(Now that I’m an out of the closet Ancient-Futurist, it’s time to explore this topic a little more. Let me say that I don’t claim to be an expert, but I have studied this stuff, and have worked as a full-time pastor for almost 9 years. So, I think I’m at least a little qualified to think and talk about these things. So, here we go…)
Ok kids, I want to introduce you to the neighborhood bully. His name is Zeitgeist, but we call him Big Z. Zeitgeist (spirit of the age or spirit of the time) is the intellectual fashion or dominant school of thought that typifies and influences the culture of a particular period in time (thanks Wikipedia). Why is Big Z important? Well, he’s all around us whether or not we are fully aware of him. We are influenced by him as was every generation before us. Big Z has an uncanny knack for making us think and act in certain ways without us realizing that we are in fact being controlled by the thoughts and feelings of someone else. Studying history allows us to see Big Z at work. His work is not always positive, though it certainly isn’t always bad. Today, we want to look at some of the negative aspects of his handiwork.
Big Z is a bully. He’ll push you around, and call you names. He’ll call you a traitor to the cause, unpatriotic, authoritarian, ignorant, naïve, uneducated, bigoted, close-minded, and irrelevant. Whatever it takes to make the Church submit. Sometimes, Big Z acts like a tsunami that swallows everything in its path. Sometimes he acts like a slow boil. You’re the frog that doesn’t know he’s being cooked until it’s too late. “Submit or die,” is the message, but what Big Z doesn’t tell you is that if you submit, you will inevitably die.
Big Z is fundamentally opposed to the things of God because Big Z is mostly the product of sinful people, and only occasionally do the interests of sinful people and the interests of God intersect. Z needs to be tamed, harnessed, and directed by the things of God, but too often, the Church allows Big Z to tame God. Thankfully, God always has a way of turning the tables on Big Z and getting done what He wants done no matter Big Z’s objections. Even so, we must be aware and wise, and do our best to not be deliberately wrong.
We saw Big Z at work in the American Church, when in the days of the American Revolution, it became popular to throw off the authority of the Old World, and create new forms of government and religion. To oppose either was to be a traitor and unpatriotic, or to be deaf to the “movement” of God. Big Z knows his game.
Big Z was working hard during the Modernist/Fundamentalist controversies when, in the name of being relevant to the academic elite, much of Mainline Protestantism threw off orthodoxy. It just wasn’t intellectually acceptable to believe that Jesus rose physically from the dead. We all know that science tells us that really, really dead things can’t be brought back to life by anything we see in nature. Well…duh.
Big Z is a moody and fickle fellow. He doesn’t stick around too long, and pretty soon he’ll move on to a new interest. The church that submits to him ends up getting left in the dust. Just ask the Episcopal Church where submitting to Big Z will get you.
But see, Big Z is a very flexible guy. If he can’t get you one way, he’ll get you another. Whereas the Modern Liberal sold out orthodoxy in the appeal for the approval of the academic elite culture, the Evangelical movement is sold out to the pragmatism of getting populist butts in the pews. We’ve believed Big Z when he told us that to be relevant, we needed to be “practical” in our teaching and preaching. He told us that our relationship with and condition before our Creator isn’t nearly as relevant as the vision of success God has for you in 2013. He told us that it isn’t important to be reminded constantly through word and action that God’s grace in salvation is the same grace that carries us through everyday. He told us it was much more relevant for the preacher to tell us what to do. The core message of God’s grace just won’t sell enough tickets to the show. It’s about you, the “worship” you want, and the message you want in order to live your best life now.
Why am I an Ancient-Futurist? I believe that Big Z is leading the Evangelical movement to same demise as Liberal Protestantism, but along different lines. The old Modern Libs sold out orthodoxy in the name of being intellectually acceptable to the modernist, while keeping historic Christian worship practice. The modern Evangelical, who has kept the core of Christian doctrine – at least on paper – has sold out orthopraxy (right practice) in the name of being relevant to the audience. Orthopraxy (right practice) and orthodoxy (right belief) are not separable.
I’m an Ancient-Futurist because I believe it is time to bring back together the historic forms of worship, devotion, and discipleship with the biblical and historic doctrines of the Church as seen in the teaching handed down from the apostles through the inspiration of scripture. Big Z has told us at various times that we can cut off one part of ourselves and be just fine. I believe he lied to us.
In my next post, I want to explore the question of why belief/practice, method/message, orthodoxy/orthopraxy are neither separable nor infinitely flexible.