I was eating lunch with a long-time friend last week at the Green Well (highly recommended). Mac and Cheese with 1/2 of a Cuban sandwich. How delicious was it? After eating it, I no longer fear death. 🙂
Our conversation got flowing quickly. He was frustrated with the Evangelical church’s emphasis on belief, and converse neglect of practice. He felt the emerging church offered a helpful corrective by emphasizing Christian practice and relegating doctrinal belief to ongoing conversation. I had some hunches on what I wanted to say, but needed to think about it.
I’ve now thought about it, but still have little more than those hunches and some initial starts and stops.
All people should recognize the formative functions that doctrine and practice have on each other. What we do shapes what we believe, and what we believe shapes what we do.
Thus, Evangelicalism must avoid the reductionism which views godly behavior as the automatic outcome of good teaching. If our people are not prayerful, pastors cannot merely preach a six-week series on prayer before proceeding to the next topic. Somehow, the weakness of the seminary-trained mind is to overstress the intellectual aspects of the Christian life as if all our troubles stem from hermeneutic missteps.
Conversely, however, postmodern innovators (to use Wittmer’s helpful descriptor) should weight the formative effects that beliefs have upon activity. The type of discussion that is definitively ongoing must recognize that inconclusiveness can itself be a conclusion. And it is a conclusion that can lead to a pattern of life contrary to assured faith.
As our Puritans fathers-in-the-faith said, “Assurance is the creme of faith.” But any faith pursued with a swagger betrays that it is not rooted in the “God who came to serve” of the Bible. But any faith which does not pursue assurance at all betrays that is rooted in the skeptical legacy of the post-modernism rather than the lavish invitation of the biblical gospel.