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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Called out: how ecumenical am I?


Calling out is a funny thing, it's a form of challenge. Boxers tend to 'call out' their next target after a fight by making a challenge. I've not been called out by a fellow blogger before, but I have now.

First a bit of background, Adrian Warnock is stirring up the atonement debate by taking umbrage at this book (I have it but not read it yet). The other blogging Warnock (Dave) has taken umbrage with Adrian and has posted a series of responses starting here. Then my friend Dave Matthias leaves a few comments on this post from Dave to which Dave Warnock responds with this post. Still following?

And in it, I am 'called out'. The issue is that Dave W sees Adrian W evangelicalism as more akin to fundamentalism and being way too narrow and exclusive. And Adrian belongs to the same family of churches as me (newfrontiers) so Dave calls out some Newfrontiers bloggers he knows, me being one of them (Here for more newfrontiers bloggers ).

Dave W issues this challenge:
"how closely can we work together with people who vehemently disagree with us?"
Good question. There are a variety of ways this plays out for me, so here we go, I'll be interested to hear your thoughts.

1) If someone tells me they're solely trusting in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus for their forgiveness, salvation and hope to reconcile them to God, even if their emphasis is different to mine - I'll probably conclude that this person is a brother or sister in Christ. God is the judge of others salvation and I must tread carefully when making judgements.
2) If they're in the family, I can and should be prepared to pray with them, talk to them, and even break bread with them despite any theological differences we may have.
3) But theological differences do actually matter so from this point on I tend to be a bit more picky and it depends on what it is we're thinking of working on. Here are some examples:
  • I'm a believers baptism guy and I totally disagree with infant baptism. However I work with Anglicans on lots of things such as Soul Purpose which is a youth initiative that draws people together from over 16 different churches to engage in a weekend of social action. I'm also deeply committed to Breathe and it's passion for simplicity in a consumer age but some of them are infant baptising Anglicans. I'm even godparent to some of their children. These guys love Jesus are committed to the Kingdom, desiring truth and holiness and are trusting in the substitionary work of Christ.
  • I believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for today and should be desired and actively sought. My dad is less convinced, but his church and mine collaborate on a Friday night youth project called Fusion. But my dad loves the gospel and honours Jesus, so I'm happy to work with him without fearing compromise and possible damnation.
  • I don't think the Bible teaches that women should have final responsibility in church life (that isn't the same as saying women can't lead anything - see here) but I was married by a female vicar and the husband of a lady vicar comes to our church. I don't dishonour her in public or private. She has brought people from her church to our Alpha course and even though she's an infant baptising lady vicar, I'll work with her if people get saved because she loves Jesus.
However there are some things I don't think I would 'work together' on. If a church believes there are other ways to God apart from Christ, I don't think I could do that. If a church believes that the Bible is just one book like many others, I'm not sure about that. If a church actively condones, (in practice or theory) what I understand to be sin then 'working together' is unlikely to benefit either of us.

Working together as opposed to talking to each other in any of these cases will mean we won't be able to agree on issues of salvation, repentance, discipleship and holiness and if we can't agree on those things then I'm un-persuaded of the case to work together, our 'vehement disagreement' will cause us both pain. I'm willing to discuss them but until then we'll not be on stage together. Basically if they can sign up to to the EA basis of faith, then we can probably do something together.

I'm comfortable with a variety of theological differences (it would be boring otherwise) and I don't assume that those who disagree with me are necessarily unsaved.

However, we should be concerned for Biblical truth, I don't think anything goes but Dave does that answer your question?

10 comments:

DaveW on 19 November 2008 at 08:53 said...

Phil,

As I expected you are much closer to me on this. For example you do not cite a sopecific requirement to accept penal substitution but instead stick to the EA basis of faith.

I do work wider coming from a more central position and being part of a denomination that has a lot more breadth than NFI. I notice for example that you don't mention working with Catholics (boy you are missing out on some wonderful spirituality from some mazing people of faith).

In the past when I worked with the United Bible Societies I was privileged to work with a wide range of Christians including many Orthodox, Catholic and then protestants of every shade. So I would go with the simple classic creed of "Jesus is Lord" as the test.

Phil on 19 November 2008 at 09:19 said...

Thanks for the comment Dave, I'm open to the possibility of working with Catholics. Practically in our area they're not much involved in the community things we do, so it's lack of opportunity. However, it would depend a lot on what 'the working together' thing was - there are lots of profound theological differences between us, but that doesn't mean I'm not personally open to learning from the best of what they have to say.

Peter Kirk on 19 November 2008 at 16:07 said...

Thanks, Phil. I wish every New Frontiers blogger took this very sensible position. I write as a lay Anglican who probably almost agrees with you on baptism.

Blue, with a hint of amber on 20 November 2008 at 09:48 said...

I wish every New Frontiers blogger took this very sensible position.

I don't understand why one blog or another is taken to represent "newfrontiers".

I don't judge Methodism on the basis of DaveW's blog - I get to know DaveW.

I don't judge anglicanism on the basis of your blog Peter, I get to know you.

DaveW on 20 November 2008 at 12:07 said...

Bwahoa,

"I don't judge Methodism on the basis of DaveW's blog - I get to know DaveW."

I am sure the rest of Methodism is very relieved by that :-)

Peter Kirk on 20 November 2008 at 12:15 said...

Fair enough, Dave. I don't really want to pigeonhole people according to denomination (or non-denomination if you want to insist that newfrontiers is non-denominational!) Perhaps I should just say that I wish every blogger, indeed every person, took the same line. It should be obvious who I had in mind with this comment. Maybe you don't want to be associated with him any more than I would want to be associated with many Anglican bloggers.

ianjmatt on 20 November 2008 at 15:06 said...

BWAHOA

I think Peter's comment comes from a combination of things, such as the public condemnation of Steve by a number of Newfrontiers pastors, the alignment of Newfrontiers with New Word Alive over the Atonement issue as well as a number of very vocal Newfrontiers bloggers.

I'm not saying Peter is right in his assumptions, just that the public 'tone' has not been as accomodating as Phil's response here.

Blue, with a hint of amber on 21 November 2008 at 08:39 said...

Those are helpful explanations.

I certainly disagree with Steve Chalke over the atonement issue.

There won't be a single newfrontiers leader who doesn't.

But they will have a range of ways of expressing it, working out and acting upon that disagreement.

In the same way every newfrontiers pastor will disagree with the local anglicans about infant baptism and will disagree with the local evangelical church about gifts of the spirit being for today.

I guess the atonement issue is so in focus because of the nature of the recent discussion, whereas charismatic issues/baptism is not exactly a current debate.

the alignment of Newfrontiers with New Word Alive

I think that is an interesting one. In 1960 the newfrontiers old guard of leaders would have been in the same churches as the people who go to word alive.

Conservative, evangelical, reformed, they were friends, they went to bible college together. Then the charismatic renewal happened and it was difficult in many ways, with new churches formed and old friendships tested. The New Word Alive developments I see are actually, in the case of newfrontiers, something of a restoration of being able to work together and former relationships. Where the dividing line within reformed conservative evangelicalism had almost always been drawn on the charismatic issues, now those were secondary and there were opportunities to work together.

But the other aspect (and I realise this contradicts what i just said) is just because Terry Virgo goes to speak somewhere does that constitute an "alignment" with new word alive? I don't know any newfrontiers church who has actually been to it, and would suspect less than 10% of our own church would even know what it was.

DaveW on 21 November 2008 at 11:08 said...

Bwahoa,

"just because Terry Virgo goes to speak somewhere does that constitute an "alignment" with new word alive? I don't know any newfrontiers church who has actually been to it,"

Well guess what. Adrian Warnock was there and used his blog to attempt to connect New Word Alive very strongly to New Frontiers. At least that is how it appears to an outsider.

Blue, with a hint of amber on 21 November 2008 at 17:17 said...

At least that is how it appears to an outsider.

Fair enough.

In the interviews I read on Adrian's site Terry basically he said he went to New Word Alive because he was invited and wanted to meet Don carson and John Piper and because he has become friends with Richard Cunningham.

Wendy didn't even know what she was going to!

Adrian even asks Terry There aren’t that many Newfrontiers people here. Why would you come here?

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