The Future of the Church

Last night I watched most of the livestreamed Future of the Church conversation online. I watched the rest this afternoon. I commented on last year’s Future of Protestantism discussion at length. I don’t have the time to do the same for this year’s conversation, but I do commend it to your attention. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Church History, Controversies, Culture, Ethics, Society, The Church, Theological, Video, What I'm Watching. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Future of the Church

  1. Cal says:

    Here are some thoughts having watched it last night and, attempting(!), to digest it properly:

    Overall, I thought Simon Chan had the best concrete statement, which is odd because he speaks for the most “movement”-esque of the four present. I think he had the best understanding of what was occurring, both positively and negatively. At points, I wish he had more time to speak.

    On the flip-side, I was frustrated with Fred Sanders who was about as flippant as you could be on stage without just walking off. “Must the Communion of the Church be visible?” (or something to that effect) was met with a resounding “sure…”. Maybe he was just keeping it light, I thought it was buffoonish. He had no vision besides what was already occurring. He gave a poor defense for congregational polity and portrayed evangelicalism’s mood quite well in being apathetic and confused.

    The greatest bafflement of all is the fact that someone who thinks the trinity is so important seems to function as if Nicaea fell from the sky and was not apart of the hardness of the Church trying to be catholic (I like Rausch’s definition here).

    Speaking of Rausch, it was funny to watch him use his Vaticanese to say and veil things, like the term ‘ecclesiastical community’ which seems friendly, and it is, but means something particular. He was trying to be gentle and loving. I commend him. But of course, the elephant in the room is: should all Protestants return to Rome? Is communion with the bishop how to bring about unity?

    On account of this reality, it’s sort of hard for him to give any real advice to vagueries about journeying on the path. I’d contend that a) a group committed to Christ does function as Church, but b) it ought to seek greater forms of unity, and look for older and more established expressions to join with. In some ways, Rome is still too hard-nosed about its eclessiological distinctives to ever bring about reunion. Rausch still was a curious figure, but welcomed.

    Now, at first, I was curious what an “Anglican” approach to this issue was going to be (as that was Radner’s descriptor). I found him very interesting and thought a lot of what he said was thoughtful, but I found it odd and a little baffling. I’m still not sure I understand his presuppositions about the churches->Church->Bride and the pre-existence of Scripture to History. His solutions seem airy and academic, but the man is embattled. I don’t know what he seems himself doing, being whacked by the majority liberal party in the Episcopal polity. If churches are fading in and out of the unity that is the Church, why waste your time figuring out canon law to protect yourself or subvert the apostasy? I don’t understand his Anglican identity anymore than just a mere accident of time (i.e. this is where Christ regenerated me).

    I was also disappointed (though not unexpectedly) by the questions asked. The ramble about she/it had possible merit, but time constraints and a bumbling anecdote-question kept it from potential. Despite the silly historical articulation about the Reformation, the question of belief/praxis was actually valuable.

    Though he was wrong about the Reformation, there was a change in emphasis on doctrinal content (especially in differentiating between Rome, Geneva, Wittenberg, Zurich, and Anabaptist-Land). The emotional launch of the Enlightenment and future Liberal theology was the exhaustion of the 30 years war. Doctrine, which had been so meticulously scripted and argued for, was by and large consigned to arcanum and dusty tomes in the library. Theology was no longer considered ‘Queen of the Sciences’ (which it remained and still is, though now new theologies of the State, the Nation, Reason, Nature etc. emerged).

    There is a lot of fruit in exploring this. There’s a reason the Pietists flourished, who maintained an initial sense of orthodoxy, though through excesses this was trashed.

    Woe on us, a deeply enriching question, due to historical incompetence, was met with snark and banished to the netherworld! Why must academics be so academic!! Which is the main failure of the conference: I wish it had people more well versed in missions. Simon Chan was the closest, and it’s for that reason (I think) his thoughts were the most rewarding (the anecdote about the different Indian Baptists was gold).

    That’s my two cents. May God have mercy on us all,

  2. quinnjones2 says:

    I have listened to the first 40 minutes, but it took me a fair bit longer than that because I kept stopping to make notes and to have a think, so I will resume sometime over the weekend, hopefully.
    For now:
    I like the time-structure:
    ten-minute opening talk by each speaker
    round-the-table talk
    Q&A time
    brief response from Peter Leithart

    • quinnjones2 says:

      Well, three cheers for Peter Leithart’s closing comments and especially the way he developed the question ‘Do you know Jesus?’. There’s hope for us all!

      • quinnjones2 says:

        One thought of my own: I know that adding to and changing scripture is forbidden, but I must confess that some additions to Galatians 3:28 have crossed my mind (‘…for there is neither Anglican nor Catholic, neither ‘-ist’ nor ‘-ism’, for you are all one in Christ’)

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