Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Revisiting "Which NT Church"?

A couple of years ago the following exchange took place on the Church_of_Christ Yahoo!Groups email list.


heb12347 wrote:

It comes down to this: is it possible to restore the NT church? That is the goal.

Kent responds:

NT church?

- The church of the early years that was exclusively Jewish and did things with a decidedly Jewish flavor, including worshiping in the Temple and keeping Jewish vows and celebrating Jewish holidays and insisting on circumcision and becoming fully Jewish in order to be a member of the Messiah's church?

- The church of the mid-century that was composed of a mix of Jew and Gentile, with an uneasy truce between the two cultures, which eschewed Torah-keeping for non-Jews, but had its own strange customs brought over from paganism such as Love Feasts bordering on the orgiastic and praying for the dead and glossolalia (speaking in "tongues") (which things Paul endeavored to tone down into more Christ-like versions).

Of course, if you had said "first century church" instead of "New Testament church", I could have also added:

- The church of the late-century that began to look with distrust on the Jewish community, but which nevertheless adopted much of the structured rigor from that culture and began to make laws which we don't find in the text of the New Testament, along with structures such as a tiered eldership and formal rituals in worship and special clothing for the officiators and special rote prayers and liturgies.

Please don't misunderstand me to say that I believe the goal of restoring the NT church is a bad or faulty goal; I believe it's a good goal. I just think we need to be careful about thinking that we've even properly defined what that church looks like, and even more careful about thinking we've reached our goal, which is what seems to be the perception in some of our churches.

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