Monday, September 03, 2012

Robin Parry on the church

Worshipping Trinity by Robin Parry, who keeps an interesting (and quirky) blog at Theological Scribbles, is a really insightful little book that is full of good, brief discussions of different issues in Christian belief. As I read the book, though, maybe my favorite moment came when Robin talked about the "John Wayne Christianity" that he grew up with and that so many embrace today. This is a faith that focuses on my relationship with God, my personal Lord and Savior Jesus, my worship experience, and on and on. Christianity is about a man and his God, and the deep intimacy between the two. Church is only for the weaker Christians, who still need encouragement from others. It's certainly not central to what Christianity is.
Maybe you've heard this before.

The only problem is, none of it is true.

This view of the Christian life is up a creek without a paddle and is the spiritual equivalent of handing a drowning man a concrete life jacket! The church is not simply a club of like-minded people who meet until they are strong enough to go it alone. Nor is it about being part of a social club of like-minded individuals. Being a Christian is all about being part of God's community. The church is the family of God sharing one Father, the body and bride of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit. God's plan has never been to save lots of individuals who will all relate to him individually with 'Jaayy-zus' as their personal saviour! God's plan has always been to create a human community of people who love God and love each other. That is what humanity was all about in creation. That is what God's new humanity of Israel was all about. That is what the church, God's transformed end-time Israel, is all about. Being a Christian just is being part of that new humanity in Christ. (53-54)

1 comment:

Daniel McLain Hixon said...

You know, I've been thinking about this. We have some new paperwork to fill out at charge Conference this year that has a question that says something like "As a pastor who professes Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, I nurture my intimacy with Christ in these ways..."

At a recent meeting one of our area large-church pastors objected to the language of "personal Lord and Savior" because (he said) it was the language of evangelicalism and not Methodist Christianity ("not what we are about"). I wasn't really sure what he was getting at (I strongly hope that he has a relationship with Christ as Lord and Savior and is about calling others to have one as well, and I'm pretty sure Methodism was a prototype of what we call evangelicalism), but I suggested this could be the language of "Aldersgate" and therefore very much Wesleyan after all.

But as I reflected upon it further, I wonder if "personal" was the part he was offended by - personal as in private. The vows of the baptismal covenant in our liturgy include the affimation that we "confess Christ as our Savior, put our whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as our Lord, IN UNION WITH THE CHURCH which Christ has opened to all..." (UMH 34). Our understanding is that having a covenant relationship with Christ as Lord and Savior is by definition to be in union with the Church (his body) - indeed only the church administers these vows and brings people into this covenant. As the old baptismal liturgy says (UMH 45) the church alone supplies the means of grace - you cannot get the sacraments and the public proclamation of the word by those duly called anywhere else.