Overly idealized individualism?

Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by CarpentersApprentice, Apr 9, 2008.

  1. CarpentersApprentice

    CarpentersApprentice
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    Are Christians "unable to distinguish between the freedom of God and the freedom of the individual will"?

    Does placing too much emphasis on a persons ability to discern correctly in religious matters create an "overly idealized individualism"?


    Those statements intrigued me as I was reading Baptist Ways by Bill Leonard. In Chapter 1 Leonard quotes Paul Harrison’s book Authority and Power in the Free Church Tradition. The critique is directed at Baptists, but it seems that it could apply to every Christian attending a church with congregational polity, i.e., a "free" church.

    Your thoughts?

    ***********************************
    Here's the extract from Baptist Ways:

    “…Paul Harrison observed, ‘It is clear that Baptist history is freighted with ambiguity, and those who strive to establish the singularity of the tradition are on a weak foundation.’… Baptists have demonstrated beliefs and practices so diverse as to make it difficult to compile a consistent list of distinctives applicable to all segments of the movement at all times.

    (Leonard then illustrates this by briefly noting various Baptist understanding of and approaches to the Bible, to Bible study, to identifying candidates for baptism, to the meaning of baptism, to the proper age for baptism, to Arminianism and Calvinism, and to the role of women in church.)

    “The inability to articulate central and unifying principles led Harrison to warn that the Baptist emphasis on individualism and free will was one of the great dangers of the tradition. He wrote, ‘The early heritage of the Baptists contains ambiguities which through the passage of time have been transformed into historical contradictions.’ Harrison believed that Baptists had undermined their initial concern for the freedom of God through their obsession with freedom of the individual. Their excessive concern for soul competency in religion created an overly idealized individualism. He concluded, ‘The Baptist emphasis upon soul competency crystallizes attention upon the possibilities of men rather than upon the power of God.’ Harrison maintained that by the nineteenth century Baptists were unable to distinguish between the freedom of God and the freedom of the individual will.”

    (Note: The single quote marks {‘’} are where Leonard quotes Harrison’s book.)
    ***********************************

    CA
     
  2. Matt Black

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    Amen! That's why we need Apostolic Tradition., of course. There is a further point to be made though on the whole Reformation tradition of emphasis on the individual: human beings were and are created by God to be social creatures; it follows from this that the true religion given by God to Man through Jesus Christ would be and is also social rather than individualistic in nature.
     
  3. Darron Steele

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    Matt: WHICH so-called "Apostolic Tradition?"

    The Orthodox one? The Catholic one? An adapted Catholic one?

    Why?

    From where I sit, there is no reason to believe any of them. The Orthodox polemicist says the Catholic version is unauthentic. The Catholic polemicist would say the same of the Orthodox version and any adaptation of the Catholic version. I think they both polemicists would be right on that particular thing.
     
    #3 Darron Steele, Apr 11, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 11, 2008
  4. Matt Black

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    The Tradition which existed up to 1054 would be a good starting point.
     
  5. Darron Steele

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    Actually, why that?

    There were splits before 1054. If so-called "Apostolic Tradition" ever existed, why would it have ceased to exist in the split of 1054? Why not before?

    Better yet: how about that so-called "Apostolic Tradition" never existed, which is my premise.
     
  6. BobRyan

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    Good points!

    I attended a Southern Bapt church in which the pastor was doing a "survey of religions" series on Sunday evenings. When he finally got around to Baptists he said "in order to be a baptist you have to use the word Baptist in the name of your church - believe in some-form-of the Bible and believer's baptism". Basically I came away with this conclusion -- IF "Seventh-day Adventists" had just added the word "Baptist" at the end -- they too would be considered "Baptists"

    So everything from snake-handling baptists to independant, missionary, primitive, free-will, Seventh-day, Southern Baptists and all in between.

    Some who accept all 66 books of scripture as applicable to Christians, only 27 books, only 23 books (anything before the cross not applicable -- including the commands of Christ pre-cross) ...

    Women who can "speak" and "be heard" in church, women who can't make a sound in church if it is heard by men... women who can get into the platform and teach with men sitting in the congregation etc.

    What is amazing is that on boards like this one - there is a very well defined list of doctrines defined as "Baptists" even though many Baptist authors deny that such a list applies to all Baptist groups.

    In Christ,

    Bob
     
  7. Matt Black

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    Darron, I selected 1054 because that was the year of the Great Schism; prior to that, disputes were settled by the whole Church, the whole counsel of the Apostolic Succession, often but not always by Ecumenical Council; post-1054 the Apostolic Counsel has been divided and no longer speaks with one voice.
     
  8. Darron Steele

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    Never has.

    The "whole church" includes groups that agreed with Nestorius. Several bishops in the east supported him even after he and his views were condemned in 431.*

    Oh, and the monophysite controversy is relevant. Even after the monophysites were rejected at Chalcedon in 451, it continues in parts of the eastern church.**

    I suspect, however, that you would exclude them from "the whole Church" because their tenets did not agree with the portion you chose to follow.

    However, without prejudice toward your choice of 1054, I see no reason to not adopt the date of 451, or 431, etc.. I see no reason why the monophysite group might not have been the `correct group' and the majority goofed -- if we are going to go by the "Apostolic Tradition" method.

    You see, there is no reason to buy into your 1054 date. There is no reason to buy into any other such date. There is no reason to buy into this "Apostolic Tradition" model. Choosing whose version to follow, choosing which date to do cutoffs, etc., involves too much ambiguity and speculation -- I just buy into none of it.

    ___
    * Ferguson, Wright, Packer, New Dictionary of Theology, page 457.
    **Ferguson, Wright, Packer, New Dictionary of Theology, page 443.
     
  9. CarpentersApprentice

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    Hi Bob,

    Then, just to clarify, do you agree with Harrison that:

    1. Christians are unable to distinguish between the freedom of God and the freedom of the individual will.

    and

    2. Christians do place too much emphasis on a persons ability to discern correctly in religious matters and, thus, create an overly idealized individualism.

    CA
     
    #9 CarpentersApprentice, Apr 12, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 12, 2008
  10. CarpentersApprentice

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    Hi Darron,

    OK, none of it. Then back to the OP.

    What are your thoughts on Harrison's belief that:

    1. Christians are unable to distinguish between the freedom of God and the freedom of the individual will.

    and

    2. Christians do place too much emphasis on a persons ability to discern correctly in religious matters and, thus, create an overly idealized individualism.

    CA
     
  11. Darron Steele

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    I am not sure what he means by #1. I realize that God gives us freedom to make some choices without sin being a concern, as Romans 14 principles. God also does not control us -- we can choose to obey Him or not. I think most Christians can recognize the difference, and recognize their responsibilities between the two. Therefore, I suspect he meant something else.

    I think #2 is true mainly in this way: we often fail to realize that our very best inferences of Scripture still have the potential to be wrong. Many of us insist that not only are our most thought-out and beloved inferences 100% right, everyone else should agree with them. I believe this has posed substantial problems in the church.

    I think we do need to realize our fallibility more, as well as that of people we accept guidance and influence from. The Bible is inerrant; us and our inferences of the Bible are not. We need to learn to
    1) simply focus on our own followings of Christ,
    2) do our best, yet
    3) accept that we will not always be agreed with, and
    4) accept that we might actually be the ones who are wrong, plus
    5) resist going beyond disagreement to `civil war' when we are not agreed with.
     
    #11 Darron Steele, Apr 12, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 12, 2008
  12. CarpentersApprentice

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    Darron,

    Thanks for taking the time to spell out the details of what you think he meant.

    It still seems to leave us in a "agree to disagree position" (not you and me, but people in general). Which is still a bit wishy-washy for me, but within a Baptist paradigm that may be as close as we can get to certainty.

    Greg
     
  13. Matt Black

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    With respect, you are conflating heresy with schism. The Arians, Monophysites, Pelagians and Nestorians were all heretics and, as such, ipso facto, were not a part of the Church. The split of 1054 was pure schism, nothing to do with alleged heresy and everything to do with authority, politics and culture. Therefore 1054 is the date. Not arbitrary at all, just historical fact.
     
  14. Agnus_Dei

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    I don’t think that the remaining 4 Patriarchs post 1054, needs Ecumenical Councils to prove their unity. Why would we need another Ecumenical Council for? I can’t think of any pressing issue that’s facing the Eastern Christian Church today that warrants another Ecumenical Council, unlike the current situation we see in Protestantism today (same sex marriage, homosexual clergy and even as you and I have witnessed here, some still hold a heretical view of the Divinity of Christ).

    Our Creed and our Liturgy allows us to speak with one voice regardless of the current situation some Patriarchs are in, in regard to Muslim territorial control. It is through our Creed and our Liturgy that the faith that was once delivered is preserved and that’s what unites us!

    On a side note: We celebrate Easter or Pascha on April 27th. My mother, a fundamental Baptist and who claims not to be “Protestant” asks why the 27th and not March 23rd. My answer, was because we don’t do as the Pope of Rome says. Since then she’s been asking a lot of questions.

    In XC
    -
     
  15. Matt Black

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    Quartodeciman controversy?
     
  16. Agnus_Dei

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    Of course there was controversy in regard to the date Pascha should be celebrated and there’s still “old-calendarist” out there today, but I must ask. Since there was and still is controversy, have any Patriarchs pronounced “ex-communications” upon the other because of this contorversy?

    Regardless, of which calendar is used in the East, we are still united with our Creed and our Liturgy, which has again, preserved our faith. This fact is the reason our Catechesis classes are filled with Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Reformed Protestants and Episcopalians.

    In XC
    -
     
  17. BobRyan

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    No because in my view the "Baptist Faith and Message" would have been a very good document for Baptists to all agree on so that the "term Baptist" would have meaning -- actual doctrinal meaning out to the level of more than 2 or 3 doctrines.

    That does not mean that Christians that do not choose to be Baptist - are not valid Christians or even that they are in error (since in my view one or two of the doctrines listed in the BFM are in one degree of error or another).

    God does not save "denominations" he saves "individuals" -- Paul agrees "We shall EACH stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account for the deeds done in the body whether they be GOOD or evil".

    No one will be able to say "I accepted that particular Lutheran doctrine because I was Lutheran and so I had to ".

    We are each accountable before God as if there was not another living soul on the planet. No "group salvation".

    in Christ,

    Bob
     
  18. Darron Steele

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    I am not. The Orthodox/Catholics and similar have redefined the Greek word transliterated `heresy' as `a religious error we strongly disagree with.'

    In reality, the Greek means no such thing. `Heresies’ transliterates a Greek word that is plural for “party”*/clique and "choosing."**

    At Titus 3:11, the KJV transliterated the word as "heretick." The ASV translated it as "factious man."

    The passage Titus 3:8b-11 “I desire that thou affirm confidently, to the end that they who have believed God may be careful to maintain good |deeds|. These things are good and profitable unto men: but shun foolish questionings, and genealogies, and strifes, and fightings about law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A factious man after a first and second admonition refuse; knowing that such a one is perverted, and sinneth, being self-condemned” (ASV|NLT 1996, RSV 1952|ASV).

    Basically, this passage warns us that we ought to be paying attention to doing good deeds. It warns against any person who is absorbed in intellectual pursuits unrelated to this, called "unprofitable and vain." It condemns the extreme of someone so fixated on an “unprofitable” dispute that s/he seeks a religious faction/party rallied around a chosen religious opinion in that dispute.

    So, the word `heresy' refers to factionizing. The Arian group denied the Deity of Jesus Christ; in this case, they introduced a flagrantly biblically-unacceptable religious opinion. The others, from what I could tell, just had religious views that the dominant authorities did not like, although not as flagrantly contra-Scriptural if at all.

    In the strictest sense, those who said `We will not accept you any longer because of your views' are actually the heretics. They initiated the split.

    Now, in 1054, the Orthodox were rejected as `heretical' for `failing' to adopt the `and from the Son' addition to the Nicene Creed. The Catholics were rejected for `heretically' adopting Roman primacy rather than `first among equals.' For some reason, this disagreement is not deemed by you to be `heresy' -- but the others are. However, other people have called `heresy' what you are not. Again, it seems a more than a little subjective.

    As I said before, there is no reason to buy into your 1054 date. There is no reason to buy into any other such date. There is no reason to buy into this "Apostolic Tradition" model. Choosing whose version to follow, choosing which date to do cutoffs, what to deem a `heresy' or not, etc., involves too much ambiguity and speculation -- I just buy into none of it.

    ___
    * Campbell, The Christian System, page 76-7.
    ** Vine et al, Expository Dictionary, page 303 NT.
     
    #18 Darron Steele, Apr 14, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 14, 2008
  19. Darron Steele

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    I think this is exactly what Scripture teaches. Many people believe that we all have to think the same thing about nearly every detail. I do not believe Scripture teaches this -- I believe the Scriptures teach the exact opposite.

    1 Timothy 6:3-4a “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to |a godly life|, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in |disputes” (NASB|NLT 1996|NASB|NKJV).​
    Another translation for “does not agree” is “não concorda” (ARA) = “not concords,” simply meaning that it differs. Our doctrine should not differ from what Jesus Christ is documented saying. Christians ought to be `zeroed in' on what Jesus Christ actually preached/taught, and on the subject of godly living.

    Other than that, here is Romans 14:1-13a
    “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but |do not| argue about opinions.| One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, `AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.’ So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.| So let us no longer censure one another” (NASB| ICB| PEB| NASB| NBV).​
    Evidently, these differences in thought were considered significant by some people then. This passage principles that Christians have always been expected to have difference in thought -- and have been expected to accept each other even so.

    If we would all do that, perhaps we could all serve the Lord without getting uptight if not everyone agrees with us on everything.
     
    #19 Darron Steele, Apr 14, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 15, 2008
  20. Matt Black

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    Darron, I'd hardly define Monophysite and Nestorian beliefs as "not contra-Scriptural"! They fall in the same 'outside the camp' category as Arianism.

    I reiterate - the 1054 split was about power, politics and authority in the Church, not theology per se. The Orthodox objection to the filioque was not that it was heretical but that its addition to the Nicene Creed had not been agreed upon by the whole Church but only by the very non-ecumenical Council of Toledo. The Westerners retorted that the Patriarch of Rome had supreme authority and what he said went, including the filioque. It all went downhill from there.
     

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