Time is an elusive concept. It is something we want to “manage” but often fail at. It’s that which “slips by” and that we work ever so much to “save.” We have slow time and fast time, both based on “savings time.” From about the beginning of our stay on this earth we are taught to worry and be concerned about the “end of time.”
Our jobs want us to “multitask” in order to accomplish more things at the same time. We attend our minds our calendars, and our agenda making sure they are full and hopefully well managed. Some of us like fast food, fast cars, fast women, and fast living. We want our kids to be fast learners. We get up early and go to bed late, and take pills to wake us, and then again to put us to sleep.
Our kids grow up before our eyes. Quickly they begin to live, like us, in the fast lane in so many different ways. And so we race through life with our foot on the accelerator, maybe without really knowing why or where we are heading. And before we know what’s happening to us, we have a foot in the grave.
Our spiritual lives and the churches we attend have also often been captured by this madness. And, as a result, we have, according to C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison, the “McDonaldization” of the Church. This has happened because the church itself, influenced by the church growth movement, fallen for the cult of speed. They state it thus
Many churches, particularly those driven by church growth models, come dangerously close to reducing Christianity to a commodity that can be packaged, marketed and sold. Instead of cultivating a deep, holistic discipleship that touches every aspect of our lives, we’ve confined the life of faith to Sunday mornings, where it can be kept safe and predictable, or to a ‘’personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” which can be managed from the privacy of our own home. Following Jesus has been diminished to a privatized faith rather than a lifelong apprenticeship undertaken in the context of Christian community. 1
This is the thesis that Smith and Pattison have carefully worked out in their book Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus. The book is about slowing down, looking at those around us, seeing our communities, its peoples, and talking to each other once again. It calls for patience, place, sabbath, and conversation among other things. When this happens we might once again hear more clearly the voice of God. Importantly, it is not a new program for churches to follow.
Smith and Pattison again saying
Slow Church is a call for intentionality, an awareness of our mutual interdependence with all people and all creation, and an attentiveness to the world around us and the work God is doing in our very own neighborhoods. 2
They take the reader through chapters concerned with the attitudes of heart and practices of life that will help us to recover a vision of what it means to be Church. For a further idea of what this book is about look here: Contents.
I want to add another book to discuss from time to time, as it works itself out. This one is Broken Lights and Mended Lives; Theology and Common Life in the Early Church by Rowan A. Greer. The author was on the faculty of Yale Divinity School and an ordained Anglican priest. Learning about the faith and practice of the early Church can be of benefit. I realize that we cannot copy their faith, or their practice, because their world was far different from the one we inhabit. However the young Church was a vital one, full of the excitement of something new which they felt to the depth of their being.
Greer’s book is a reflection of this. Today I would like to consider the direction Greer wants to take us, showing what he wants to do, and how he intends to do it. He talks about this in the first page of the Preface where he says
the only thesis of the book is that theology in the early Church was always directly or indirectly concerned with the common life of Christians. From one point of view theologians attempted to put into words the corporate experience of the Church. The Christian story, continuously repeated in the reading of Scripture and in the liturgy, found its focus for the Fathers of the Church in the victorious Christ, the new humanity. …. From another perspective the Fathers sought to use their ideology to explain and to shape the everyday life of Christians. To study the dialogue between theology and common life is to realize … that no broad thesis is possible save to argue that there was a persistent concern with the dialogue.
Now — just for a comment: If we would stop and think about the possibility of prayerfully considering and meditating on the above quotation. Perhaps I’m being far too simplistic, but it seems to me to hold tremendous power and possibility. Are we in our theological considerations attempting to put into words what it is that is happening as we repeat again and again our ancient Scriptures and conduct the liturgy in worship services? How is the victory of Christ happening today in our services? How is humanity being made whole? And just how is this affecting our common life? I have a feeling that we need to consistently talk to each other, in our churches, about what we believe is shaping our life together. We need to find some intentional ways of doing this. Greer, at this point is not doing this. It is my own idea.
He goes ahead to explain his approach by saying that he treats the Fathers of the Church sympathetically. He does this by attempting to enter into and imagine the world of the early Christians on its own terms. He also states clearly that he himself is a convinced Christian. Therefore he admits that he is not an impartial observer, and thus not totally objective in his study.
It may seem that I’m spending too much time on explaining his approach. But the remainder of the book cannot be properly understood without this understanding. In the next posting about Greer’s work, I want to explore this further.
Listening to NPR I heard a segment on Which Scientific Ideas Must Die? It is based on the book entitled This Idea Must Die; Scientific Theories That Are Blocking Progress, by John Brockman. The thesis of the book is the following question, which was put to 175 brilliant minds: “What scientific idea needs to be put aside in order to make room for new ideas to advance?”
It is not my intention to discuss this NPR piece or the book. It is to ask this same question to the Church and to theologians who serve the Church.
Here is the question: What if Protestants would kill off, Sola Scriptura, or “by Scripture alone”? And just admit that it no longer works, or for that matter, never did work? If one looks at the state of Protestantism, it is a total mess. I’m not sure how many denominations exist at present time. Each one has its own slant on Biblical interpretation. Different conclusions about matters of faith are the norm. Add this to the thousands of “independent” churches that dot the landscape of our country. Each one is headed by a pastor who is in some ways his (almost always a “his”) own pope. Every denomination, every independent, operates according to its own set of beliefs, and all claiming the backing of scripture. According to the principle of noncontradiction a true statement and its opposite cannot both be true at the same time in the same sense. Yet we find Protestant groups and pastors doing just this while applying Sola Scriptura. And this has been true since the very early days of Reformation. There are enough issues connected with Sola Scriptura for an entire series of posts if one were so inclined.
So – we need some thinkers willing to be brave and announce the demise of this doctrine.
Following are a few internet writers considering Sola Scriptura from various points of view:
- According to Scripture by Tim Staples
- Sola Scriptura by Fr. John Whiteford
- The Evangelical Calvinist by Bobby Grow
- Solo Scriptura; The Difference a Vowel Makes by Keith A. Mathison