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John H. Armstrong, a personal friend and author of the book Your Church is Too Small has added his personal reflections to my recent post on Russell Moore’s charge against Pat Robertson (that Robertson’s view of divorce entails a denial of the Christian gospel). His post is entitled: How Evangelicals Misuse the “G” Word. Peter Lumpkins charitably chronicles the difference in perspectives on his blog SBC Tomorrow.
I stumbled upon some great Mark Knoll lectures on how the American civil war was (in large measure) a fight about how to interpret the Bible, and another lecture on the changing face of Christianity in the Global South. Fascinating (courtesy of Calvin College). If you don’t know who Mark Knoll is, here is the scoop: Mark Knoll is one of the most respected historians of Christianity in the United States. He now teaches at Notre Dame.
I enjoyed reading Al Mohler’s article Are Evangelicals Dangerous? on the CNN blog, one of the best pieces I’ve read from Mohler.
A surprising move by James MacDonald to create something called The Elephant Room, where conservative Reformed evangelicals actually decide to have a conversation with (rather than just criticize from a distance) people they disagree with, hoping to come to a better understanding of one another by talking about “the elephant in the room.” This is an interesting development that I was very pleased about. I began to wonder, however, whether these conversations are designed more to bring attention to a Reformed evangelical perspective on things in a way that could be seen as “outreach” to non-Reformed evangelicals (seen to be out-of-touch with sound doctrine in some way) by Reformed evangelicals. Controversy is brewing about the show already over James’s invitation to T.D. Jakes to be take the hot seat (note: T.D. Jakes does not adhere to a traditional doctrine of the Trinity, but something closer to one of the views labeled as heresy from the early stages of Christian theological development during the early ecumenical councils).
John H. Armstrong has launched a new website for his life-wrought book, Your Church Is Too Small, and you can actually read the forward (written by J.I. Packer) at this website. NOTE: This book is going to be huge in its impact; I have blogged about this book before.
Scot McKnight has already blogged once about this book at Jesus Creed. He ends with a question addressed to John.
On this new website, you can 1) get an overview of the book and read endorsements, 2) pre-order the book, 3) follow the new blog, 4) sign up for a FREE (yeah … that’s right) Conference around the book’s ideas.
Here is some of J.I. Packer’s forward:
My friend John Armstrong is a church leader who has traveled the distance from the separatist, sectarian fixity of fundamentalism to embrace the kingdom-centered vision of the church and the call issued by a number of Bible-based theologians and missiologists during the past half century.
What vision is this? It is the one that views the visible church as a single worldwide, Spirit-sustained community within which ongoing doctrinal and denominational divisions, though important, are secondary rather than primary. In this vision, the primary thing is the missional-ecumenical vocation and trajectory crystallized for us by our Lord Jesus Christ in his teaching and prayer and illustrated in a normative way by the Acts narrative and much of the reasoning of the apostolic letters.
Evangelicals have always urged that the church of God is already one in Christ but have typically related this fact only to the invisible church (that is, the church as God alone sees it). All too often, they have settled for division in the visible church (the church on earth, as we see it) as at least tolerable and at best healthy. The vision Armstrong offers, however, perceives by exegesis that the unity of Christians, which Jesus prayed that the world might see, is neither unanimity nor uniformity nor union (as he neatly puts it) but loving cooperation in life and mission, starting from wherever we are at the moment and fertilized and energized by the creedal and devotional wisdom of the past. Thus the internal unity of togetherness in Christ may become a credibility factor in the church’s outreach, just as Jesus in John 17 prayed that it would.
Embracing this vision will mean that our ongoing inter- and intra-church debates will look, and feel, less like trench warfare, in which both sides are firmly dug in to defend the territory that each sees as its heritage, and more like emigrants’ discussions on shipboard that are colored by the awareness that soon they will be confronted by new tasks in an environment not identical with what they knew before. There they will all need to pull together in every way they can. The church in every generation voyages through historical developments and cultural changes, against the background of which new angles emerge on old debates and truths may need to be reformulated in order to remain truly the same as they were. Not to recognize this is a defect of vision on our part.
You can read the rest of the forward here: yourchurchistoosmall.com.
The long awaited book will arrive in stores April 2010.
When you hear a title like Your Church is too Small, it might sound like the latest book on church growth. But this would be far from the truth. John H. Armstrong’s forthcoming book is not so much about increasing membership in your local church (although his concern is ultimately for missions). It’s really more about increasing your church’s conception of membership in the catholic church (catholic with a lowercase “c”).
Armstrong exposes a weak spot in the church’s doctrinal fidelity to this creed: the unity of the catholic church. Do you remember the Apostles Creed? The one used by Protestant churches all over the world? The fullest creed we know of produced by the early churches planted by the Apostles before the imperial councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon?
1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
5. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again.
6. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
7. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
10. the forgiveness of sins,
11. the resurrection of the body,
12. and life everlasting.
NOTICE: The catholic church is “the” catholic church. It is singular.
So many protestant churches read this creed in their churches, but how much of this has just become thoughtless routine? Why does the teaching about “the holy catholic church” come after the article on the Holy Spirit instead of the article about Jesus? What is the catholic church? What did the early churches believe was included in this notion of a “catholic” church?
How often do ministers teach their people the notion of the catholic church? In my many years as a member of many different churches, I’ve never once heard this notion taught, much less have I been taught how this doctrine informs local church ministry. The only time I’ve ever heard reference to it in any church is when the Protestant pastor wants to clarify that their church isn’t Roman Catholic. They tend to reduce their exposition on this phrase “catholic church” down to a mere clarification that they are protestant, not Roman Catholic.
But is that it? Augustine’s polemical arguments against the Donatists leaned heavily on his belief in the one holy, catholic and apostolic church. Why?
This is a great part of what John H. Armstrong’s book is about. The church. The catholic church. The catholic church is so much bigger than your local church or even your denomination. This belief is important and should effect how God’s people work together in a secular age when the unity of all Christians is vital to the continuation of the Christian mission. Could Southern Baptists (or any other denomination) have such a huge impact on world missions without the unity and cooperation of their local churches? Of courses not. It’s their unity that enables them to fund such huge missionary projects. Unity, then, is vital for missions.
But Does the catholic church act more like a family or a dysfunctional family? Dr. Armstrong is not just concerned about ecumenical discussion (although he is actually a leader in many ecumenical dialogues). He is not just concerned about unity in belief (although this is important to him). Rather, he is more ultimately concerned with unity in mission.
I have been awaiting the release of this book for a long time. Although Armstrong has written many books, I believe this one is his manifesto. His life’s work of blood, sweat and tears for the sake of the Christian mission is bound up in this book. Your Church is Too Small also will tell his story, a story worth hearing (or in the case of his book, reading).
Dinner, Discourse, and Dialogue
John H. Armstrong
About John H. Armstrong
John. H. Armstrong’s forthcoming book Your Church is Too Small sets the stage for a new discussion among Christians about the possibility of all gospel believing churches being more united in their witness and mission for the sake of the gospel. Come hear him speak about the sectarian ideology that prevents Christians from having a more united witness and common mission for the sake of the Christian gospel.
Former pastor and church planter, well known Christian author, conference speaker, and graduate professor at Wheaton College Gradate School, John H. Armstrong is now founder and president of ACT 3, a ministry for the advancement of the Christian Tradition in the third millennium.
We will be meeting in the college room (4th Floor) of the Sanctuary Building. There will be a $5 cover charge for food, desert, and coffee.
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any questions e-mail email@example.com or call 502.727.0995.
Gerald Hiestand, pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel and President of the Society for the Advancement of Ecclesial Theology, calls men to the pastor-scholar paradigm.
Celucien L. Joseph appreciates Gregery Boyd’s thoughts on how racial reconciliation is an important aspect of the biblical gospel. In another post, he talks about race consciousness. Once anglo’s are no longer the dominant race in the U.S., perhaps they will give more attention to this topic. For now it seems like only a handful of anglo people even have this issue on their radar.
Treven Wax posts Martin Luther’s definition of the gospel, which shows that Luther didn’t always think of the core of the gospel message as including the doctrine of justification.
John Armstrong exposes us to the concept of “coerced consensus.”
John H. Armstrong just released news that Zondervan has agreed to publish his book Your Church is Too Small, a book he wrote before ever seeking publication. He said he wrote the book before making a deal for publication so that he would not have any pressure to conform its content to the pressure of a publisher. He is writing on a controversial topic among evangelicals. Here is an excerpt from his post on the book.
The thesis of the book is that we need a new reformation rooted in what I call missional-ecumenism. This “new” ecumenism would unite us spiritually and relationally in fresh and personal ways that could well become an instrument of God to spread the message of Christ’s kingdom far and wide. All of this is developed in a narrative that tells my own story and interacts warmly with a number of people and events over the last twenty years or so. (The next to last chapter is filled with stories of people and churches that have followed the thesis I present in the book.) The reading level ofYour Church Is Too Small is not academic and what academic arguments are made in the book are simply defined and clearly written. My target audience is not professors and scholars butministers and church leaders of all backgrounds. The book targets evangelical Protestants directly but it will be read with much joy by many Roman Catholics who share the same vision. There is not a shred of anti-Catholicism in the book. I also interact with the Orthodox very respectfully and with profound appreciation, even using doctrinal ideas from the East to make several important points about the Trinity and the divine energies.
——————————-HT: John H Armstrong———————————
Peter Kreeft gives a lecture about Ecumenism Without Compromise.
I think more discussion needs to be given to the topic of The New Ecumenism. President of ACT 3, John H. Armstrong is a leader in this movement. He has written a blog about it here. He will also be coming out with a book very soon entitled, “Your Church Is Too Small” (published by Zondervan). There is indeed a new, Christ-honoring, gospel-centered ecumenism in progress among theologically conservative Christians. The ECT documents were signs of its beginning, not its end. Unity in the gospel between Protestants and Catholics is not only becoming a real option; many Christians are arguing that where common gospel belief is present, it is a divine mandate. God wants The Church unified wherever it exists.
I would love to know what you think. Can Catholics and Protestants believe in the same gospel?