Thursday, January 27, 2005

Reactionary Theology

It seems to me that all theology and most ecclesiology must be built from the ground up. It should be informed by culture and church history, but it should not be formed as defense of particular traditions (or crystalized understandings) or in reaction to other groups. Sadly, the majority seems to be formed in reaction and defense. Take for example current leadership structures in the Churches of Christ. Basically they looked at churches that adhered to the "pastor system" and said "We aren't going to be like that!" In reaction, they went to the opposite extreme thereby creating a system that is abused from the oposite direction. This takes us to a point where even with our "patternist" leanings, we scoff at the Biblical example of the elders being appointed by the evangelist (Timothy) and with the evangelist apparently having at least an equal place at the table with them. We see that as horribly impractical and unrealistic (nevermind that it's Biblical). The theology and ecclesiology of our churches should be built on a search for truth and a search for how to accurately be the body of Christ in the enviornment that surrounds us. Anything else is heresy.


Fajita said...

Oh boy, the stories you could tell on this topic. I spent my whole childhood learning who I wasn't. The Sunday PM sermon series on everything wrong with (the denomination of the week). Point by point details of their wrongness and our rightness. Nausiating. Absolutely sickening.

They tried to make me "twice the son of Hell," but I stand in defiance, trying desperately now to be something as opposed to being a non-something. I refuse to be a "not them." I want to be the image of God that I was meant to be.

jeremy said...

i agree adam to the reactionary mode of most people.

as far as leadership structure, it may have began as a reaction against the minister as pastor model. however, most CoC people expect their minister to act as a pastor even if they deny the title.

i have said in the last few years that elders should be selected by the evangelist. that idea has never gone over well with the people i've mentioned it too. i'm sure part of that is due to our democratic society in which we all want a say so. it is my understanding from scripture that the evangelists chose the elders and the congregation chose other ministry leaders.

on a practical level, think how much less strife there would be between minister and elders if the minister actually got to choose the elders. i know that this could be abused, but that doesn't negate it's validity.

David U said...

Dead on, Adam! Seems like our #1 goal the last 100 years is to make sure we NEVER have any association with other believers, and for sure not resemble them in any way. Hence, the leadership stance. Remember, we have to be "unique and distinct" because WE are THE church!

Father, forgive us of our pride.


Brandon Scott Thomas said...

awesome post, my brother.

Anonymous said...

Just yesterday I found online an exchange between a primitive Baptist minister and my great-grandpa, Alfred Ellmore (who opposed Sunday School on the grounds that it was like any other "Society" -- as in "Missionary Society"). I read on and on, shaking my head in disbelief at the trees that were slaughtered and the inkwells drained so these two could rail at each other.

To your point: how can there even be a hierarchy among a universal priesthood (other than, of course, recognizing Christ as our High Priest)?

Rick said...

i think words like "ecclesiology" should be banned from our jargon :) - but that's just me.

Milton Stanley said...

In my more cynical moments I wonder if the CoC style of leadership isn't a way to ensure that the evangelist doesn't ever have enough authority or power to foster real spiritual growth in the congregation. That way the elders can keep believing that as long as the bills are paid, budget balanced, doctrine correct, and roof leak-free, then everything is fine.

John Gillespie said...

Hey man stoked to hear people all over the world thinking stuff like this - lets get back to truth of the matter hey.... I'll be reading your blog in the future!

Travis said...

First off, I think words like "ecclesiology" should cease being jargon and become apart of our "ecclesial" vocabulary. But hey, I'm a nerd.

Secondly, I too share the distaste of reactionary theology. It seems in our past we spent so much time trying not to be someone else that we never really became anything. I spent the weekend with Churches of Christ and Baptist theologians, ministers and students in a dialogue. What these dialogues reveal is that these two mortal enemies, as they have been in the past, are more similar than different. Though we have our differences, and these should not be excused or ignored, we have many similarities. The solution is not to magnify our differences and try to be as different as possible, but to celebrate both our similarities and diversities and learn from our differences. As to the particular topic at hand, I think Churches of Christ and Baptists could learn a lot from one another as to our church polity (another jargon that should become part of our vocabulary). Our eldership system, in its finest, has a lot to teach Baptists, and their pastor system, in its finest, has a lot to teach us.

I would add a final qualification. Many of the doctrines of Churches of Christ that we now see as reactionary perhaps were not as reactionary when they first came to be. Stone, Campbell and many of the other "restoration" leaders had better, and more theological reasons for their doctrines than "let's not be like the Baptists." It was a later generation of Christians that lost the theology and only held on to the practices. Perhaps a solution to this mess is to educate our congregations on the history of some of our "reactionary" traditions so that we can actually learn why we as a fellowship do them and decide if it is something that we should embrace or leave behind.

Rivendell Community of Faith said...

Hey Great stuff. I just read your article on the Allelon site and I thought it was great. Thanx a bunch and keep up the good work



Rivendell Community of Faith said...

Ok I read some more of your stuff and I really like it. Would you mind if I put a link to your blog on my blog.( )?

And also, there is an old orthodox definition regarding theology that I like.
"Theology is simply diving deeper into the mysteries of God"
That coupled with a quote from Gordon Fee, I think sums up my five cents on the matter.
"Any Theology that doesn't start and end in doxology is no theology at all."


Unknown said...


You're reading my mind (or my email files :) ). Good post.