Monday, 27 April 2015
No such thing as a tradition-free church: part 3
I want to give and receive. Given my 10-year commitment to this church, it hardly seems fair or even likely that slotting me into this scenario works out - I would have packed up long ago otherwise (in fact during the conversation, my friend mentioned another dissatisfied person - who strikes me as a truly servant-hearted guy).
Although my local church has some issues, my primary issue with it is not local! I hope this alleviates the need to hit the self-protect buttons. My church is part of a charismatic evangelical church tradition that is exposed to some serious movement away from the Biblical texts lying at the heart of our faith. The three elders of my local church are all good guys, probably know their bibles quite well. But being part of a tradition is a very powerful influence on the way the faith community gathers, what and how they celebrate, what they see as their primary task, and how they perceive God and Christ. And in a tradition where teaching is often quite inspirational in nature, we are exposed, quite simply, to being inspired by many things, and consequently searching them out in the Bible. This can create theological instability and superficiality.
People who read this blog already know that I think that many first-century Christians would have been quite surprised by where we ended up three centuries later in Nicaea. Even if you could bring Paul round to this idea, and he could "sign off" on the triune God idea, I do not think you would ever have gotten him theologically to where we are today - making the Father optional. Pushing so hard to make Christ fully divine, that the Father's own divinity - rather than being explicitly denied - simply fades away. Nope, that would definitely be a step too far, but much of contemporary worship song-writing has for decades been pushing in this direction, informing worshipper's hearts.
While succeeding in many areas, I suspect our church tradition has failed to properly assess the impact of the words celebrated in song in people's worship. While some emphasis is placed on good theological content of sermons, much less is placed on the worship, when people's souls are typically engaged and open. Here is an evangelical example of the impact. I received an invitation on Facebook for a "March for Jesus" in my local city. I did a quick word search. "God" was not mentioned once, nor was "Son", nor was "Father". It simply does not seem to matter. Maybe I should see how many people would subscribe to a March for the Father on Facebook!