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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Showing posts with label modernism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label modernism. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

We Don't Need to Recreate the First Century Church

The world in which we live is loud, distracting, and difficult. Attention spans are decreasing and the influence of secular society seems to loom ever larger in our lives. Many believers feel it is becoming harder and harder to honestly live out their Christian faith properly.

Moreover, the Christian church as an institution isn't immune from the influence of the culture. Churches today struggle with balancing a proper worship time with congregational participation. Pastors worry about how much theology they can present in their sermons before it becomes too "heady" and a "turn-off" for the congregant. They also want to figure out just which ministries they should be offering and how much technology should play a part in the worship service.

Given these stresses, it shouldn't be surprising that a common refrain heard in Bible-believing churches is the church needs to simplify. It needs to go back to its roots and look a little bit more like the first century churches. After all, those churches were started by the apostles, making them somehow more pure than the rather complicated practices the modern church adopts in the 21st century.

In fact, there was a big push to return and do church "the way the apostles did it" in the early 19th century, a movement known as Restorationism. It spawned several denominations such as the Churches of Christ and the Disciples of Christ1. More recently, the Jesus People movement in the 1960s sought in some way to do the same thing, and the very recent house church trend claims to be "a return to first-century Christianity in its simplest form."2

The Problem of Purity

Perhaps you have heard someone say something like "we need to return our church experience to the way the first Christians did it." I've heard the statement from both pastors and the laity. But, I think there's an awful lot being assumed in such a statement. In fact, the first century churches were no more pure than those of today.

Let's begin by looking at what we know about the first century churches from the Bible itself. Several of our New Testament books are letters written to Christian churches of the first century and they give precise details on the real world problems those churches wrestled with. The church at Corinth, which was founded by the Apostle Paul himself, seems to be an absolute mess. There was a scandal rocking the assembly since one of its members had begun sleeping with his father's wife (1 Cor. 5:1). Further, because different members thought the pastor they liked best was the one who should be authoritative. Paul said this caused "jealousy and strife" among the congregation (3:3). Doesn't that sound pretty familiar?

The Corinthians had other struggles, such as the more "mature" members believing they were somehow better than their newer brethren on the matter of what they could or couldn't eat (8:1). Pride and selfishness had even crept into even the celebration of the Lord's Supper (11:21-22). They had already reduced communion to something it was never meant to be, even getting drunk during the service.

Problems Throughout the Churches

Let we believe that Corinth was some singular exception to the rule in the early church, the Bible gives us ample evidence of other churches wresting with various problems of their own. The Galatians were teaching some bad doctrine and thought only those who followed certain Old Testament precepts would be considered true Christians. The letters that Jesus dictates to John in the book of Revelation outline a slew of problems facing the churches in the first century, including wooden doctrinal adherence without love, accepting false teaching without discernment, allowing the cultural heresies to infect the church, operating on only dead works, and even being completely spiritually dead, holding on the only the name of Christian. James rebukes the church for quarreling, gossiping, and showing partiality. Even ion the book of Acts, the church continually wrestled with what to do about the divisions between those who were Jewish converts verses those who were Gentiles.

Main Thing Stays the Same

All of these examples serve to show that the first century church wasn't a panacea. Christians of the first century had as many struggles, complications, personality battles, and confusion as the church does today.They battles issues of sexual sin within their ranks as well as without. They had problems with pride. They mixed up what was cultural convention with what was essential doctrine. The first century church was very much like the 21st century church. Their problems were simply couched in the milieu of their time.

This shouldn't be a surprise to us. The Christian church of the first century was comprised of people and people are very, very fallible. I recently heard one non-believer say one of the reasons he isn't a Christian is because there are so many divergent opinions and practices within Christian denominations and secondly, there are many examples of injustice done by Christians on their fellow man. I cannot argue with either of these points; both are true.

However, as Christians we understand that it isn't the practices of the church we hold as the standard for life, but the example of Christ. It is our love and devotion to the one who sacrificed himself for our salvation that knits us together as a community. In that aspect, Christians of the first century and Christians of the 21st century are identical. We both worship the Son of Man who alone becomes the propitiation for our sins and who rose again on the third day. We recognize that we are sinners deserving to die but we have been reconciled to God. In that, we are as close to the apostles' teaching as the first century church was, and we can walk confidently forward in our faith knowing that is the model one must follow to be authentic.


1. Mallett, Robert. "Restoration Movement." The Christian Restoration Association. The Christian Restoration Association, 2003. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.
2. Henning, Jefferey. "The Growing House-Church Movement." Ministry Today Magazine. Charisma Media, 31 Oct. 2000. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

1908 Writer Describes 21st Century with Amazing Accuracy!

Phillip Yancey relays the story that when someone asked famous English theologian G.K. Chesterton what one book he would desire to have with him if stranded on a desert island, Chesterton matter-of-factly replied, "Why A Practical Guide to Shipbuilding," of course!1

That answer demonstrated well how Chesterton could capture the most obvious as well as the most salient points that he wished to examine. A towering intellect in the early twentieth century, his book Orthodoxy comments on many of the distinctions between culture and faith properly understood.

One of the most often quoted passages is Chesterton's examination of the contradictory messages being fostered by modern culture. Although this passage was written over 100 years ago, it’s startling to see the topics and aspects of each he captures perfectly. Chesterton writes:
For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then he writes another book (about the sex problem) in which he insults it himself. He curses the Sultan because Christian girls lose their virginity, and then curses Mrs. Grundy because they keep it. As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie, and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie. He calls a flag a bauble, and then blames the oppressors of Poland or Ireland because they take away that bauble. The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite sceptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.2
Here Chesterton examines how the modern society corrupts the ideas of equal rights for women, sexual purity versus promiscuity, inherent value of human life, the sanctity of the marriage covenant, the worth of national pride, and evolution versus man bearing the image of God. In all, Chesterton presents a very prescient view of modern culture.

If you haven’t yet read Orthodoxy, I encourage you to do so. Best of all, you can grab the e-book for free, since the copyright has expired and the work is in the public domain.  Just grab a version from this link.


1 Chesterton, G.K. Orthodoxy. (New York: Image Books | Doubleday, 2001).From the introduction.

2 Ibid.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Worldview Definitions: The Problem with Postmodernism

Last time I discussed rationalism and naturalism, two worldviews that changed much of how we perceive our modern world. But naturalism is not the end of the story, even though there are many who hold those views today.

photo courtesy Ben Terrett

Out of the assumptions of naturalism, a new idea began to take hold in the late 19th century and early 20th century, known as the modernist movement. Modernists wanted to not only abandon belief in God, but felt that religious faith was just one of many traditional ideas that were slowing down the advancement of man.

The modernists held that if you don't break from the traditions of the past you will never grow beyond them. This made sense to them; if religion was hindering science, then all past traditions are suspect.  God was no longer a factor in the modernist's day-to-day thinking, so holding onto traditions were at best silly and at worst debilitating. They considered nothing as established or sacred. Social organization and daily life had become outdated and it was essential to sweep them aside and reinvent culture forever. The goal for modernists was to find that which was "holding back" progress, and replacing it with new, and therefore better, ways of reaching the same end.

Postmodernism – "It's all about me"

Modernism  failed to bring the next advancement in human evolution some of its adherents thought it would. Wars were still fought:World War II was the largest conflict in history and originated in Europe, the birthplace of modernism. People still took advantage of each other. Cruelty and crime continued to flourish no matter what advancements science and technology brought about.

Rationalists and modernists hadn't realized the impact  factoring God out of the equation would have on society. In factoring out God, they also factored out the concept of sin. They thought human beings had it within themselves to make themselves better. But the Bible teaches that we are inescapably corrupted by a sin nature. We cannot live perfect lives, it's simply impossible. Since modernists had already excluded God from any explanation as to why their utopia was failing to materialize they had to come up with another way of looking at the world. Their proposed solution is Postmodernism.

Modernism held that in order to advance one must throw out past traditions. However, one thing that modernism did hold onto, like all previous worldviews, was the concept that there was a truth to be known. In other words, each worldview may have differed in their beliefs on how to find truth, but they all believed that truth was something separate from and independent of themselves. It could be known.

Advocates for post-modernism said that even these ideas needed to be jettisoned. They argued that all communication is colored and molded by the biases and beliefs of the communicator. This means that no one can discover a raw truth, since he or she will read into it those biases and then reinforce them when communicating to others. The problem, they believe, is these assumed grand stories were ignoring the fact that no raw truth could exist, when in reality they are discounting one bias and favoring another. Therefore, there really shouldn't be any grand stories but we should allow each person to experience truth in his or her own way and there is no real right or wrong to it at all.

Postmodernism, in losing the meta-narrative, caused man to lose his moorings and purpose for himself in the world. God had already been dismissed as non-existent. Rationalists and modernists felt that man had it within himself to find the meaning of life. But now, the postmodernist strips even that away and says there is no real meaning of life. You can make anything mean whatever you want.

Think About it

Postmodernism’s "Grand Story" is to reject all Grand Stories. But if that true, they must reject their own – which means that they should accept others. The position is hopelessly self-contradictory.
But think about the implications of this. Imagine if you lived in a country where they had no values printed on their money, only animals. You walk into a store and try to purchase something. The shopkeeper tells you that the bill with the eagle is worth ten of the bill with the bear, whereas another shopkeeper says the bear is worth twice as much as the eagle. You can quickly see how in such as system that money becomes valueless. I would not want to be paid in bills that have no set value accepted across all areas of the economy. I would want to be paid in tender that everyone agrees is valued the same. Similarly, when there is no real meaning to life, then any meaning you try to create is simply a fraud. Therefore, by trying to make meaning malleable, postmodernists really strip meaning of any value at all.
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