Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.

Total Church

There was another Theological Study Group meeting last Monday at The John Owen Centre. Our book this time was Total Church by Stephen Timmis and Tim Chester. I left my reading quite late but was able to get through it in no time ready for the discussion. I am vaguely aware of Crowded House and have heard Stephen Timmis speak in the past. I feel quite negative to many things and so was glad to read the book to inform myself as to whether I should feel negative. I tried to be as positive about the book as I could and one can at least say that one understands the issues they are raising. As to their solutions I'm not at all sure that this really takes us on much further. We were pretty much of one mind around the table in not liking the proposals though having a little sympathy with the issues raised.
Total Church is rather loosely written with sweeping statements and an incredibly negative and dismissive tone,. It moans about everything from ministers having a day off to the apparent middle class dominance in churches to formal theological education. It is very sad to think that two people can have ended up so apparently disenchanted with evangelical and Reformed life. They reminded me a little of Roy Clements who regularly bemoaned the situation before finally giving up on us. I don't think that will happen here as getting into bed with Mark Driscoll and Acts Chapter 29 suggests  a certain flexibility on many things, though for me it is a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire. The idea that a generation of students at WEST will be fed this Anabaptist cum emergent church nonsense is most disconcerting.
I think we can all see limitations in church life as it is currently conducted but I am not at all sure that the changes proposed - part time Bible study leaders gathering little groups of part time workers in houses on housing estates to have karaoke evenings, games of football and helpful chats about the Bible is the way forward, although hopefully it will be a means of reaching some who might not be reached otherwise.
I sound pretty negative here myself and don't want to be but it is difficult to say anything very positive at all about this book and the philosophy it promotes.
We have chosen to do Augustine's Confessions next time.

2 comments:

Andrew Murray said...

From memory, Gary, I don't think you're being fair to Chester and Timmis. Rather than rejecting 'evangelical and reformed life' I thought they were grounded in it, and their spiritually ambitious thrust was to build in to it more of New Testament church life. Definitely Scripture driven, not man-focused like the emergent church stuff.
If you agree with them on 'limitations in church life'then an analysis of potential gains and losses from their approach would be interesting, along with your suggestions for tackling those limitations.
Otherwise, it sounds like you just don't like their style!

Gary Brady said...

Thanks for coming back on this. I said they were disenchanted with 'evangelical and reformed life' rather than having rejected it wholesale. That is undoubtedly their background. I do not doubt their desire to live a New Testament church life or their attention to Scripture, although they can sometimes make huge leaps with limited warrant (such as Paul going from house to house in Ephesus). The potential gain from their approach is reaching a few on the margins who are unlikely to be won in currently conventional ways, the potential loss would include everyone else. The way to tackle our current limitations is to find new ways of reaching the unreached not to abandon what we already have.