” and it was not conceivable that anything else was even possible. While individuals within such states sometimes changed religion, they didn’t mix and match “beliefs”. They switched from practicing one religion to practicing the other. Christianity was subversive in no small part because it asserted that Israel’s God was actually the God of all the nations — whether they knew it or not. They were proclaiming that Jesus was Lord and King, so while the change in circumstances was a sudden one, I don’t see any evidence that the Bishops who had suffered such persecution were taken off guard when Constantine recognized Christianity. It is, after all, what they had always claimed — that Jesus was Lord and the one true God of the nations fully revealed in the flesh.

      St. Cyril and Methodius enlightened the Slavs in many ways, but not least through the conversion of their rule, Vladimir. The same is true of many given the title “enlightener” of a nation.

      Secularism is not the same thing as atheism. A lot of Christians seem to confuse the two. Secularism asserts that there are spiritual things and ordinary, non-spiritual things. And spiritual things are a matter of private belief and should to one degree or another be kept separate from the shared, non-spiritual, matters of public consumption. Secularism says there are things of God (or gods) and things not of God (or gods). Atheism simply reduces the “god” sphere to nothing. But only within a secular, relativistic form of pluralism.

      So my central point is I don’t know whether this approach would ever prove more successful within Protestantism than denomination confessionalism has proven. It might. But it’s purely a prescription for the Protestant corner of Christianity. It’s doesn’t fit the other traditions.

      • Which council anathematized Calvinism? The only related council I am aware of was Orange, which supports it…

      • Richard Hershberger says

        “Second, people talk about how it is up to the individual to determine what they believe. While in a sense, that’s true, I don’t think most people recognize how utterly secular and modern that perspective is. It’s not one that existed in the ancient or medieval world.”

        Or well into the modern era. Much of 16th and 17th century British history is well nigh incomprehensible if you don’t understand this. For that matter, the establishment clause of the first amendment to the US constitution wasn’t enacted out of any high principle of individual liberty. It was a pragmatic solution to the threat of the various sects going at each others’ throats in a struggle to gain dominance. It declared that the game was over and the result a tie.

  7. I have taken to describing myself as a Meta-Baptist Crypto-Lutheran with Anglican highlights.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Meta-Baptist Crypto-Lutheran with Anglican highlights.

      That anything like “A Carl Sagan Ronald Reagan San Diegan Pagan”?
      (local filksong from the Nineties; that chorus is all I can remember of it)

  8. David Cornwell says

    Some of our sectarian distinctives matter to us more than they matter to God. But what they manage to do, many times at least, is wall us off from others who also claim Christ. Become a Lutheran, and most likely the majority of your Christian associates will be Lutheran (example). This, in itself is not a bad thing unless it serves to narrow our sectarianism even further. The same is true with other groups, be they liberal or conservative.

    Sectarianism brings us comfort and may even help us in our walk with God, because this is our individual turn of thinking, our system of understanding. For complex reasons that have to do with background, family, education, and maybe even brain chemistry, we have arranged our thnking along with a certain thelogical system. Suggest a different frame of reference to us, and we might be threatened. We have put God over here in a safe place, we think. But in reality it is ourselves we have put in a safe place. When we are in a safe place, it might mean we have put the other person over in that unsafe place, be it whatever Church body they belong to.

    And so it takes study, prayer, and some kind of fellowship over in other camps to help us think differently. And it might also take a common frame of reference, like one of the creeds that we can both say (not explain) to bring us somewhat together.

    This blog is a such a safe place, at least most of the time. Here we are all so very different, yet in many ways we are seeking the same thing.

  9. This is how religiosity tricks us. We don’t need the phony “riches of the whole church.” What we need is Christ, “sola.”

    • Your statement is true as far as it goes, but the controversies spring up immediately when you ask the question

      “How does Christ come to us?”

      • Yes. And there are most certainly wrong answers to that questions.

        • When you pray. Not through some ritual.

          • Well. Pope Hollis has spoken. So let it be written, so let it be done. Let all who disagree be anathema.

          • They all haul the Keys out sooner or later when you disagree with them.

            Some sooner, some later, but it’s inevitable.
            The better ones reserve judgement to the Eschaton, but some aren’t that patient.

          • Hollis, prayer vs. ritual is a false dichotomy. The book of Acts says that the first Christians devoted themselves to “the prayers,” i.e. the set prayers in the Temple. Set forms of prayer, worship, and spiritual formation have always been part of the life of faith. To deny that is to ignore history. Many of us here are sacramentalists as well, that is, we believe the Bible when it calls baptism “the washing of regeneration” and when it calls the Lord’s Supper “communion.” These descriptions indicate to us that these are means God has given by which Christ comes to us.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            They all haul the Keys out sooner or later when you disagree with them.

            AKA Pronouncing Dogma Ex Cathedra.

          • Hollis, what they said.
            But, in order to affirm what you got right, prayer absolutely is a way in which we meet Christ. In fact, you might even say that “connecting with God” and prayer are practically interchangeable. But consider this: perhaps you just need to broaden your understanding of prayer to include the entirety of the worship life of the whole Church. Hearing scripture is a form of prayer. Confessing the creeds is a form of prayer. The Lord’s Supper is not rightly celebrated apart from prayer (for pete’s sake, at least say thanks like you would before any common meal). Baptism is a form of prayer. The life of a Christian is a prayer, in terms of a back and forth relationship between creator and creature of revelation and response, and the ritual life of the church ought to be a microcosm of this.

          • re: the keys: I’m starting to wonder if perhaps, when the over-zealous keeper of the one true flame shakes his keys at you, it’s just better to tolerate his intolerance than to disrupt the unity of the church. So maybe the tent isn’t as wide as we’d like. There’s still plenty of room underneath to stay dry in the storm.

      • However He chooses.

    • I used to think this way, but I no longer believe it’s possible to do so. There is no way of knowing Christ without the Church. If It were possible, I would have had to personally live everything the disciples did with Christ, including see him at his resurrection and be personally commissioned by him.

      That not being the case, I must consider myself one with a body that has had a much wider contact with the source than myself alone. I am thus a beneficiary of the gifts of all the members of the body. I need them to show me Christ. This is how it’s designed- I think Scripture bears that out.

      • Well put, Nate.

      • Christiane says

        Nate, your comment reminded me of this:

        ” . . . we are human, like everyone else, that we all have weaknesses and deficiencies, and that these limitations of ours play a most important part in all our lives. It is because of them that we need others and others need us. We are not all weak in the same spots, and so we supplement and complete one another, each one making up in himself for the lack in another.”
        ? Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Problem with “sola” anything is it can become an ever-more-rigid Party Line. Until you’ve got God locked in your own little box you hold tight while whispering “My Precioussssssss…”

    • David Cornwell says

      Without the Church, what would we know of Christ? How would the writings that now form the Christan Bible have come into being? What kind of testimony would have been handed to us of Him without the witness of the Church, however flawed it might be?

      I suppose Christ could make an appearance to each of us, as he did Paul. But in actuality, according to scripture, the Church is the Body of Christ gathered together.

  10. It is truly a “gift of God” that that which we are all seeking…is given to us…free of charge…without having to earn one iota of it.

    It is truly good news for those who hear that liberating message.

    • Christiane says

      if we want a share in the life of Christ, then we are also called to acknowledge His suffering . . .
      what liberates us is to let go of ‘self’ and respond to Him with loving-kindness ( as in St. Matthew 25)

  11. After moving to different places every couple of years for my entire life (nearly 5 decades), and subsequently having attended and participated in dozens of different churches, I agree with Brian Zahnd’s quote…if people press me too hard about what flavor of Christian I am, I tell them orthodox ecumenical (which does ruffle a few feathers). I, too, would like to know where I might find “a home and suitable place to minister in Christ’s Church”, since all I’ve gotten from the local churches in my current location is hostility and rejection, but I no longer expect to find such a place any time soon.
    I can tolerate a certain level of sectarianism in any denomination (tribalism comes with being human), but it saddens me when congregations bash those outside their denomination…it just seems to be so unChristian (if you loved people, and honestly believe the people outside your denomination are lost to God, wouldn’t your initial reaction be grief?). I wonder how much of the toxic sectarianism is rooted in insecurity, reinforced by individualism — if God is for Everyone, including those outside their denomination, would they lose the significance in His eyes that they think they have (or desperately need to believe they have)? Or worse, which I’ve also experienced — “the existence of confident Christians who don’t claim my denomination is an affront to the validity of my own denomination”. Human failings all; wish more churches would teach more about avoiding such tendencies.

    • I wonder how much of the toxic sectarianism is rooted in insecurity, reinforced by individualism

      There is truth to this, I think. If we really think those “other” Christians are so far off base, then they are certainly harming themselves more than us, so perhaps our reaction should be more one of compassion at times.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        And give up my sense of Moral and Spiritual Superiority?


        • And oh, does that prayer theme not have an infinite number of variations? It’s like a sour melody. One can’t help but cringe when it is heard, especially since the singer usually thinks they are marvelously in tune, like the episode where Barney Fife attempted opera. And then there’s always that haunting possibility that I am singing the same song, hurting the ears of others, completely unaware.

          Fortunately, there IS a cure for this melodic malady. Mea culpa, kyrie eleison.

    • I wish more churches would teach that kind of thing too, Sarah. But, to be honest, I think that’s about as likely to happen as the Democratic or Republican parties establishing a mutual policy of contructive criticism and positive affirmation when speaking or writing about the opposing party.

      In the church world these days — at least as far as I’ve seen — the home team is everything. People might give occassion lip service to “the Global Body of Christ” or “the Kingdom of God on this Earth,” but those tend to be just abstract concepts ? good in theory but just not practical or even dangerous when acted upon in real life.

      If you’re like me, and you take off about one Sunday a month from your regular church to visit other churches (and even other denominations), don’t make the mistake of telling anyone what you’re doing, especially not the pastor. You might just get a sermon or two preached directly at you.

      In my experience, most church leaders are uncomfortable with anything that might draw the focus of the sheep away from the home team’s services, doctrines, and programs. The possibility that establishing bridges of fellowship, interaction, and cooperation between different churches or denominations might be a spiritually healthy, positive thing for the home team — that it might even help break their church out of the stagnancy and complacency they’re so often complaining about — never seems to enter their heads at all.

      I can understand the importance of preserving proven traditions, practices, and beliefs. But I don’t think that fear of any kind — be it fear of change or that which seems strange or alien or even fear of that which might draw numbers or money away from the home team — is a motive that Christ would approve of.

      • Churches in America are all about money, period, which is why I don’t attend. If you visit another church this Sunday, your home church is going to lose money. American churches are based on the American business model — growth, profit, aiming at a target demographic — rather than a New Testament model. Doesn’t matter what words come from the pulpit, Coke vs Pepsi-style competition is the reality. I’m 57 and I’ve been in probably every kind of a church, the major denoms and plenty of indies. As a great poet once wrote, “Money, it’s a hit, don’t give me that goody goody goody (expletive).”

        • I would say that is overly cynical, Clark, but I get your point and to an extent, agree. And one of the hidden secrets about evangelicalism today, one of the reasons “missional” Christianity and church planting are being stressed as much as they are, is because there are not enough staff positions to employ all the Bible school and seminary graduates out there looking for “ministry” opportunities. Churches who have bought into the business model have now come to the point where expansion is necessary for adequate employment.

          • That sounds like a bubble just waiting to be popped. And maybe it should be popped.
            If Scripture be true, then our Lord is a jealous sort and none too tolerant of His Bride having other lovers.
            And I suspect that He doesn’t approve of the current marriage between church and capitalism any more than He approved of the past marriages between church and state.
            Of course, while the church is still in this world, we’re going to have to deal with money and government and all the other fallen systems of this world.
            Still, I think it’s possible for churches to deal responsibly with monetary issues while keeping the focus on Christ and His Gospel. As as the parable goes, we don’t have to get choked out and hopelessly entangled in the cares and desires of this world.
            And we certainly don’t have to jump eagerly into bed with every snake oil salesman who promises bigger attendance numbers, bigger buildings, and a bigger bottom line.

  12. I’ve gotta say, those who want to dip their hands into multiple simultaneous pots are probably best at home in the mainlines. There you are free to pull from a wealth of historic tradition, yet you are not so bound by it that you can’t incorporate a little of just about anything. They don’t really enforce much of their own doctrine and practice, so you could, for example, have a lot of fun in the PCUSA without having to become a Calvinist.

    Personally, I really like this idea, and incorporate it somewhat into what I do. But I would rather reach backwards into the vault to find forgotten treasures or relics from a less fractured Christianity than reach broadly across the contemporary field to grab diversity for diversity’s sake. A little of both never hurt anybody, I suppose.

  13. It may have been “less fractured” (only because it didn’t have time yet to be more so).

    But it started fracturing from the git-go.

    • There have always been disagreements, but there is also a reason why Tertullian isn’t St. Tertullian

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        As in “He ended up going off the deep end”?

        Or as Internet Monk once described James Dobson: “Did a lot of good things before fear of ******** drove him off the cliff with his constituents in the car”?

      • Amen.

        And there was a very good reason that St. Paul wrote all those letters trying to bring many of those early Christians back onto the rails.

  14. There’s arrogant sectarian, and then there’s arrogant ecumenical

    “Eclectic” means mixing your religion up with other peoples

    All this stuff about sacraments and liturgies, do you really think their theology is better than ours? All Protestants are good for is energy and audacity?

    And how about the Jehovahs Witnesses? Does regular Christianity need anything that their tradition has?

    • Reading through your comments, Hollis, I thought I had you pegged as a Watchtower man. Thanks for coming out and confirming 😉

    • Hollis, read my comment in reply to your statement about prayer above.

      I have written here about what I benefited from when I was part of evangelicalism. There is much for which to be grateful.

      Your question, “Is their theology better than ours?” is unnecessarily binary in terms of this discussion. The point of the quote is that each tradition has a measure of truth and that we can learn from all of them. It does not put them in terms of superior/inferior.

      Now as for me personally, I will say that I left evangelicalism because I found that it was weak in many areas that I have come to value as important — history, tradition, ecclesiology, spiritual formation, worship, breadth of spirit, etc. So, my personal choice was that another tradition was “better” — yes.

      • Its a simple yes or no. Do we need a bunch of ceremony to be saved, or plain simple faith in Jesus? There is no measure of truth, its either one or the other. Is every man a priest, like the Bible says? Yes or no. Do we pray to Christ alone, or Mary and the saints too? Does wine and bread magically turn into Jesus because of some ritual? Is the Bible the final authority, or do we set up the word of man above the word of God? God demands an answer from every one of us, there’s no wiggling out of it. Based on what you decide, you go to that kind of church. You feel it in your heart if you’ve done the right thing. You can’t please everybody, cause that way you wind up pleasing nobody but the devil and the Dali Lama. Sometimes, if somebody preach something unbiblical, you got to call a spade a spade, otherwise you end up like the Episcopals mixing together God knows what.

    • Wait, so you’ve never heard of any protestants that have sacraments and liturgy?

      And by the way, there’s a name for arrogant ecumenism: Sectarianism

  15. “we need the whole body of Christ to properly form the body of Christ”
    The Church is much more than my little corner of it. This relates to the recent postings on the observance of the Reformation anniversary. I’ve just read “Classical Christian Doctrine”, by Ronald E. Heine, which takes us back to the first centuries of the Church to our common roots (Thomas Oden does the same in many of his writings). For all our differences (some perhaps important, others not), God’s people are all the same family (even those who won’t acknowledge their relatives). I think this is at least part of what Brian Zahnd is saying.

  16. Christiane says

    when I think about needing the whole Body of Christ, it brings this to mind from the beautiful writings of Jean Vanier in ‘The Body Broken’, ‘WHERE EACH PERSON IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE ALL ARE NECESSARY’:

    “this is the vision of Jesus for our world announced by St Paul:
    one Body –
    with the poorest and weakest among us at the heart,
    those that we judge the most despicable, honoured;
    where each person is important
    because all are necessary.

    His Body, to which we all belong
    joined in love,
    filled with the Spirit.
    This is the Kingdom.”


  17. Robert F says

    The confusion of theological voices represented by the different church traditions produces a kind of vertigo in me, as if I stand looking out from the edge of a carousel that shifts my perspective at a dizzying rate; there is no way to get off the carousel without getting outside Christianity, and this I’m unwilling and unable to do. I don’t believe there is anymore beyond the boundaries of the carousel anyway. This is the price of modernity and post-modernity; those of us who have experienced its relativizing effects can not easily move back into an earlier stage of naivete and absolutes, and we can only do so at the price of tremendous cognitive dissonance and sometimes bad faith, in the Sartrean sense. Even those who have crossed over into the RC or EO churches in the name of stepping back into the “one, true church” continue to exist in a world of multiple choices; there is no escape from that reality into a spiritual ghetto with high walls that prevent the movement of relativizing realities back and forth across the porous boundaries.

    Perhaps the most important thing to learn from our historical situation is humility about what we might otherwise take to be absolute certainties apart from encounters with Christians from radically different traditions, people who believe in ways very different from our way, but in whom we nevertheless recognize the presence of the Lord to whom we are loyal.

    And perhaps this humility, this modesty, is in fact the Lords work among us all.

    • RC and EO can’t save you. The only letters that can save you are Alpha and Omega. Jesus is the answer to every question.

      • Robert F says

        By no means was I saying that Jesus Christ is not present as saving Lord in the life and worship of the RC and EO churches. In response to your statement, one may as rightly say that Saddleback church and In Touch Ministries can’t save you; only the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world can save you.

  18. Robert F says

    That is “…anymore STABILITY beyond the boundaries of the carousel anyway…”

  19. I think Mr. Zahnd may be onto something here. Given how we have defined Church unity, (namely everyone quit their club and join our one true club, or some shade of this idea) we end up stuck. It also makes a mockery of Jesus’ high priestly prayer, because apparently it hasn’t been answered if you hold to this view of unity. Either His prayer for us to be one was not answered or our ‘oneness’ is comprised of something other than outward institutional unity. My vote is for the latter.

    A friend of mine converted from Mormonism to Christianity. He had heard Walter Martin lecture against Mormonism and was angry. He decided to do a Mormon apologetic against the Christians. He had been taught that the Christians were hopelessly divided and chaotic. As he told me later, he discovered that Christians believe all pretty much the same stuff, namely that Jesus is God and He died for our sins. The similarities were so glaring that it shook him to his core and he subsequently converted to Christianity.

    ‘Denominationalism is here to stay. I think that God actually uses the different ‘flavors’ of the faith to reach as many as possible with the Gospel. You hate the liturgy? There are contemporary worship services everywhere. Don’t like traditional church? There is about every permutation of church you can imagine, there is a church out there for everyone. On Judgement Day the Father will truly be able to say to those who have rejected His Son ” My Son played the flute and you did not dance, He sang a dirge and you did not weep.” It won’t be for a lack of different styles and kinds of chuches that people refuse Christ.

    As to the ‘divisions’ among us, honest men disagree honestly, and as the Apostle Paul said “Let each one be fully convinced.” So I am a convinced Lutheran and others are convinced Catholics or Evangelicals. If you don’t feel that your tradition has the most going for it, why do you go there? We all think at some level feel that our tradition or congregation is the best choice, at least for ourselves and maybe for others. But we are united around Jesus and the Trinity in our various understandings.

  20. melissatheragamuffin says

    The Catholic Churc has consistently proclaimed Jesus Christ is Lord for 2000 years. That seems to be more than some other denominations are capable of.

    • The Catholic Church is semi-Pelagian to the core.

      ‘A lot of God and a little bit of me’.

      Who even needs the cross with that theology.

      You’d better get busy. Your part is lacking.

      Where’s the rest and peace in that?

      The Roman Catholic Lord needs a little help from the people who are mired in their sin.

      Thanks be to God for Luther who had the guts to speak up and stand up to ’em.

      • MelissatheRagamuffin says

        The Catholic Church pelaganistic? I think not. The Catholic Church teaches that God’s grace is necessary for humans to make any move toward God at all.

      • The Roman Catholic Church is not semi-Pelagian, which as I understand involves a person coming to God solely through an act of the will, with grace coming into the picture only after the act of the will to help the person grow in faith. The RCC, as well as the Eastern Orthodox Church and many others teach that the human will works in collaboration with the grace of God (synergism) to effect salvation, but this is the heresy of semi-Pelagianism because the initiative in salvation comes from God.

        • Last sentence should say, this is NOT the heresy of semi-Pelagianism…

        • MelissatheRagamuffin says

          Thank you, Clay! And why would someone be concerned about their works if they didn’t already have faith? I think the problem is that too many people think God’s grace me you can still live like hell, and it’s somehow still all good.

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