How a deep and growing divide is killing Protestant christianity – or maybe renewing it!

Right from the earliest days, there have always been disagreements within the christian community. Some are resolved, but some lead to major splits, new denominations or new doctrinal positions.

I have the feeling that a major, and probably irreversible, divergence is brewing in the western Protestant church, between those we may label “evangelical” and those we may label “progressive”.

Both evangelicals and progressives generally hold to the core truths of christianity as expressed in the Apostles Creed – the trinity of God the father and creator; Jesus the incarnate son, teacher, healer, dying saviour and resurrected Lord; and the Holy Spirit living within each believer. But there are some distinctives of these two viewpoints which I think will continue to lead to divergence and separation.

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Doctrine that divides

Did Jesus mean it to come to this?

Doctrine.

For some people it is a delicious word, their bread and butter. For others it is a word they wish to avoid because they think it is responsible for many an unnecessary argument. I think I’ve changed position on it during my life.

So I think it is worth exploring.

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Mission vs maintenance

Did Jesus mean it to come to this?

How much does modern western christianity come from Jesus, and how much comes from somewhere else?

A few weeks back I introduced the theme of Did Jesus mean it to come to this?, in which I want to examine the modern western church, and muse on how much it may, or may not, have departed from the teachings and pattern of life left to us by Jesus.

In this post, the mission of the church vs maintaining the organisation.

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Did Jesus mean it to come to this?

More than two billion people in the world today identify as followers of Jesus. This includes a fair percentage of inhabitants of the USA, currently the world’s most powerful nation, its most influential via film, TV, social media and popular music, and home of some of the world’s richest people.

My country, Australia, still has a significant christian presence (maybe 10%), and you’ll find followers of Jesus in every first world country, as well as all over the rest of the world.

It is a long way from rural Galilee, a small backwater of the ancient Roman Empire, to some of the richest and busiest cities in the world. How have the teachings of Jesus survived the journey?

I wonder if Jesus came back whether he would be surprised and pleased at how his followers are doing? Or not?

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Patriarchy, headship and equality

It hasn’t always been comfortable being a man during these #metoo days. Men we might have thought could be trusted have been accused, and often admitted to, all manner of unacceptable, sexually predatory and abusive behaviour, mostly against women.

For me, it became most pointed when this last weekend I read a long article in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Great Sexual Reckoning by David Leser.

We christians surely need to listen, take notice, and act in whatever way we believe is necessary and appropriate.

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Six things we might learn if we understood the mission of Jesus

A couple of weeks back I reviewed Kenneth Bailey’s Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, a book I have found revelatory about Jesus. I have gained many helpful insights from it.

Today, some new understandings about one of my favourite gospel accounts – Jesus in the synagogue at the start of his ministry, when he made clear what he was on about.

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Looking ahead: 12 lessons for churches in 2018

Predictions are a dime a dozen, and predictions about the church in the western world can be awfully generalised. Nevertheless, I found some predictions and warnings by Carey Nieuwhof were worth considering.

The predictions clearly relate to the North American church (Carey is Canadian), so a few probably won’t apply to countries like Australia and Great Britain where the church has long been a minority culture, but I’m sure you’ll find a few that are relevant to you. Carey has presented some of his observations as negatives (i.e. things NOT to believe), but I have re-worded them as positive truths to make them all consistent.

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Learning from our mistakes as the world changes around us

Christianity began as a minority group within Judaism and within the Roman Empire. But from the time Constantine made it acceptable, christianity became the dominant religion, and Christendom was generally the dominant social force, in Europe and colonies in Africa, the Americas and the Pacific. Christianity was often the state religion, most people were nominally christian, and churches had significant influence.

Until now.

For a couple of decades now, thoughtful christians have been warning that the age of Christendom and of privilege was over. And we are starting to see that more clearly.

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