Radical thoughts

While I was setting up this blog I came across the following words in A People’s History of Christianity by Diana Butler Bass: “The pamphleteers … were the bloggers of the sixteenth century, those whose words shaped religious rebellion by challenging traditional authorities and bypassing established channels of communication” (p.169).

Although at times I feel rebellious raising such issues as I will do in my posts, that is due to the nature of the issues rather than any desire on my part be a rebel. I’m actually blogging as well as using “established channels of communication”.

Some of my thoughts on church issues are somewhat “radical” and I realise that many people will have good reasons for disagreeing with my views.

The word radical comes from the Latin for root and its primary meaning (according to the Aust. Concise Oxford Dictionary) is “of the root or roots”; my desire is to get back to our Christian roots/foundation, not to create controversy. Therefore, I share my ideas because they are part of my journey of discovery. I am not trying to “make a statement”, but rather to share from my heart and hopefully generate thought and discussion.

So here’s the first radical idea.

When Jesus came to fulfil the law and set people free from their sins, inviting all people to feast at God’s banquet table, he also brought a clear rebuke for the Jewish religious leaders. While these men believed they were entrusted with preserving the Law and presiding over God’s people, Jesus accused them of neglecting the commandment of God for the sake of holding onto the traditions of men. I believe we are in danger of deserving the same rebuke.

Are we holding onto traditions which have been passed down to us but which are extraneous to the Bible? I do not refer primarily to the things we claim to believe but the things we actually practise; in my experience, the two are at times in opposition. Traditions are not necessarily bad and can indeed be helpful. However, if they may be diverting our attention from the Way of Christ, restricting our effectiveness in living in this Way or failing to equip us to live in the Way, then surely our traditions need to come under scrutiny.

Here are some examples to think about; I’ll elaborate on some of these in future posts. (I am writing from my own specific experience of church here, and some of these things may not apply equally in all church settings.)

  • Sunday worship services are still largely considered “the main thing” in Christianity, yet they tend to be passive, formal and impersonal.
  • Communion is often undertaken as a private memorial, lacking the element of being an expression of our oneness in and with Christ.
  • We often segregate ourselves into groups based on age, gender, life situation, music style, interests, etc, and may be in danger of forgetting that the basis of our fellowship is Christ.
  • The clergy/laity distinction may discourage the latter from doing their part as members of the body and burden the former with more responsibilities than perhaps they are equipped for.
  • The more ritualistic aspects of Christianity sometimes seem to be given greater importance than the great command to love one another, which is more about lifestyle than religious observance.
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4 thoughts on “Radical thoughts

  1. Again, some incisive comments here. One thing that I learnt in theology class is that tradition has its place in affirming doctrine and hopefully minimising error, which sounds reasonable to me. The other thing I’d like to see Baptists do more is affirm their distintives. Are we in danger of losing our identity?

    I don’t like segregation either. This has always frustrated me in the churches I’ve been involved in. I discussed this with a friend of mine once, and he shook me out of my naive idealism when he told me that I just had to accept that like it or not, you’re never going to be friends with everyone, and that’s just the way it is.

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  2. Thanks for your comments, Ross. Tradition has its place, and no doubt often has noble foundations. It is when those foundations are forgotten and tradition becomes little more than ritual that it is no longer helpful.

    On affirming Baptist distinctives, I’m very interested to know why you think this is important. To me, denominations seem divisive and akin to what was occuring in the Corinthian church (1 Cor 1:10-17).

    I don’t know a great deal about Baptist history, but one fantastic tradition I discovered is that those who were first labelled Baptists desired to recover and proclaim the simple faith of the New Testament. I’ll have more of that!

    On your last point, I think I’ll remain an idealist! It seems to me that our love for one another is more fully lived out when we love and are loved by those whom we would not naturally choose as friends.

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    • Haha, yes, stopping after two posts was a rather pathetic effort! My apologies. I will endeavour to get back into it soon …

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