What is the world coming to?
Fr. Longenecker discusses the phenomenon. I'll admit that I have seen some of the signs he's talking about.
In fact many Evangelical churches are beginning to go 'high church'. The preachers sometimes wear robes, maybe they chant the odd psalm, have some candles here and there and they pick and choose other liturgical stuff they like and put together their own mish mash of a 'liturgical' service.
It's not exactly liturgical, but I'll throw in the fact that they have started manufacturing "bishops" as another sort of innovation in the "high church" direction.
The more intriguing item in all this is something that we tend to make a big deal of around here, namely, the bankruptcy of modern Protestant theology.
What interests me more is how American Protestant denominationalism is disintegrating. Can anybody really tell the difference anymore between a Baptist or a Methodist or a Presbyterian or an Episcopalian? What is happening is that all the mainstream Protestant denominations are being 'Anglicanized.' In other words, the same range of opinion and practice that used to be the 'big tent' hallmark of Anglicanism is now commonplace in all denominations.
I suspect what is true of their practice is true of their beliefs as well. Do you have to be a Calvinist anymore to be a Presbyterian? I doubt it. Do you have to believe in consubstantiation if you want to join a low Lutheran Church. Probably not. If you are a Baptist do you still have to deny infant baptism? Probably not always.
As a result, what identity do any of the denominations have? They are increasingly defined not by their historical theological or liturgical or ecclesiological views, but by their stance on moral and theological debating points. So Presbyterian Church USA is liberal and Presbyterian Church of America is conservative. Consequently each has more in common with other denominations (either liberal or conservative) than they do with each other as fellow Presbyterians.
Note how this dovetails with the points made by Michael Spencer in his discussion of the approaching evangelical collapse. I don't think that most of them see it coming, though. I had a Protestant minister once tell me that "Protestant theology is dead." This was a positive development in his eyes, as it allegedly allowed people to "focus more on Jesus."
Of course, this is a ridiculous idea. How can you love one who you do not know? What if you think that Jesus is just another guy? Or that He's really St. Michael? Or a servant of Xenu? Would you really say that I love Jesus? Or that I love a fabrication that I have named as Jesus?
Not having such erroneous ideas is what theology is all about. It's precisely good theology that allows us to focus on Jesus as we won't have our brains addled by heretical garbage.
Now, excuse me, as I have to forward this article to all my Southern Baptist friends (all quite strict), and wait for the deluge of horrified emails denouncing these pseudo-liturgical practices.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
What is the world coming to?