Church And Faith (6)
Webber asserts that “There is a great need among us to restore a biblical and historical theology of worship which is an epiphany of God’s saving work in history.” If worship is “A rehearsal of the saving deeds of God in history” then our worship is second-hand if we have not seen with our own eyes and known in our own lives those saving deeds. Webber calls us to worship a God of deeds witnessed by past generations and now in our own time as Christus Victor is real for our Christian community; and therefore, for example, the Eucharist remembrance “is not a mere intellectual recall, as in Enlightenment theology, but an anamnesis in which the divine action of God brings to us the forgiveness of our sins and the healing of our broken lives.”
According to Mohler, “The marks of true worship include the singing of hymns, the reading of Scripture, the prayers of the people, the observance of the Lord’s Supper and baptism, and the preaching of the Word.” Really? I have seen unsaved people engaging in all of these activities, and activity is precisely what they are. The mark of true worship is a whole life given daily in deep relationship with God, and that life will be unmistakably marked by true holiness. Activity – while not in itself at all wrong – should never be confused with holiness. It is not methods that matter, but a true relationship with God. If sacraments are sacraments, they are sacraments because God is in them, not merely because we observe them.
Thwaites makes some good and valid points, but, in making them, is heavy on abstract expressions and tends towards the academic that, for me, makes little or no connection with real life. For me, anyway. His book shows that he believes that people begin with a worldview and then shape their lives according to their worldview; but I would suggest that most people – even Christians – often merely live; they do not shape their lives but rather have their lives shaped for them. For those and such as those, this book will be largely inaccessible. For me personally, if it doesn’t relate practically to my daily life, then life is too short for it.
Webber explores his themes in much greater detail than I have been able to delve into here. I believe that this is a very significant Christian primer that deserves our fullest attention and consideration. No, more than that, it ought to change our whole view of Christ and his church. It ought to radically change our theology of discipleship, it ought to revolutionise how we train ministers, it ought to change our way of Christian life. It ought to, but will we let it?
Fiddes’ book is worthy of discussion by those who have an open mind, but, much more importantly, by those who have an open heart. Read the book, open your heart, and meet the God who is there. “The cross of Jesus shows us that a God who submits to weakness will seem to be a hidden God; his divinity is veiled as he shares in the suffering of the world. But hiddenness is not absence, and veiling is not desertion.”
I cannot, in such few words, do justice to the depth of Moltmann’s book. He sets forth his arguments and is thorough in support of them; he considers the alternatives and is firm is dismissing them; he is passionate about the church because the church is, first and foremost, the church of Jesus Christ. Catch the passion.
I am already out of time here, but there is so much that still could be said about ‘The Coming Evangelical Crisis’. The book looks at ‘The Holy Spirit In Preaching’, ‘Christ In Preaching’, ‘The Crisis Of Gospel Authority’, and then goes into battle with people like Clark Pinnock over their thoughts on open theology. This book frustrates me. If we only believed the right things in the right way, everything would be right! Aye, right.
Why do we spend so much time and effort defending theological positions and attacking those who challenge those cherished theological positions? Where is the beauty of Jesus? Where is our intimacy with him? Let the scholars argue, but without anger or hatred. For the rest of us – know Jesus intimately. I may be accused of being simplistic for saying that – so be it. Heaven is not in crisis. Jesus is not in crisis. YHWH is not in crisis. If we have a coming (or present) crisis of evangelicalism, let us ask much deeper questions than this book asks, and let us truly be open to answers from heaven.
Armstrong, JH, General Editor, The Coming Evangelical Crisis, (Chicago, Moody Press, 1996)
Fiddes, P S, Past Event and Present Salvation, (London, Darton Longman and Todd, 1989)
Moltmann, J, The Church In The Power Of The Spirit, Second Edition, (London, SCM Press, 1992)
James Thwaites, The Church Beyond The Congregation, (Carlisle, Paternoster Press, 1999)
Webber, R E, Ancient-Future Faith, (Michigan, Baker Books, 1999)
Willard, D, The Divine Conspiracy, (London, Fount, 1998)