Posts Tagged ‘Christian Diversity’

At my church we’re currently hosting a cricket tournament.

Basically, a few friends were bored in the wet and cold winter months, and decided to convert the church hall (which was already carpeted) into an indoor cricket facility. One thing led to another, and suddenly we were hosting a tournament with 10 teams from all over the city and had sparked a community of over 100 people (and probably a dozen nationalities) who get together up to three times a week to hang out and play some friendly (but very competitive) cricket.

Which got me thinking about denominations.

See, although most of the matches take place on Wednesday and Thursday nights, we sometimes use Sunday as a make-up day. One of the other teams involved in the tournament is from another local church, and they are the only team which doesn’t play the Sunday games – because their pastor said they shouldn’t. On the other hand, my church is actively running a competition on Sundays.

And that is why I love the diversity of denominations in the Church.

The defining criterion for inclusion into the Church is pretty simple: if you affirm the three ecumenical creeds, you’re a Christian church. This benchmark for inclusion does two important things:

Firstly, the creeds describe the primary doctrines which define Christianity. They set the minimum requirement: if you are not willing to sign on to everything in the creeds, you’re not a Christian church.

Secondly, the creeds set the limits as to which doctrines may be considered primary. If it’s not in the creeds, it does not affect inclusion into the Church.

This is incredibly important.

The primary articles of faith give us a common understanding on which to base our discussion. If I accept the divinity of Jesus and you insist that he was merely human, we are starting from fundamentally different points, and until that division is reconciled we can go no further.

But having accepted the primary articles, the Church can tolerate disagreement on any other issues. There is space within it to discuss, to debate, and even to diverge. We don’t need to have common consensus on everything, and Christians do not need to be carbon copies.

Because we all accept the primary doctrines as a common foundation, there is diversity without division.

Infant baptism or adult?

We can agree to disagree.

Purgatory, annihilationism or universal reconciliation?

We can agree to disagree.

Transubstantiation or symbolic fellowship?

We can agree to disagree.

Young-Earth creationism, guided or Darwinian evolution?

We can agree to disagree.

I’ve prayed in ancient cathedrals, and had communion on top of a mountain.

I’ve had attended church services with incense and Latin liturgies, and also services consisting entirely of freestyle drumming.

I’ve been to churches where they use grape juice for the Eucharist, and churches where they’ll buy you a beer after the service.

I’ve experienced the inspiring beauty of monastic Taizé singing, and I’ve worshipped with electric guitars.

Within the sprawling, expansive, vibrant and all-embracing Church, there is space for the traditionalist and the radical, for the poet and the scientist, for the broken and the lost.

There is space for me.

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Note: This essay was originally posted on Spiritual Meanderings.

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To be sure an accurate view of our human nature is important because the Gospel is important. As J. I. Packer wrote “it is only as we acknowledge the tragedy and feel the misery of our personal ruination through original sin that we shall properly value the Good News of the Savior.” And, G. K. Chesterton noted in his Orthodoxy that original sin is the only philosophy that can be empirically verified. Just pick up the daily newspapers, says Chesterton! I’m repeatedly amazed that from the earliest age children need no training in selfishness or pride or discontent or rebellion. Every human comes fully stocked with these “qualities;” they are not accessories. Every parent labors to reverse these traits in our children while working ourselves to learn what it means to be compassionate, humble, content, and obedient.

The doctrine of peccatum originale (original sin) rightly assumes that the entire human race is an organic unity. We find that our origin or source is from the same common stock, namely the first human, Adam. Just as C. S. Lewis once pointed out that “like begets like,” so too Paul says “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). It is not insignificant that “all” stands first in the clause of Paul’s declaration “death came to all men.” Moreover, although Adam’s sin was in the past, Paul insists that “all sinned.” The context is not so much referring to individual activity (though this is implicit), but to corporate responsibility as conferred on us by the first human who sinned.

Thus, we inherit far more than just the biological nature of our parentage; we inherit their spiritual nature as well. There is a solidarity to the human race such that the original humans stand as the moral, physical, social, intellectual, psychological, and spiritual representatives of all people everywhere and at all times (Acts 17:26a). Just as our genetic makeup or biological DNA is derived from our parentage, so too is our spiritual makeup or spiritual DNA. (The concept of “generational sin” unlikely applies to believers. See my essay “Not My Father’s Keeper or What’s All the Fuss about Generational Sin?”.)

But there’s more. Rom. 5:18-19 claims: “the result of one trespass was condemnation for all [because] through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners.” As the representative for all humanity, God counted everyone born of and from Adam morally guilty. In some sense peccatum originale could be viewed as culpa originale (original guilt, not original sin). You see it is not only true all have sinned actually (Rom. 3:23), but it is equally true that all have sinned originally in Adam.

Consequently, God judges all on the basis of one man’s sin because all are conceived with a natural inclination to do only what is contrary to God (Rom. 8:5-9; 1 Cor. 15:21-22; Gal. 5:16-17). Indeed, we have no other choice but to live predominantly from our sinful bent. The Bible calls this slavery to sin (Rom. 6:6, 16-17, 19; 7:14). Though it may not appear fair that God would judge all on the basis of one man’s sin, it is the disposition of Adam’s guilt rather than his sin per se that is inherited – just as Christ assumed our guilty status instead of our particular sinful acts (Is. 53:6; 2 Cor. 5:14, 21; 1 Pt. 2:24; 3:18).

But some may say, “It’s not fair to be represented by someone else’s guilt! Why should I be blamed for what Adam did?” Of course, if we want to play the fairness game, then in the name of fairness it is also unfair that Christ would die in my place and do for me what I should have done for myself. “Fairness” cuts both ways and it’s doubtful that any born from above would appreciate the sword slicing in that direction!

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