Tag Archives: protestant

The Last First Step

Last First Step

Back in 2011 I started writing a series of posts entitled “According to the Whole” which was focused on exploring the issue of Christian disunity and where I was looking for possible solutions. The posts were personal and were informed by my own intellectual and experiential journey, but they weren’t overtly autobiographical. I used them to ask questions, make diagnoses, and offer prescriptions in a general sense, but I didn’t use them to tell much of my story. Now my story which spawned those questions and thoughts has reached a definitive point, even a conclusion of sorts, and I want to finally tell it. Continue reading

“Christianity” Disambiguated

ethiopians

Ethiopian Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter

The Christian landscape in the world today is multifaceted, varied, and sometimes jaggedly divided. In a world where global news coverage mentions “persecuted Christians in the Middle East” in one breath and “the Christian Right” of America in the next, we may begin to suspect that the simple shorthand “Christian” isn’t quite sufficient for describing the sundry groups it’s supposed to cover. In many places in the world (in the Middle East, for example), the name “Christian” may imply both a distinct culture and a distinct race or ethnicity. It’s beyond my scope to enumerate instances where that’s the case, so instead I want to limit the meaning of “Christian” here to a belief system, a philosophical-religious position. In terms of the content of the belief system (and in some cases the history or tradition of that system), we can divide the Christian landscape of today into some broad distinctions, just to help us navigate better how we use the term. This isn’t any official taxonomy, just some conceptual categories offered for your edification. 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 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