Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Revisiting "Which NT Church"?, Part 2

heb12347 wrote:
To presume that Restoration has anything to do with cultural or local features misses the point altogether (and appears to be a dodge - not an accusation, just an impression). Restoration has to do with those features that are of age-lasting and spiritual significance: the plan of salvation, worship that is in spirit and truth (matters that are identified as "musts").

Kent responds:

Ah, but now you've moved into the realm of "picking and choosing":

"Hmm, we don't do 'baptism for the dead', so we'll put it in the non-must category. Oh, and miraculous gifts also, they need to go into the non-age-lasting category. Let's see, saving up every Sunday to help Christians in famine, let's make that into an age-lasting and spiritually-significant "must", but let's change it from a one-time famine-relief effort to on-going local church support. And kneeling in prayer is obviously a cultural thing, so we can dispense with that, but, oh, that guy that proved his humility by bowing his head in prayer? Let's keep that. Yeah, that's spiritually significant."

In addressing the question of restoring the New Testament church, the question remains valid: "Which NT church?"

My point is that the term "NT church" is ill-defined. All my life we have tossed around the phrase with the meaning that there was only one church described in the New Testament (and gave Eph 4:4 and others as proof text), and then went about doing the sort of picking-and-choosing as above to define and defend a particular version of the NT church.

I'm all in favor of restoring the age-lasting and spiritually-significant features of the NT church; I just think we need to be wary of our conclusions, and realize that the next person over, equally honest and truth-seeking as ourselves, may find an entirely different church in the New Testament than what we find.

In other words, my point is that the NT church may not always "look like" the church we define and defend as the NT church. If an all-Jew church moved in next door to our assembly building, and they put a Sign Out Front that said Church Of Christ, and they used Hebrew phrases and incense and observed Passover (with a Christian meaning to it) and woreprayer shawls and yarmulkes, most of us would dismiss them as being something other than a true "Church of Christ". But Paul wouldn't have. And neither would God. I daresay that if Jesus came to visit us before his next return, he'd be more comfortable going to church there than in our building, not because that is more "right" than our version, but because it's more in line with the culture he knew as a kid.

Let's be careful about which "NT church" we define and defend, is all I'm saying.

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