Tuesday, January 03, 2006

To Whom the Grace of God

I have thought that the Christian world is divided between two modes of grace. Not determinism and freedom of the will but modes of reception regarding those good things (like forgiveness and regeneration) that we enjoy and receive from God. Mode One: A view that Christ died to save the Church and individuals are the collateral beneficiaries of the graces given The Church. Mode Two: A view that Christ died to save individuals and those individuals, due to the effects of that salvation gather with the collateral effect that a church is created. Both institutions are stressed in the New Testament but which mode is embraced seems to have a massive distinction in our approaches to piety. Mode One produces Roman Catholicism and its Protestant descendants, those with a strong creedal and ecclesiastical framework (Anglicans, Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc.) while Mode Two is found in Anabaptists with modern Evangelicalism today. A question as simple as: Do We (the church) walk by the Faith of our Fathers expressed in an orthodoxy of creeds and confessions or do I walk by faith (my own affirmation that Jesus Christ is Lord)? "Anyone who would draw near to God must first believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him." Do you hear that personally or corporately? Is your faith some xerox copy (losing resolution and clarity with each generation) of the affirmations of the Church or is your church the expression of your own walking by faith? Are you more comfortable with being orthodox or biblical?

5 comments:

Mark said...

Now assuming that each understanding has equal Biblical warrant(A qualification I'm not willing to grant in any discussion but this one.), it would seem that you see God working out the Christian life in us in different ways depending on what we think about God. That doesn't appear to be the case. Once any person has been regenerated by God, whether he thinks that grace was mediated through the church or not, doen't he become His, and a part of the same Body? I guess what I'm saying is that there really isn't much of a difference in the LIVES of truly saved people in either group only in their beliefs.

Josh said...

It seems like two things can be inferred from the point that you make, but it is unclear whether you would hold to those two things. First, that God encourages originality in believers and that there is a model for such in the Bible. Second, that creed-based faith necessarily deteriorates in quality overtime (like a xerox copy), rather than developing or evolving into something better.

Regarding originality in a believer's life, faith, and experience, I cannot think of where such a model is put forth as an example for us in the Bible. However, we do see encouragement, particularly from Paul, for building upon a given base: the gospel of Christ. Paul warns some of the churches to which he writes that they should hold fast to that doctrine which they were originally given, not remain "as is" but grow and develop upon this basic foundation, and beware of anything new (any new creeds or doctrines). Admittedly, it is possible that some of the creeds of some of the churches are departures from that fundamental gospel messages, and therein is a real problem - but I do not think that the failures of a few nullifies the model of creedal/ecclesiastical foundation.

Regarding xerox-xopy deterioration, the same applies: our faith is based on fundamental doctrines, but our own experience should build upon these doctrines. Our faith should not remain stagnant, or uncritically accepting of the creeds presented to or hammered into us in our developmental youth or mature years - in such a case then yes, faith may deteriorate over the generations. Faith should be something living and vibrant. However, why must adherents of your second view of grace assume that their brethren of the other group must necessarily deteriorate over time, rather than strongly building upon the foundation of their fathers. We might view historical examples of fathers failing to teach their children, and children failing to appreciate what their forerunners have bequeathed to them, but this is a problem with individuals, not the model. Or so I think.

The Oracle said...

Mark, ideas about the salvation we share (be we ecclesiastical or anabaptist) can and do effect the life we live. Consider the doctrine of the One Nature of the Believer. If I believe in Two Natures, even though in reality I have only one, I am more expectant and resigned to sin. Similarly, if my faith comes through the auspices of the Church I am more ready to think ill of another believer of different doctrine because my faith came to me as "orthodox" and they, for their pains, are "heretics".

Mark said...

Evan,
Sure all that's true...in theory. It does seem to be where these theologies would lead one. Given conclusions based on beliefs alone without actually examining any believers lives, you're right. Statements like the following soon arise from this sort of anaysis: Arminians believe in a weak God dependent on men. OR Calvinists believe in an uncaring God. But what do we find when we examine the lives of devoted saints in either camp? We find wonderful people in complete fellowship with each other who believe in the same God. My point here is that if we allow Him to, God forms in each of us His likeness regardless of and often inspite of the theology we hold.

phil2young said...

I agree with you. In fact I know many people, my mohter-in-law comes to mind, who think of themselves as biblical. But they feel worship was perfected before 1900. And at the moment of salvation everyone should start singing a Philip Bliss hymn (ok you can insert your favorate author here).
We shouldn't be sad today isn't yesterday, we should strive to make today everything that GOD wants it to be.

Phil