I think the starting point in responding to Armstrong’s blog on Bethke’s video is to first define terms; religion and church. His definitions differ from mine (I think Jeff and I are on the same page here). The defining statement of my ministry is “Moving Catholics from Religion to Relationship.” I am sensitive to these terms.
I define religion in my ministry up front as follows: Religion: Trying to attain peace with oneself and God by the keeping of rites, rituals and rules advanced by various religious institutions in particular the Roman Catholic Church. I believe this is a definition that is what Jeff meant in his powerful and affective proclamation of the gospel. (in a word rules)
Religion: James 1:27
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (in a word holy service)
Religion is a process “to unite” and used with the structures of Christianity. He says this is the historic and linguistic way, going on with typical intellectualizing, talking about social and communal enterprises etc. (in a word community)
James, Jeff and I are talking to common folks, (because the foolish were sent to confound the wise) Anderson, it appears, was sent to theological types. I would venture to says most folks understand our definition more readily then his.
I define church as those called out believers in the Lord Jesus Christ (the family, the body, et al) and not an institution as is so commonly defined by so many and often used interchangeably by many spokesman for Christianity, with “family”, “building”, “body” and “institution”.
The church is an Apostolic (united) Community. I’m not so sure I know what this means. Like O’Rielly, I’m a simple person. If he means the Church is a family, I get it. Using his base of reference, the uninspired creeds don’t take him back far enough in history. Creeds are ok but not alive as the Scriptures. My point of reference is the New Testament Church and the scriptures collected in the second century.
Churchless Christianity: This is a contradiction in terms. Church and Christian go hand in hand. There is no such animal as “church less” Christians. Christians are the church.
I suppose he means “Building-less Christianity”, or “Institution-less, or traditional-less Christianity.”
Regarding church discipline, I think Anderson is lumping Christians who have no family connection or accountability with those that have such an affiliation.
Traditional and house church assemblies should not be lumped together with those who do not assemble.In this regard we should support traditional and organic church, both/and not either/or.
I just studied some documents by Francis Schaeffer’s Ministry which documents the continued decline of the institutional church in the past fifty years in America, which also mirrors Barna’s work, and I find myself asking many questions. One of which is, if the models of religion and church done the way Anderson and the reformed-like strain of Christianity have preferred are right, why has this slide continued. I don’t think the decline is necessarily bad because it may suggest some may have found a more intimate connection with God in another way.
The most disheartening observation with Anderson’s article is my sensing a condescending spirit in his comments. This is the same thing I sense in my interface with the doctrine cops in other parts of “the family”. I am trying my darn-est to look past other’s non-essentials and focus on Jesus.
I respect Anderson’s position in disagreement and am grateful for Jeff’s pursuance of Christ and the impact his effort has on those who experienced his video. I think it a good thing that it ruffled some Catholics, don’t you? Maybe it will prompt some to rethink the difference between religion and relationship, “good religion” and “bad religion”, but most importantly between “bad religion” and right relationship.