Since the time of the apostles, the church has always had its theological disputes. I often wish that I could live at a time or in a place that was controversy-free.
Yet a sober look at human nature and the limitations of our understanding makes it clear that there will always be theological disagreements. If we care about biblical truth, inevitably we will find ourselves engaged in some of these disagreements, and our love will be tested to the limit.
We have our own controversies. And frankly, when we are convinced that we're right and someone else is wrong, patience and kindness aren't exactly the areas where most of us excel.
If this is an area of struggle for us, then we would be wise to make 1 Corinthians 13 our constant companion. We should read and reflect on these verses when we think an error needs to be corrected in our local church, when we are tempted to straighten out a friend's theology, or when we are about to express our opinion in a doctrinal disagreement online.
Blogging is such a weird word. We never used it until people started keeping "logs" on the "web" of their life called "weblog" and for some reason, we dropped the "we" and were left with the art of blogging. And in a sense, it has changed everything. How? Because now, everyone is a publisher.
1. Everybody is doing it.
2. It's easy.
3. It's cheap.
4. You can earn some income.
5. You can expand your influence.
In other words, this isn't just for geeks and nerds anymore. It's for you too (assuming you don't fall into either of those categories).
I think dialogue between Neo-Reformed folks and Neo-Anabaptist Evangelical Missional people like me would be a very good thing. And I have been convicted of not doing enough to move us in this direction. This is why I was so glad when my Canadian bro Darryl Dash put this list of questions before me and asked me to respond for his blog. I sense a good impulse here. Dialogue together for the Kingdom.
1. There seems to have been a resurgence of the Neo-Reformed and Anabaptists at the same time. It's almost like they're parallel movements. What's behind that?
If you ask me, this has to do with the cultural turning point facing the North American church. There's a unhinging of sorts happening in N. American culture where the larger culture is becoming unhinged from the Christian moorings of its past. One can easily see this happening in Canada, Europe and the northern United States. And so now we, here in N. America, find ourselves in a "mission field." We are forced to ask the question, how do we engage this newly secularized, even antagonistic-to-the-gospel culture? How can we be faithful to God's Mission in Jesus Christ? In my opinion, the rise of Neo-Reformed and Neo-Anabaptists comes from responding to this cultural shift. They can be interpreted as two parallel movements responding to this shift.
So I would say the "Neo-Reformed" group has responded to this shift by pushing for a purifying of the gospel. We've lost our way. We've given away the proclamation of the gospel in order to be relevant. And the church has declined. We need to restate it clearly and find ways to be present in that truth in our culture. This is a revival of past protestant orthodoxy (for some this is more towards Puritan thought than the Majesterial Reformation) for sure but it is more than that. It is an attempt to bridge that orthodoxy with a new sense of mission in the N American context.
In regards to the Neo-Anabaptists, I would say this group has responded by stressing a renewal of the embodiment of the gospel in local contexts. Here, we need to pay attention to the "witness" of the gospel in the rhythms of our everyday lives. There is a push to figure out traditional Anabaptist themes for today: themes such as a.) Community together for God's Mission, b.) Discipleship, c.) the subversive yet non-coercive ways of service, reconciliation, and peacemaking in the neighborhood. The gospel is defined here more broadly than for many Neo-Reformed- think Scot McKnight or N. T. Wright. We Anabaptists, I suggest, are more happy to accept the post-Christendom state of things. This however requires new modes of cultural engagement, listening, postures of humility. This is not the sectarian Anabaptism of times past.