Friday, December 12, 2008

Sun City, Saddleback, and Ecclesial Apartheid

I am preaching through Genesis on Sunday evenings (and having a good time doing it I might add), and we just looked at the Tower of Babel episode the other night. As many commentators point out, the confusion of languages visited upon the Babelites in Genesis 11 is reversed in Acts 2 as “devout men from every nation under heaven” are given to hear the mighty works of God supernaturally proclaimed in their own tongues.

In People and Place, Michael Horton highlights the fact that the now-united multitude still retained their distinctive tongues, the significance being that those who believed in Christ that day “were more perfectly one than any society, yet in a harmony of difference.... They were one because they shared the same things, not because they became fused into the same thing.” He continues:

As we survey the contemporary ecclesial landscape, however, this account of catholicity seems to be reversed. Whereas an almost infinite diversity of doctrine and practice is tolerated, even celebrated, churches are becoming more hegemonic than ever with respect to politics, socioeconomic position, age, gender, and cultural tastes. [He then makes a veiled reference to Rick Warren's Saddleback Church to illustrate his point.]
Horton’s term for the so-called “missional” obsession with target demographics is ecclesial apartheid, which is the very antithesis of the catholicity that was inaugurated at Pentecost and will become fully visible at the end-time harvest of sinners from all nations, tongues, tribes, and peoples. But “wherever Christ is the focus of catholicity and Word-and-sacrament ministry is the means, a genuinely multicultural and multigenerational community is generated.”

In the place of a “catholicity of the market”—which seeks to reverse cultural divisions with cultural commonalities—the church needs the kind of catholicity that arises not from the culture but from the cultus. This alone can prevent the church from becoming “a collection of consumers or tourists rather than a communion of saints and pilgrims.”

Contrary to the ecclesial apartheid of the missional movement, therefore, genuine catholicity is a necessarily churchly and supernatural phenomenon which secures for God’s people the ability to be one, but not the same.

(Am I bugging you? Don't mean to bug ya....)