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Essential Christianity

I’ve just read an article by Brad East in Christianity Today’s Daily Briefing in which he says,

(W)hen Scripture is ambiguous or disputable on some matter while the wider culture’s position is clear, the onus falls to pastors or the institutional church to convince congregants to reject that wider cultural norm. And what we have seen in recent decades is a decline of pastoral authority, the death of thick denominational identity, and a crisis of confidence in Christian institutions.


The recent exodus of local churches from the United Methodist Church during their disaffiliation period supports East’s contention of the decline in pastoral authority, and I would also add, and thus, respect for the pastoral office, and particularly the near death of denominational identity.


Denominational churches are increasingly excluding denominational logos and labels when naming their facilities. It’s been going on for years. While I celebrate the loosening of denominational loyalty in favor of biblical authority, I am concerned about what East calls the loosening of American evangelicalism (the title of his article, May 20,2024). East cites behaviors such as drinking alcohol, getting tattoos, using foul language, watching explicit screen content, as those things which were abhorrent among evangelicals just 20 or 30 years ago, but are now generally acceptable. Those who do not indulge in such cultural norms are considered to be the “weaker brother” of Romans 14. All of Romans 14 is a call for liberty in non-essentials of the faith. But if not practicing these things means I’m “weaker” than I’m happy to be so.


John Wesley quoted in his day, what Augustine said over 1500 years ago, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Wesley used the phrase to say that there must be unity - agreement - in the essentials, or the beliefs that we hold to be core values - those which cannot be compromised, in order for true communion to occur. Further, he is suggesting a great deal of latitude or liberty in those things which are considered non-essential. But whether essential or non-essential, all discussion, action, and motivation, must be from a heart of charity, or love. Over 1500 years later, it is still the same. Unless we are united in the essentials, we are not, and never will be, in communion. We must then, understand, and agree, as to what are essential biblical precepts and what are non-essential, while at the same time not reducing God’s Holy Word to its barest minimum - and disregarding the rest.


Tattoos? Drinking? Language? Essential or non-essential? What about dancing, modesty, going to movies, or gambling?


How do pastors and the institutional church “convince congregants to reject wider cultural norms" that place us clearly within the bounds of the conclusion of Romans 14? “If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.” Rather than harking back to Augustine or Wesley, maybe we need to be a little more Lutheran, and declare, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” Or maybe we should just silence the human cocophany and listen instead for the power of a single still small Voice.


Prayer:

Father God, forgive us when we look to the world for answers to the questions that only the truth of your Holy Word can answer. Help us to trust in you with all our heart. Help us especially, in all things, whether essential or not, to be charitable. We pray in Jesus’ name and for your glory. Amen.


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revcls
May 23
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

it is getting harder and harder to stand in the world we live in. The lack of respect in many sectors started when we took the Ten Commandments out of our schools and even out of our churches. I believe our young people expecially today are looking for truth and it's sad to say but I feel we have become so seeker friendly in our churches we have lost our focus and the real purpose of the church; to be a hospital for the broken and needy. Too often the church has become an entertainment centre that talks about Jesus.


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