Sunday, October 01, 2006

Contending Earnestly Without Beating the Air

I know the timing of this may seem odd, especially in the light of the recent series on the Federal Vision, but I've been thinking lately about whether Reformed churches should define themselves negatively, and if so, against whom ought we to define ourselves?

To partially answer my own question, I would prefer we not always present ourselves, our theology, and our worship to others as anti-seeker, anti-Catholic, anti-New Perspective, et cetera, et cetera. Surely there is something deep, rich, and beautiful about Reformed theology and practice that should make it compelling to believers and nonbelievers alike, shouldn't there?

And if there is a battle waging and lines being drawn, it is not the same lines that were drawn in the sixteenth-century. Rome is not the enemy anymore, and in fact, I wonder whether we ought to define ourselves against any church or denomination that has a covenantal and confessional identity.

So now what? Are we doomed to weep because we, like Alexander, have no worlds left to conquer? Unfortunately we are still the church militant, and our theologia viatorum (pilgrim theology) precludes our laying down our weapons just yet.

But if we must "contend earnestly for the faith," it seems wise to expend our energy and efforts in the right direction (and a twelve-part sermon series on how Lutherans are closet-Eutycheans because of their doctrine of ubiquity seems somewhat wide of the mark).

I would argue that if we stop to consider where the loudest voice and greatest influence effecting how God is marketed to the world today is found, it would have to be broad evangelicalism. In fact, the more I interact with folks of this persuasion, the more I wonder to myself whether we even have a common religion anymore.

So here's my question(s): Am I reading the writing on the wall correctly? Ought we to define ourselves negatively as "not your neighbor's evangelical church"? Why or why not? How and how not?