I’ve been browsing the Deep Creek Anglican Church Blog‘s chapter-by-chapter review of John H. Armstrong’s new book, Your Church Is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ’s Mission Is Vital to the Future of the Church.
I was unfamiliar with John’s [no relation, as far as I know!] ministry until now. But having skimmed the review at the above blog, I think I find in him a kindred spirit. Sectarianism based on epistemological modernism is indeed a scourge of the church today. A balanced, critical ecumenism rooted in a heightened appreciation for tradition is indeed a much-needed balm. What I see here makes me want to know more about Armstrong’s ministry.
To access the review, click here. Currently there is a brief piece about the late Donald Bloesch on the top of the linked page. However, if you scroll down to the bottom of the page and work your way up, you’ll be reading each brief chapter review in the order in which they were posted.
Here is a sample, from the review of the first chapter of Armstrong’s book:
John begins with a recognition that the church is in a period of significant transition. There are many new patterns of Christian faith and life emerging in the church – but our author calls us to see that the road to the future must run through the past. John’s context is the American church and he observes that “American Christians have a unique predilection to approach the Christian faith as if what we know is vastly more relevant than what previous generations knew.”
Unique to American Christians? I don’t think so.
Our author expresses concern (alarm?) at Christians building their lives and faith on various passages of Scripture understood through private experience. His argument is that Christ’s mission is best served by the one church of Jesus Christ ministering out of its spiritual unity in Christ and being rooted in core orthodoxy.
As John develops his thesis of the road to the future he makes the following points:
—Scripture is the supreme witness to the living Christ, illuminating the minds of God’s people in every culture and context. We need to listen to the witness of the whole church through Scripture.
—Contrary to the last few hundred years, the church in history has not been made up of unrelated and independent entities. Our author expresses the view that we are now witnessing the Holy Spirit bringing unity amongst our diversity – a new expression shaped by mission and ecumenism.
—Critical realism is required, defined as “a positive yet critical response to the past allowing the past to be properly linked with a biblically hopeful view about what God will do in the age to come.”
—Despite obvious flaws, there is no need to be pessimistic about the church. Why? It belongs to Christ! And we see congregations flourishing where the kingdom of God breaks out.
—Jesus’ prayer of John 17:20-24 is being answered in previously unheard-of-ways. We are witnessing Catholics and Protestants learning to interact with one another in gracious ways. We are beginning to experience the reality of Eph 4:4-6.
—Christians need a deep sense of our collective spiritual roots – this will “move us forward to new faith, fresh hope, and genuine love.”