Sunday, April 6, 2008

First Century Christian Fundamentalism?

I work out at the ‘Y’ a couple of times a week.  The YMCA that is: the Young Men’s Calisthenic Association (whatever was Christian about it ceased years ago, and, for that matter, it’s really a family place often with more women than men and old men than young men, but I digress).  Anyway, there is something of a dribble of ministry that goes on there with a person here and a person there wanting to engage in a little God talk or bend a willing ear for a moment on some matter of deep concern to them.  A fellow I  often see decided to share with me that he has become a true Christian, a First Century Fundamentalist Christian.  Now that left me speechless, which is not easy to do.  I know the church he attends, and it is a very fundamentalist congregation.  He was so happily proud of his new identity that I just didn’t have the heart to tell him that first century Christians were the radicals of their day, and anything but fundamentalist.  They had no christology, no doctrine of the Trinity, no clear teaching on how exactly their salvation was in Christ, no New Testament scripture, and their reading of the Hebrew scriptures was anything but literal.  Moreover, and as you well know, the kind of fundamentalism his congregation practices is a product of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Paul offered some wise counsel on matters such as this in both of his Corinthian letters.  In one place he maintained that he had not used all of his rights as an apostle but had endured a lot of abuse from them rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ; in another place he claimed to put no obstacle in anyone’s way so that no fault might be found with his ministry.  Taking Paul’s advice, I’m a little reluctant to give my friend a brief lesson in church history and teaching the next time I see him.  But if this is the kind of stuff he is learning from his own minister, that person should be ashamed of such egregious distortions.  I don’t know, maybe he (and I can guarantee it’s a he) is just plain ignorant.  In any case, it is a rapidly growing congregation, but is it a congregation of  the ignorant and seriously misinformed?  Does it matter?


What do you think?


7 comments:

H.M. said...

Ignorance will be the death of us all. Yes it matters. My two cents.

Chris+ said...

CP,

I love the image of you at the "y" and talking God. Being publicly identifiable as a representative of God opens up those opportunities. It can be difficult when there are real differences.

I think the differences matter. Although, my own attempts to "fix" the theologies of others have been fruitless. Maybe, simply by being available to another, and being honest, when approached, is all we can do.

Chris+

H.M. said...

I agree with you, Chris+, about the fruitlessness of "fixing." And I think you take a worthy approach with availability and honesty. I applaud you.

I'll confess that at times I find it difficult to be non-comabative with the voices of fear and ignorance.

Malcolm+ said...

There is an interesting book (can't remember the title) about a group of American evangelicals who decided they wanted to become "first century Christians." They went about it very deliberately.

They have now ended up in the Antiochine Orthodox Church.

Perhaps part of the response to this particular "first century fundamentalist" would be to give him an accurate and scholarly - yet accessible - book about what the first century churrch was really like.

Country Parson said...

Good points all. I'm mulling it over and figure I'll see him sometime this week. If we have a conversation, I'll let you know what happened.

H.M. said...

Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity by Walter Bauer, among others.

Anonymous said...

Such great conversation - having attended a couple of church services other than our usual lately, I have departed the buildings trying to keep my chin up so as to not let my mouth drop open - a feeling that the service was either so "exclusive" to its membership that others were not really welcome unless they were willing to "drink the kool-aid" or rather "buy into" their exclusive take on the Eucharist, etc. and in the other place feeling as though I had just been to a "light entertainment" experience and I mean very light!

I have to catch myself as I approach the car (as we often say, not yet out of the parking lot when we begin to judge:) realizing how quickly my brotherly love becomes brotherly criticism......how would they feel their worship affected by my trying to fix it or by my lack of enthusiasm. I expect they would suggest my lack of enthusiasm for their worship style is my problem not theirs.

I do cling to the fact that in some instances the ignorance and lack of real life situations and real life education is a HUGE issue to overlook as the facts would bear proof of ignorance on the part of narrowness toward believing that there is a God big enough to handle all the idiotic ways we behave......

yadda, yadda, thanks for allowing me to weigh in with you all - you're a weighty group worth listening to - sometimes:))