Category Archives: According To The Whole

According To The Whole – Epilogue: The Faith Of Monoliths

Ayers Rock

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I have a feeling that many of us, myself included, have a habit of thinking of God as a sort of monolith. (You know monoliths – giant, solid rocks of a single, undivided nature). C.S. Lewis remarked in Letters To Malcolm that in the mind, the stand-in for God is often something like a bright mist, and to this monolithic bright mist I assign monolithic superlatives: God is Great; God is Light; God is Love. The list of superlatives may go on and on, but each superlative is rock-solid, existing forever, like the faces on Mt. Rushmore or the facets on a diamond. This makes defining and relating to the “God” in my mind much easier, as long as the integrity of the superlatives remains intact. Continue reading

According To The Whole – Part 4: The Next Step

In this series, According To The Whole, a major theme has been the unity of Christians, the theme of Jesus’ prayer in John 17 “that they may all be one.” If you’ve followed it from Part 1, you’ll recall that my jump-off point was a critique of that hazy, undefined trend among Western Christians called non-denominationalism and how it fails to unify anyone. I introduced the term catholic as a second-century (maybe first-century) description of the universally unified Church, which simply means “according to the whole” ( kata (according to) + holos (the whole) ). That term does not exclusively mean “Roman Catholic,” and that’s not how it’s used here. Continue reading

According To The Whole – Part 3: A Change In Orientation

In Part 1 of this series I looked at the relatively recent phenomenon of churches who claim no particular creed and hold no allegiance to a particular denomination. They are known as “non-denominational” churches, and their preaching, worship, and even organizational structure are all unbound by any traditional parameters. I noted that even many of the churches within mainline denominations are loosening their external denominational identities in favor of appearing more non-denominational. The great apologetic of the non-denom church is: We’re just christians1. And that’s a powerful apologetic to thousands of Christians in the U.S. and elsewhere who grew up in the sleepy old denominations of their grandparents – denominations that were segregated from the others because of mysterious, ancestral disagreements about faith and practice. Continue reading

According To The Whole – Part 2: Distinction And Dislocation

Before getting into this post, I want to interject this disclaimer. This series on the faith “according to the whole” is a product of my ongoing labor to better understand the nature and significance of the Church. The impetus behind this labor was my realization that there is much more to the Church (its history, practices, and even its own founding understanding of itself) than I had been aware of most of my life. My awakening to this reality put me on a road to learning as much as I can about the Church, a pursuit that has changed and continues to change my perspective on both the nature and significance of the society for which the New Testament writers used names like Body of Christ, Bride of Christ, and House of God. I don’t aim to lay out all my thoughts about this here, but rather I want to present some information and some basic principles that I think are pertinent to American protestants with similar backgrounds to my own. I want to do this in a spirit of camaraderie, not pompousness or pretentiousness, acknowledging my own limited education and experience. So I submit these thoughts, aware of the disunity of the people of God and of the various ecclesiological perspectives out there, not to present a systematic plan for unity, but just to diagnose part of the problem … and hopefully to give a nudge in a better direction.  Continue reading

According To The Whole – Part 1: The Phenomenon of Non-Denom

… that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you — that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.      -John 17:21

I was talking with a friend the other day about his church and about how he helps out with the youth program there. He told me about a recent weekend event where the kids had several opportunities to worship in a group setting, and about how enthusiastically they sang and worshiped. He contrasted the enthusiasm of the kids with some older, stodgy churchgoers he’d experienced, noting that there weren’t many of those at his church. And he went on to tell me that though his church has “Baptist” on its sign, in many respects, “It doesn’t look like your typical Baptist church.” By typical, he of course meant that, at least in generations past, most all Baptist churches, or any churches of a particular denomination, all looked alike. This led us to talk about the phenomenon of non-denominationalism, and about how many churches belonging even to the mainline denominations are beginning to hold on less tightly to their denominational identities and distinctives. In fact, my friend disclosed that he would just prefer we do away with all the denominations and titles and just be Christians. I agreed (with a caveat), lamenting that denominationalism is a blight on Christianity. Continue reading