Friday, January 04, 2013

Ecclesiastical Independence?

Independence is an odd characteristic of some, notably members of one body, unified in thought. It goes against the grain in some respects. We are conformists for the most part yet we all think of ourselves as independent in thought and deed. I chose the title of this blog intentionally with the idea of creating my own noun. Not liking how “Introspection” sounded, I chose to be independent of proper English grammar and use “Introspective”, an adjective, in its place. I've done the same with ”distinctive” and other adjectives. It suits my purpose and my understanding of the evolving nature of language as I willfully choose to use it, willful as opposed to ignorance and poor grammar. All of this brings me to this thought. Do we as individual members of the Body of Christ conform to the dictates of ecclesiastical pronouncement due to agreement in principle or is our conformity the result of a desire to properly belong to the group?

I am a Protestant, distinctly not Roman Catholic or Oriental Orthodox. We Protestants love our doctrines of salvation by grace through faith and we happily embrace the Hypostatic Union even though most of our members might have to rush to a theological resource to discover just what that means and even still be left with just a minimal understanding of what the Council of Chalcedon was thinking in 451 AD. It is ancient history yet eternal in its significance. We all agree that the LORD’s Supper and Baptism are outward symbols and sacraments of the church. Well, most of us would agree. However, every time someone tries to define the “essentials” of the Christian faith, I find just a taste of disagreement with whatever list somebody else produces. Whether due to a cantankerous nature or inquisitive independence, I really cannot say but there is almost always one item on the list that I have to object to. First, my “independence” requires that “essential” be defined properly. Is this referring to salvation, to growth and maturity, edification? How we define essential determines what I consider essential, obviously. Is the doctrine of the Trinity essential for salvation i.e. can oneness adherents be saved? This is where independence generates the friction required to kindle the blaze of discontent. Many Protestants would claim in no uncertain terms that the Trinity is absolutely a necessary doctrine for anybody considered saved by grace through faith. I’m not so sure. Further, many Protestants would claim that the two natures of Christ as explained by the Hypostatic Union is necessary for salvation. I do not agree with that at all as it relates to salvation. The list becomes more controversial the more it grows. At some point each of us has to sit down and hash this out for ourselves. It might jeopardize one’s standing in their local church or it could prevent acceptance to a particular seminary. Can I be a Protestant in the historical tradition of the Reformation and maintain independence from ecclesiastical decrees? For me it is certain I will.


Pumice said...

As a follower of the Living God I have not trouble with what you say. I cannot know all aspects of eternal truth with a temporal mind. So I try to be gracious of those who disagree. That does not mean I give up my strong opinions or water down my standards. It simply means I have the humility to admit that I might be wrong. I don't think so or I would change my positions, but I might be.

I have asked myself the same questions about things like the Trinity. The problem is that the Bible has clear statements of the oneness of God and the threeness also. A person may reject my vocabulary but agree with the paradox.

Anyway, stimulating.

A.M. Mallett said...

Those are good observations. While I fully embrace both Trinitarian doctrine and teachings on the Hypostatic Union of Christ, I also hope I can continue to recognize and acknowledge why Oneness Pentecostals believe as they do or why the Oriental Orthodox churches embrace Miaphysitism. Our ecclesiastical badges tend to obscure the reality that there are many who do not believe as we do yet still embrace Christ as their Savior and as LORD. Certainly, some of that questioning comes from the easy bravado of internet commentary where our comments are not easily scrutinized by our peers.

Thanks for your comments.