Thursday, August 25, 2005

The ideal of the NT church

John Van Devender from Deeper Thought makes the following observations, in an interesting post picked up upon by Dave Bish and JollyBlogger:

There does seem to be certain strain within Evangelical Christianity, throughout the ages, which attributes to the "primitive" church an almost Rousseau/Voltairesque expectation of purity.

Which got me wondering why that was when there were so many contrary examples in the bible (e.g. the Corinthians, the Galatians etc.). With only a little reflection I can only think of three places to lay the blame.

  1. Luke. Acts after all emphasises the 'good' side of the church, and its great victories, ignoring most of the rest. However, we should not be too hard on Luke, because he provides a valuable view of the church being used by God/Jesus Christ/The Holy Spirit, who in reality are the one(s?) who rightly get all the credit in Acts. God is doing great things in the Church now, its just you get distracted by all the bad things people are doing.
  2. Overly quick application of the letters. Too often we forget that the letters of the NT were not written to us. The critisms of Paul etc. are seen as only belonging to us and we forget about the original addressees (after all it is a lot easier to remember the narrative pictures of the church provided by Luke). So our only raw materials to build a picture of the NT church are the narratives in Acts.
  3. A way of thinking that makes the ideal of the perfect church (as an organisation) the point of Christianity. What I mean is, we are thinking about perfection on a this-worldly scale, and not an future-orientated/God-centred one, and we need an aim, and a goal. To create this we make the NT church in our own idealised image so it can be our own semi-realistic goal too. I do this all the time. Dreaming of how my church/cell can be changed (usually by me!) into this perfect church which is really Christ-centred. But without me realising it, the church has become the centre.


At 11:10 pm, Blogger thebluefish said...

So often we swing to extremes. We catch a vision of the model-church, and then forget that we could easily drift sharply off centre and need some rebuke and further reformation.

I guess Acts and the letters give us much of what we then need... letters written to teach and correct and keep the church on the right track. We have the example, but do we implement it? We have the example, but do we receive ongoing correction...

I still wonder how much we can really take Acts normatively... so much seems unique... but how then would we apply it?

At 9:44 am, Blogger Dave K said...

I still wonder how much we can really take Acts normatively... so much seems unique... but how then would we apply it?


I'll have to think about that some more. But before I wrote the post I read Acts right through because I hadn't done that for so long. It challenged me on how I forgotten world mission. A couple of my old uni friends are off doing such things soon, and the Gospel spreading throughout the world by the power of God in Acts, has inspired me to at least start praying for it more, and to think and pray how that applies to a provincial guy who only ever thinks short term, largely about how to get by.

...seem to have forgotten about the normative value of the church as described in Acts! But I do think it can be used normatively, because Luke clearly thought what he was describing was great and so I infer worth replicating. However, I am thinking about 'devotion to the apostles teaching etc.' rather than, where they met, whether or not they owned buildings, the size of the groups etc. which the cell-group movement for one is always keen to pick up upon.

At 9:03 am, Blogger thebluefish said...

Yeah if we picked up the devotion to apostolic teaching and world mission that might make a difference!

Any one for blessed hankies? What do we do with that!!


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