Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Conservative Vs. Non-Conservative Christianity

There has been division among many churches in an argument based on how they should worship.

The Conservative View: The Church itself is pure and holy, instituted by God (true). We should preserve tradition (such as liturgy and the way services are organized) in order to maintain Christian continuity throughout the ages (making it so that we do the same things that our ancestors have done before us).

In this way, the church itself has been placed on a pedestal. It seems the focus has been moved from who we are worshiping to being more concerned with how we are worshiping. Unlike many Eastern religions that focus on what we do instead of what we believe, Christianity has always been meant to focus on our belief in Jesus Christ as part of the holy Triune God our actions are meant to stem from our beliefs (James 2:14-26 and Titus 3:1-11).

Instead of loving and caring for the church. Much like this picture of Snow White in a glass coffin, we have set the church up to preserve and worship her. Instead of helping her grow and flourish, we have been concerned with keeping her same, pure, and mint. This makes the "private practice of that religion a quite intolerable burden" (C. S. Lewis' Surprised by Joy Chapter IV). Now matter how hard we try as man to worship perfectly, it remains impossible. Only by grace are we able to worship to God in a way that is pleasing to Him.

I can see how many people are more comfortable this way. Keeping the church like an old friend, the same way she ever was and ever will be. Yet, in that way the church becomes more of the idea of your old friend than the actual friend (see C. S. Lewis' A Grief Observed Chapter Two). It's more healthy to be a part of your friend's daily life, learning and growing with them instead of hoping to keep them the same.

The Non-Conservative View: The Church itself is pure and holy, instituted by God (true). We are also to reach into the world to grow. Our main focus is to save peoples' souls here on Earth. The church may be able to change in some ways to do this.

This view focuses more on Christian outreach. They are the super-heroes and the world is the damsel in distress, the only way to save her is to help her believe. To do this they become self-sacrificing. The focus has seemed to move from focusing on worshiping God to focusing on saving others. This comes with a cost. The self-sacrifice may include accepting unrighteous beliefs like allowing homosexuality or adultery, the church may accidently lose itself in order to appease the world. This goes against Romans 12:2 where we are taught not to conform to this world, but be transformed by Christ (just as this world must be transformed by Christ in order to be saved, not by our own doings as Evangelists but through the power of the Holy Spirit.)

Like the chameleon in this picture, the church is willing to do almost anything in order to win over the world's hearts for God. It is true that we are called to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations..." Matthew 28:19. But we cannot have that take priority over caring for the Church itself. We cannot love the idea of saving the world more than we love God himself (1 John 2:15). As the Church attempts to reach into the world she cannot lose her own identity. Then she may end up just being another part of the world instead of a part of God.

The Paradox: The Church itself is pure and holy, instituted by God (true). We are both to reach into the world and stay apart from the world. Just as Moses named his son Gershom because he was a sojourner in a strange land (Exodus 2:22), we are also sojourners to this world. At the same time we are called to "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation." Mark 16:15.

In many instances, the church is a paradox. We are sinners but God makes us saints. We deserved to be damned but God brings salvation (for more on the Christian Paradox check out G. K. Chesterton's book: Orthodoxy). In this same way the church is both to stay the same and continue to change. Here are two constants in life: God and Change. God gives change, who are we to say that He cannot work with it?

Instead of preserving the church like some precious doll and instead of chasing after the world like a girl who stole your heart. We should live with the church in a good relationship. That's what the Song of Solomon's all about. This is supposed to be a healthy, living relationship. It's not dead like Snow White and it's not something we chase after like the world, the church is a relationship we have right now. We are to care for her and look after her, at the same time she is such a wonderful bride that we also want everyone else to meet her. Like an admirable person, we know the church is (at least meant to be) loving and caring, she has good advice and direction, we would want all of our other friend to be able to meet her and come to her when they need her too instead of solely keeping her to ourselves like some sort of Stockholm victim.

Concerning the continuity of the church through-out the ages: The church, like a person, can never stay the same. As with everything that is alive (except perhaps the Word of God), the church changes. The church had met in homes at first under heavy persecution, for a long time the church worshiped the pope, the church reformed, the church moved geographically, and perhaps most importantly the church grew. The church is healthy and alive, she is active. Yet, we can still say that by the grace of God we do still have continuity with all believers. It is not continuity through liturgy or certain prayers or location or order of service, it is continuity through Christ. Jesus is the only means that we can be saved and united, there are no ways that man can unite us on his own. No matter how the service is formed, Conservative or Non-Conservative, as long as the church is alive and healthy worshiping her husband, Jesus Christ, then we are safe. It does not matter so much how we worship as to who we worship and if by grace we worship God then He will know us. "I know my own and my own know me." John 10:14

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