Backward Movements within the Church
Jay Miklovic of Dead Pastor’s Society has written a cognitive article on the backward movements currently popular within the visible church these days.
The post is entitled The Ideal Time in History? and it’s a really good read which I recommend. In the article, Jay points out several groups that either claim for their movement participation to be a return to, or at least a seeking to return to, an ideal time in history which would most accurately reflect biblical Christianity. In those ‘backward’ groups’ Jay included movements seeking a return to:
- Acts 2 (1980’s and ‘90’s church growth movement)
- the 1950’s
- 1700-1950’s Revivalism
- the Protestant Reformation
- Discipleship movements
Of course, there are others, but again, I encourage you to read his post for the details and objections to each view. The proverbial bottom line is that all these groups either claim or seek to find a point in history to which the Church needs to return to.
Should the Church even be thinking this way in light of the revelation found in Scripture? I do not think so. Allow me to give a few reasons why I believe that.
We should ask ourselves, has the true Church ever known and understood absolutely everything it needs to know? Of course not, and thus, the Church needs to make progress in its understanding of Scripture, knowing all the while that the written Word as we have it is final in every way, i.e. no new revelations from God.
God designed that the Church be progressive – not in the emergent movements understanding of the term – but progressive in the sense that the Bible was not handed down to the Church of God in one fell swoop, but rather over generations; nor was grace given for the Church to fully understand everything in a given point in history, but rather understanding came with the provided grace of God in His own time and pleasure. In other words, there is a progressivity of both the revelation of God’s Word and the Church’s understanding of it throughout history. That is the testimony of Scripture.
We are progressing towards perfection, are we not?
Abraham was given the promise of God that in him all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). For a long time, God dealt with Israel like He did with no other nation (Psalm 147:19,20). And yet, just before His death in John 12:32, Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” Whoa! There’s a progressive change! From God’s truth shown and dealt in Israel mostly to “all men” and “all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
At this point in history, the Truth of God and His Word had not changed, but the understanding of the Church had! No one was looking backward, seeking “the ideal time” for God’s people to return to, but looking unto God for understanding of the types and shadows of the past which were now becoming – and being revealed to the Church – as reality at that time.
The Church, in the book of Acts, had not fully come to a realization of understanding God’s Word. In Acts 10, even the Apostle Peter needed a vision from God in order to prepare him for proclaiming the Gospel to those outside Judaism. Also, there was that big meeting (maybe even a potluck supper (some will assume with the traditional green-bean casserole), who knows) in Jerusalem where the apostles had to hash it out in their understanding of God’s Word in order to even take the Gospel to the Gentiles!
Progressive, not looking back in history, and that, by God’s design. That is the testimony of Scripture.
Did the Church’s understanding stop? No, it continued to be progressive by God’s grace, ever learning, ever understanding, all by God’s grace, in His timing.
For those who are fans of the reformers, even they did not get it right all the time. Sorry. They messed up bigtime on numerous occasions.
The point to all of this is simple.
It must be firmly concluded that, regardless of the popularity of any particular “backward” movements (like New Reformation) seeking a “return” to a point in history for the Church – OR a “rediscovering” (so-called) of the Gospel (a dangerous suggestion) or any other biblical truth – it is the sacred duty of true believers, of the Church as a whole, to continue to fervently seek a greater understanding of God’s Word for a deeper, yes, deeper understanding of it, resulting in a most timely application of it for our own God-ordained moment in history, and that, may it ever be remembered, be to the glory of God.
- Forfeiting the Favor of God (5ptsalt.com)
Excellent followup to my post over at DPS. I think you hit the nail on the head. Even here there are some precautions required. The idea of ‘deeper’ understanding is spot on, but some will wrongly confuse ‘deeper’ and ‘new’. I think you spelled it out pretty clear. We are looking for deeper understanding of the ‘existing’ reality of God’s word and the historic Gospel, we are not looking for a ‘new’ understanding of it. Our propensity is toward redefinition when it should simply be a greater realization of the existing truth.
Anyway, good stuff.
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