Flotsam and jetsam (6/9)

  • C. Michael Patton asks “How Theologically Diverse Should Your Church Be?” Specifically, he’s asking his readers to consider not just what should be included in a church doctrinal statement, though that’s related, but more specifically, how much theological diversity we should intentionally strive for in our churches.
  • Inhabitatio Dei features a multi-authored post on the Kingdom-World-Church relationship. The general argument is that we need abandon ecclesiocentric models that prioritize the church over the world, but should instead see the church as an aspect of God’s eschatological purposes for the world. There’s been quite a bit of discussion on this one that is also worth reading.
  • Colin Hansen explains his concerns about comedy in the pulpit. If nothing else, this one is good for pointing out that someone actually gave a seminar for preachers on “Ten Commandments of stand-up comedy.”
  • Allen Yeh offers a nice epilogue on the Edinburgh 2010 conference. Most helpful were his comments on some of the “glaring gaps” in the conference and a couple of “prophetic” moments.
  • And, I’m sure that Galileo will be very happy to hear that his fingers are now on display in Florence.

About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on June 9, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. On Patton: What is the Biblical reason for “striving” for theological diversity within a congregation? (note: there is already theological diversity in every congregation if you ask around a little bit).

    How does he expect something like a “doctrinal statement” (note: most other Christians who are not trying to re-invent the wheel call these “creeds” and “confessions”:-) to work in the lives of church members (assuming membership)? As a Presbyterian minister I subscribe to the Westminster Standards as an expression of the doctrine I teach and preach. My members do not have to subscribe to it. But they know that is the theological perspective from which they hear things. Their personal conviction doesn’t have to be much more than what is expressed in the Apostle’s Creed.

    To have broad theological diversity on a staff is silly, because it assumes theology doesn’t matter in how/why you do ministry. Unless that is your theological starting point (diversity for diversity sake). And that is a bad starting point.

    Why would he take his cues theologically from “evangelicalism,” i.e. since we identify as evangelical, we need to have everything that counts as evangelical represented on our staff? At its best, evangelicalism is a commitment to mission (“evangelism”) and Spiritual renewal and the authority of Scripture. At its worst it is a kind of religious “expressive individualism.” His post seems to want the best of the former but operates from a matrix of the latter.

    • Pat, you might be interested in James McGrath’s response to this post, since he comes at it from exactly the opposite direction, contending that we should have even more theological diversity that Patton wants.

      But, I would completely agree that this approach can easily betray both a low view of theology and a low view of the church. (Contrary to popular belief, not all baptists have a low view of the church.) And, I’m not sure what this would even mean in practice. Should a church hire pastors like a school hires professors (i.e. we need someone who can teach from a more Arminian perspective)?

      At the same time, though, can’t we err in the other direction? Though I can’t see how or why we should strive for theological diversity in a church, I wonder if a lack of theological diversity doesn’t say something as well. In other words, if a church is growing and learning in an open and healthy environment, shouldn’t this create a theologically creative community in which differences can and should arise. Granted, we’d want this to happen within the space created by the community’s doctrinal commitments (note: I thought a “confession” was when one Presbyterian told another Presbyterian that he’d rather be a baptist), but that still leaves significant room for creative and diverse theological expression.

      • Presbyterian “confession” = nice.

        I don’t see how what McGrath was saying is much different than what I said about what I believe as a minister and what my people believe, i.e. there is theological diversity and freedom to hold different beliefs and interact about them. But as a minister, I land somewhere.

        His reference to baptism is a great example. In the PCA, we practice infant baptism. We don’t require members to have their children baptized though. They should, but we won’t bind their conscience and forbid them from coming to the table. They can’t be elders or deacons, but can still serve in important ways – even teaching. Parents can bring them forward later by profession of faith, though the focus still is on God’s grace and His covenantal love, and not the “decision” of the baptized.

        Most Baptist churches I know, though, would require that my children be “re-baptized” to become members there. Why? Think of the attenuated theology of that practice. It is essentially saying that those people who have received from Christ the sign of His gospel are in fact not really Christians because what happened to them isn’t really baptism. The gracious gift was not “good enough” the first time around, but must be supplemented with a) immersion, and b) conversionist experience.

        So, for all the ways in which the PCA is messy, poor, funky, low-church (there are multiple Baptist denominations that are much more connectional and robust in their functional ecclesiology than the PCA, note: that is as close to a “confession” as you’ll get from me!). Our confessionalism is helpful for both ministers and the people of our churches in that it comes down somewhere – here is what we believe – and gives people freedom to fit into it (or not) as they follow Christ in that community.

      • Maybe I read McGrath too quickly. I thought he was arguing for more of an intentional diversifying at all levels.

        Baptismal diversity is definitely more problematic for a baptist. As you point out, a paedobaptist has the option of allowing adult baptism in the community without compromising the leadership’s theological position. A baptist does not have the same option, unless he is willing to conclude that this is a non-issue and performs both kinds of baptisms (at which point it get hard to still refer to him as a baptist).

        Of course, to be fair, a good baptist would not say that the individual in question is being “re-baptized.” From the baptist perspective, they are in fact being baptized. That does have the unfortunate function of saying that paedobaptists are confused about what exactly it is that they’re doing. But, let’s at least be fair to the baptist position. They’re not saying that the gracious gift didn’t take the first time, they’re saying that there wasn’t one (especially since baptists tend to be strongly symbolic in their understanding of baptism anyway).

        The more I hear about the PCA, the more it sounds like the CBA, but with better creeds.

  2. Mark, thanks for this, and other links lately. I’ve been enjoying the Western ThM blog lately. One of these days you’ll have to pop by the bookstore on campus as I am always over here working away, mere yards away from you.

    • Okay, I really need to get out of my office more. I had no idea that you worked in the bookstore. If it makes it any better (it probably doesn’t), I don’t make it over the library very often either. But, now that I know you’re over there, I’ll definitely stop in. Not now, though. It’s raining pretty hard.

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