Theological flowers

Calvinists sum up their theology, as well as their Dutch connections, with the acronym TULIP.  That stands for Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints.

Southern Baptists are currently in the midst of a controversy between their Calvinist members and their more Arminian brethren.  So to compete with the TULIP faction, as Bill Leonard reports, the non-Calvinist Baptists have come up with a flower of their own:  POINSETTIA.  That stands for “Pursuit unconditional, Own guilt, Inclusive atonement, Natural responsibility, Spontaneous regeneration, Election available, Temperate foreknowledge, True freedom, Indestructible security, Almighty gospel.”

Your task:  Come up with a flower for other theological traditions (Catholics?  Orthodox?  Pentecostal?  Methodist?  Non-Denominational?), turning it into an acronym or a symbol for its distinct teachings and practices.  After the jump, the flower of Lutheranism. [Read more...]

Church government by the pastor

Continuing our earlier discussion about denominations and non-denominations, we need to consider another factor:  church government.  Some denominations define themselves not by their theology but by the way they are governed.    Presbyterians have a system of elders (presbyters, in the Greek).  Episcopalians have bishops.  Congregationalists have voters.  Other denominations have some variation or combination of these three basic structures.  But non-denominational congregations tend to have a different approach to church government that I think is unique in church history. [Read more...]

Churches, sects, denominations, and non-denominations

Sociologist of religion Peter Berger (an ELCA Lutheran) discusses the phenomenon of the Sunday Assembly, which we blogged about yesterday.  He said the fact that atheists too are gathering together following the pattern of religious activities demonstrates the almost universal human need to worship (or the equivalent) and to join together with others who hold common religious or philosophical convictions.

In the course of his discussion, he draws on older sociologists who distinguish between different kinds of religious institutions:  a church (which a person is born into) and a sect (which a person chooses to join).  Such a distinction, it seems to me, grows out of the European state church.  American religion, according to Dr. Berger, has added the concept of the denomination, which a person may be born into or choose freely to join.  Dr. Berger further says that denominations of one sort or another–in the sense of “a community of value, religious or otherwise,” have become inevitable in America, extending even to atheists.

After the jump, read his argument and some questions I have about “non-denominational” churches.  [Read more...]

The largest Protestant denominations

New statistics have been released giving the largest Protestant denominations.  We Missouri Synod Lutherans are #11 with 2.3 million members.  That’s more than the Episcopalians (#12 with 2 milllion), though they get all the attention.  If you add up the two biggest Lutheran groups (the ELCA being #5 with 4.5 million), we’d come in at #3.  That’s lots more than explicitly Calvinist groups, though they have seem to have the most influence.  Then again, the denomination of not having a denomination has some 12.2 million members, which would make it #2.

See the list of the top 15 after the jump.  What can we conclude from this list, if anything? [Read more...]

Religious retention rates

A study of religious retention rates–that is, what percentage of people raised in a particular church or religion stay with it when they are grown–is quite interesting.  Lutherans are in second place among Protestants (58%),  just after the Baptists (60%).  The group with the worst performance in transmitting their beliefs to their young people is atheists (30%).

 

Did you know that Atheists have the lowest retention rate of any “religious” group? Some interesting Data from CARA | Archdiocese of Washington.

 

HT:  Joe Carter

What about all these churches?

Reformation Day is nothing to celebrate, according to some Christians.  It marks the day Christianity was shattered into countless little sects.  We need to find unity rather than revel in things that divide us.  Luther’s breaking away from what was then one Church was a tragedy.

First of all, Luther didn’t break away from the Church.  He was excommunicated!  There is a big difference.  Secondly, the Church did need reforming.  Even the Church of Rome came to admit that, finally coming to grips with the financial and moral corruption that had become rife in late medieval Christianity.  If there were no Reformation, there would have been no Counter-Reformation.

As for all of the subsequent church bodies, Paul McCain, in a Reformation Day meditation, offers a useful taxonomy:

Another point that confuses many people is the fact that there are so many different churches to choose from. It is an awful mess, so it seems. Yes, it can be confusing, but it really is not as complicated as some would think, or want to maintain. Up until the year 1054 there was basically one unified Christian church, distinct from a number of non-Christian or anti-Christian heretical groups. In 1054 the church divided into Eastern and Western Christianity. By the time of the late Middle Ages the Western Church, which had come to be known as the Roman Catholic Church, had reached a point of deep corruption, most importantly in what it believed, but also in the morals and life of the clergy and church leadership. In 1517 there began what we know today as the Reformation, when Martin Luther, a professor and monk in Wittenberg, Germany posted a series of “talking points” on the practice of selling “indulgences” by which people were led to believe they could buy forgiveness of sins, for their dead relatives in purgatory. A person has to decide is the Lutheran view of Christianity is correct, or the Roman Catholic view is correct.

After the Reformation, many groups developed from the teachings of persons other than Martin Luther, most notably, two men: Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin, who did much of his work in Geneva. These two men and their writings gave rise to many churches that can be traced back to and grouped under the general category of “Reformed” churches. In America in the 19th and 20th century there arose many splinter groups from Reformed churches, these would include “Charismatic” and “Pentecostal” groups, along with groups that rejected all denominations and became, in effect, a denomination of their own, the so-called “non-denominational” churches. And so the question then becomes, “Is Lutheran theology correct, or Reformed theology correct?” So, is it Rome or Wittenberg. If Wittenberg, then is it Geneva or Wittenberg?” Once those decisions are made, the myriad of denominations today makes a lot more sense.

But there is an additional challenge unique to our century and more so the past half-century. Today, despite all their denominational differences and historic confessions, the vast majority of Christian churches in Protestantism have been nearly overwhelmed by the rise of liberal Christianity. This unites them more so than any other feature of their confession of faith. Historic differences are no longer regarded as divisive since these divisions were based on one group’s understanding of the Biblical text as opposed to another group’s understanding of the Bible. For example, the difference between Lutheran and Reformed views of the Lord’s Supper are very important and based on very serious and clear differences in how the words Jesus spoke at the Last Supper are understood. Liberalism however regards the words of Jesus in the Bible as unreliable. It teaches that we can not be sure that what is recorded in the Bible is true and accurate, therefore, there is no point in being “dogmatic” about much of anything having to do with the Bible. Modern liberalism has swept through all Christian denominations, Lutheran Reformed, Protestant and Roman Catholic.

via The Festival of the Reformation: October 31 – Does Being Lutheran Still Matter? | CyberBrethren-A Lutheran Blog.

So one must decide if Rome was right, or if Wittenberg was right?  (Or, before that, I suppose, if Constantinople was right.)  If Luther was right to post those theses, the next decision is whether Wittenberg or Geneva was right.  And then, I suppose, a choice between a number of other places (Canterbury?  New Bedford?  Plymouth, Massachusetts?  Upstate New York?  Chicago?  Azusa Street?)

But now EVERYBODY also must decide between conservative theology and the new (and unifying) liberal theology.


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