Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Orthodoxy means boundaries

At his consistently interesting blog, Kevin DeYoung expresses his frustration with the use of a couple of words that have become jargon. The first is "dialogue":
.... The plea is always for more talking. But do we ever call an end to the meeting of the minds and simply make up our minds? Do we ever declare, ala Martin Luther, “Here we stand”? Are there any issues so clear and so important that to spend time in dialogue would not be a sign of patient discernment but of cowardly equivocation? Does there come a time when the need to rest on the side of truth means we resign ourselves to the fact that there are going to be “winners” and “losers”? When do we swallow hard and admit that it’s fruitless to dialogue for the sake of unity when both sides don’t agree on anything except the most nebulous, ambivalent, watered-down expressions of Christianity?

I think the Apostle Paul would be truly exasperated by our endless conversation. No doubt, he was willing to continue teaching and “dialoguing” with people who wanted to know more about Jesus. But for deserters and false teachers, he had little patience. He called them out by name–Alexander, Hymenaeus, Philetus, Demas, Phygellus, Hermogenes–and warned his fledgling flocks, “Be on your guard against them.” So much for dialogue.
And the second word is "inclusion":
Considering the church’s spotted past in excluding people for the wrong reasons–too poor, too black, too awkward–inclusion can sound awfully good. And it is, when by “inclusion” we mean something like “welcome.” The church, of all places, should be an inviting haven for any sinner-come-lately and any socio-category that treasures Jesus in faith and repentance, or is simply looking for spiritual guidance.

So what’s the problem? The problem is one of boundaries. I am convinced that most of our wrangling in churches and denominations is over where to put up fences. What are the boundaries for fellowship? Membership? Leadership? What does one have to believe, say, or do in order to be counted as one of us? Where inclusionists have gone wrong is in removing theological and ethical boundaries that are essential in defining what it means to be Christian. ....
It should be commonsense when you stop and think about it. What is the great humanitarian feat in having all kinds of people join some inclusive institution, when the institution itself has no boundaries to define what it means to be a member? It’s kind of silly to speak of joining a group that doesn’t stand for anything and doesn’t turn anyone away. What, then, have you really joined? [read it all here]
The appropriate boundaries are defined by Christian orthodoxy and orthodoxy is defined by "the faith once delivered to the saints" [Jude 3]. Today DeYoung reviews Darrell Bock’s The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities:
One of the main tenets of Bock’s argument is that Christianity, from the beginning, was defined by orthodoxy. That is, there was such a thing as Christianity before there were Christianities.

Bock takes the reader on a tour of early Christianity and demonstrates that there was a broad consensus in four areas–the view of God, the view of Jesus, the nature of salvation, and Jesus’ work–that defined traditionalist Christianity. “I believe our tour has shown enough unanimity of belief in these four topics among the traditionalists,” writes Bock, “that, for them, these ideas were the core of Christianity.” [more]
DeYoung includes Bock's summary of what that set of core beliefs were [and are].

DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed: All Aboard the Jargon Express!, DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed: Christianity or Christianities?

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