Tuesday, February 6, 2007

"By articulating our differences, we also discover our commonalities."

At Christianity Today's site, J. Todd Billings writes about the modern tendency to de-emphasize doctrinal differences, and what is lost by doing so:
... C. S. Lewis diagnosed the problem of eschewing tradition as "chronological snobbery," "the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age." In its place, theological traditions open up the wisdom and possibilities of the "cloud of witnesses." Like us, these witnesses faced dire challenges in trying to teach and live out the gospel in an inhospitable world. Many of their challenges are bound to appear again and again: Is Jesus Christ a prophet (like Muhammad) or the eternal Son of God? What is the relationship between Israel and the church?

Not only that, but creeds and traditions can be ways to protect our fidelity to the Bible rather than subvert it. This is how Reformers like Calvin regarded the extrabiblical Trinitarian language in the Nicene Creed.

Obviously, traditions can be misused. Some may use "in essentials, unity" to say you are not a part of the body of Christ unless you share their particular views on speaking in tongues, predestination, or the sacraments. More than once, a fellow Christian has cross-examined me until I could recite the relevant "code words" of his tradition: Did I hold the right views on spiritual gifts, providence, free will, or the millennium?

Yet for many, fear of divisiveness has cut them off from the riches of the church's cloud of witnesses. Rather than providing a path to church unity, avoiding theological distinctives often just leads to superficiality. Voices drawing upon the wisdom of the past help the church bring the gospel into our complex world. If we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, we need to remember that we read the Bible through the illumination of the Spirit who has actively worked in the church for 2,000 years.[the rest of the article]
2/7 At Intellectuelle today Bonnie points out that Billings, in parts of the argument not quoted above, uses "mere Christianity" in a very different way than C.S. Lewis did. Billings argued that "mere Christianity" was substituted for religious faith. She writes:
“Mere Christianity” cannot possibly substitute for the Christian faith; it is essential Christianity, as I understand C. S. Lewis to have intended it. Lewis describes it as a “hall out of which doors open into several rooms.” (Mere Christianity, xi.)
Source: The Problem with Mere Christianity | Christianity Today

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