Where is the Church going now?

Inspired by reading Joe Carter @ First Things, “Are Evangelicals the New Mainline?“. He shared a point from Rodney Stark :

…one keeps hearing about the “mainline” denominations and this “periphery” called evangelicalism. Well, the periphery is now the mainline, and the mainline is the sideline.

Which got me thinking.

Is the Church going “Right” or “Left”, and isn’t that something of a paradox in terms of a straight path?

From where I stand the Church, the one that will continue to be true to the idea of faith in Jesus Christ, (of gospel salvation as iterated in the scriptures handed down in any available Bible), the mainline Christian stream will be one of characteristics of relationship with God. Not membership in a group, not advocacy of issues or even doctrines, but a living, organic type of experiential life that is expressed as a family relationship. Family being a connection to others through ones connection with God. As such, it cannot be expressed politically. It cannot be “Right” or “Left” in such a form. Not even in ideas such as “Left” or “Liberal” doctrine, or “Right” as fundamental or conservative doctrine.

There are many Christians who are frightened of such a turn of the tide. Change can be frightening, and often rightly so. But if the change is coming by way of God, we need to assess our attitude towards it.

I just do not see a foundation for the doctrinal taskmasters to build on in the modern world. This may look a little different than the watershed effect that Francis Schaeffer observed. While there is a watershed, indeed, it no longer looks as if it is pivoted upon doctrinal stances. It looks like it is much more primitive (and I use that word purposefully), based within the actual relationship one has, as individual and then in community, with the Living God through the person of Christ.

I’m not saying what the people, individually and in community, believe (their doctrine) is not important… but that it will lead to, and come from, the realism of an experience with God. Intellectual communion will no longer have the strength to hold up in the pressures of the world system which is ever bolder in its attack upon ideas of faith in Christ. I might even say that I think that attack increased in power by inequities within the corporate bodies of many Church denominations. There is a sort of deconstruction which is almost complete. It is no longer a battleground for ones expression of faith in the public sector …. it is a battleground on how one lives ones life.

So I think where the Church is going now is far more personal, and less a corporate identity. And that identity is with a living, resurrected Christ.

8 thoughts on “Where is the Church going now?”

  1. A political Christian identity has always seemed wrong to me (granted, as both a Christian and a non Christian). It was to do with the “things of Caesar” bit. One can’t say “you are a proper Christian if you vote for [whoever]”, there’s absolutely nothing in the Bible which backs that in the slightest. One of my most remembered conversations with Christians on Delphi was the guy who told me “Jesus would back limited nuclear strikes on the Middle East”….

  2. We agree on this.

    There is a place for government, and St. Paul outlined that as setting a line for evildoers. There have to be laws and consequences in a judicial body of some sort. But the Christian’s relationship to that body is not as it has been painted.

    Actually I think the Christian right arose from the integration of two streams: one was a reaction to the Pietist movement and one was an identification with the Moral Majority (always sort of a hybrid of religious and political interests which existed in an uneasy tension).

  3. … and I might say the Christian left arose from the “social gospel” movement of the nineteenth century ( itself a reaction to Pietism) and the deconstructionist doctrinal stances of the early twentieth century (which Schaeffer so ably exposed and argued against)

  4. I’d say there’s a version of primitive communism embedded in the text itself, as well as the “social gospel”. But I don’t think it’s precisely prescribed in those terms, so to me attempts to shove Christianity to the left make about as much sense as trying to shove it to the right.

    1. well, they say that primitive communism is what the early Church actually practised. It is Marx who took the ideas and ran ( off the deep end according to many of us 😉

  5. Ha 😉

    Yeah, primitive communism is what you get where no surplus exists and therefore a class society is unable to develop. Once you get a surplus, you unavoidably get classes. The early Church held all in common, therefore no classes, therefore no surplus (which doesn’t mean they didn’t deal with class society in the form of the rest of their dealings with the world).

    Marxists don’t advocate a return to primitive communism (technology and the progression of class society has made that impossible, and we’re generally quite fond of technology). I can’t remember if we’ve had the primitive communism/how surplus develops/etc etc etc conversation before, but I try to avoid boring you to tears and making you headdesk so I’ll not elaborate here 😉

  6. Feel free to elaborate: There is space.

    Primitive communism & Christianity have nerveless “one” thing in common. Both are an established belief or doctrine with core principles that must be upheld by all followers.

    But in both cases it seems often too difficult for the concerned ones to remain mentally sober and neutral. Idealism, or faith.
    Doesn’t mean they are bad things.
    Doesn’t mean they are good things.

    They are whatever we do with them.

    1. While I believe that there are many things that are simply tools in our hands (science, guns, economic systems, etc), Christianity is not one of those “nerveless” things. Christianity is an organic belief system in a macrocosm, just as we are in the microcosm. Christianity has characteristics and momentum…. it is not a neutral.

      Primitive communism is an outcome of a belief… whether because we want a level economic field or we want a caring community which operates by sharing ones goods. It is not correlative with Christianity as a belief system or one’s religion.

      So I must disagree with you.

      Today’s one-world, feel-good philosophy of religion wants to “dumb down” religions into a neutral status, but then they become only personal opinion, and are not qualified to be considered “religion”. Which I understand is the preference of many in the debate over religion in general, and Christianity specifically.

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