Fad theology and church crisis
I was reading an interesting article at MentalFloss today that talked about popular diet tips from 100 years ago. Among them were: Mere napping about for those who already have too much rest and luxury is suicidal to both mind and body. Oversleeping at any time makes one stupid and logy, yes — fat. Do not drink much water. A little lemon juice added to it will make it less fattening. First and most important, drink very little, as little as possible, and only red or white wine, preferably Burgundy, or tea or coffee slightly alcoholized. Banish all thoughts of going back to bed. Instead begin your rolling. There is no mystery about rolling. It is simply what the name indicates. Down upon the floor you go and roll over and over swiftly, not slowly as a porpoise rolls. The porpoise, you will observe, is not a slender animal. Roll over as a puppy, tingling with the joy of life, rolls in the dust when at play. Roll quickly. Make at least 80 revolutions before stopping. We look back at these today and think they were silly. That got me thinking… what was the big scuttlebutt in the church 100 years ago. Here are some things they were talking about:
The Modernist–Fundamentalist Controversy. The extensive spread of liberal theology draws strong reactions from theological conservatives. In 1909 a set of scholarly volumes, The Fundamentals, defend the doctrines of historic, biblical Christianity. In 1919 the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association is founded to combat modernist (liberal) teaching. Major controversies between modernists and fundamentalists within denominations prompt many people to separate and form new, conservative denominations and fellowships.
European Theology. After World War I a new theological movement, Neo-Orthodoxy, begins a revolt in Western Europe against liberal theology. Contrary to liberal theology, it stresses the sinfulness of man and the difference between God and the universe. But contrary to orthodoxy, it injects a destructive, critical view of the Bible and claims that God has not given revelation in the form of declared statements of truth. By the late 1940s Neo-Orthodoxy dominates most European and American theological schools. But after the 1960s European theology falls into such chaos that some scholars fear Protestantism may end in Europe.
The Ecumenical Movement. This movement promotes unity through these means: interdenominational cooperation, union of denominations, national federations of church groups, international councils and fellowships, dialogues between groups within Christendom and between Christendom and non-Christian religions, Catholic observers at World Council of Churches’ meetings, Protestant observers at Roman Catholic meetings, and joint participation in large public rallies. Most efforts negate the importance of doctrinal truth in favor of unity. Some support radical, left-wing groups.
Roman Catholicism. In 1950 Pope Pius XII proclaims the bodily assumption of Mary to heaven after her death. Vatican II Council (1962—1965) encourages Catholics to read the Bible, asserts spiritual priesthood for the laity, permits the Mass to be conducted in the language of each nation, and exhibits an ecumenical spirit toward Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy. The tendency grows to regard Mary as co-redemptrix with Christ.
Neo-Evangelicalism. By the late 1940s a new movement begins in conservative circles to enable orthodoxy to impact the world and be respected by it. The movement develops these characteristics: increased emphasis on scholarship, a willingness to re-examine and modify doctrinal beliefs to fit the modern mind, a tendency to interpret the Bible in light of science, a desire to share theological insights with liberal and neo-orthodox thinkers, ecumenical evangelism, a tendency to minimize the importance of doctrine and biblical eschatology, a strategy to infiltrate liberal denominations (rather than separate from them) to win them back to orthodoxy, and an attempt to develop a social philosophy.Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement. Early in the 1900s the Pentecostal movement arises, emphasizing tongues and other apostolic-age sign and revelational gifts. Pentecostal denominations arise. In the 1960s this emphasis enters mainline Protestant churches, the Roman Catholic Church, and spawns the charismatic movement. Because it stresses experiences common to people of varying church backgrounds, it plays a key role in the spirit of ecumenicity. I can think of many more minor schizms in the church over the past 25 years. The question: what are we doing today (or arguing about) that in the big scheme of things (say… 100 years) will make us look just plain foolish and petty? Thoughts? Todd HT: a-voice.org and MentalFloss