Friday, March 4, 2011

On Disagreeing

I have had my attention brought to this blog post - by someone who wants me to take sides. I shall now attempt not to. On the other hand, take a look here as well as here.

Things are rarely simple. The picture is just that, a picture. It does not actually tell us what Michael Horton's attitude towards Rick Warren's theology is. I quote Horton: "Rick Warren believes that he is simply translating the gospel in terms that the unchurched can understand. However, the radical condition of sin is reduced to negative attitudes and behaviors and the radical redemption secured by Christ’s propitiatory death and resurrection are reduced to general and vague statements about God giving us another chance."

Obviously you don't go to pictures to find out what a person thinks about another as a theologian - Spurgeon was a friend of Edward White, a leading Annahilationist of the 19th century. You could have photographed the two of them together, smiling. Anyone who takes the photograph of Warren and Horton together as proving that Horton thinks Warren is fine, is being massively naive.

"What?" the reader may say, "haven't you read that blog post?" Yes, I have. I'm not saying that the poster thinks Horton is approving of Warren. Rather she's worried that Warren and his fans will use the picture to say as much. That would be an abuse.

So what about Horton's involvement in the Lausanne Movement? One commenter (and I find that the comments are where the irresponsible charges of heresy appear) cries "ecumenism!" Well, what do you mean by Ecumenism? The word is used in different ways by different people. Used positively it refers to dialogue between different Churches. It is sometimes used in the more negative sense by conservative evangelicals to describe interfaith dialogues. The term "Ecumenical Movement" is often used to refer to the World Council of Churches. It is very important to ask then what is being meant by calling the Lausanne movement ecumenical - I am assuming of course that the word is not just being used as an insult. The WCC united Protestant Churches from all traditions, Lutheran, Reformed, Methodist, Anabaptist and Disciples of Christ, Eastern Orthodox Churches and other Orthodox Churches, etc. It contains liberals, Evangelicals and Catholic and Orthodox Traditions with all their variations. There are almost 350 denominations in the WCC. Its basis is wooly, and deliberately so. The confession of Jesus as "God and Saviour" of the original basis has been removed to allow for Unitarian involvement in the movement.

So, having considered what the WCC, the flagship of Ecumenism, is, we can move on to ask what the Lausanne movement is. Its website is here. It will be seen from this brief history that Lausanne began with Billy Graham, and is fundamentally different from the WCC. It is not an inter-Church body at all, and (as one might expect from its roots) is concerned chiefly with evangelism. The statement of faith of Lausanne is first of all there - the WCC really doesn't have one - and secondly it is evangelical. Is it sufficiant? No, not really, but then this is not a Church! Am I at all involved in Lausanne? No, I'm not. But I have to say, to say of Lausanne "that's ecumenism" is in fact a meaningless statement. Yes, the general secretary of the WCC spoke at the 3rd Lausanne congress - which concerns me - but to confuse the two at this juncture is unhelpful. That Lausanne is moving in an ecumenical direction is undeniable, however. Incidentally, this blog post on the WCC website rather amused me!

Which leads to the final point - should Michael Horton be involved in it? There I cannot comment. That is up to him, not to me, to him and to the United Reformed Churches of North America, of which he is a member. Fundamentally, however, the question that faces us as regards the matter is this: is it something that sound men can be involved in? Not should, but can. There comes a time in the drift of organisations when they have to be left. But the choice to leave is up to the conscience of the individual. Of all people, Baptists should understand this. Horton has two choices, as I see see it, to take no part at all in the Lausanne "conversation" and leave it to the Rick Warrens of the world, or to engage and try to be a sane voice. I cannot tell him which he should do - that's up to him to work out in consultation with the people he works with. Just as I cannot be an Anglican, but would not dictate to those Anglicans who are in the C of E, faithfully preaching the Gospel. Or the Baptist Union evangelicals, for that matter. To stay or leave has to be a personal decision. Now, if asked for advice, I'd say get out of the C of E!

But the Church of England is a denomination. Lausanne's supposed to be a conversation. I suspect Horton will find that it is, like the Emergent "Conversation", fast becoming a monologue. Still, if he's going to be reminding them of the Gospel, that's all for the good.


Jonathan Hunt said...

Good thoughts.

By the way, isn't it time that your church website was updated? It hasn't changed for over two years!

Highland Host said...

Our webmaster had a stroke.

Evangelical books said...

One of my favourite photos is one taken with Sir David Attenborough during a book signing event in London. Does that make me an agnostic and evolutionist?