One body, many tastes?
I have become quite re-ignited as a christian. John Stott’s contention in The Cross of Christ is not wrong: suffering, properly understood, increases one’s wisdom, and is God’s tool to train us. I have benefited greatly from this training the past decade.
I have been drawn increasingly and compulsively back to the Bible, and have for a few years now been reading it a great deal: several chapters a day backgrounded with reading commentaries, theologies, and other bible-centric writings.
One project I undertook last winter was that of attempting to come to an understanding of what it means to be ‘accused of’ (words selected with some intent) of being a Calvinist. Background: I was raised in the Christian Reformed church, and have occasionally admitted so. I currently meet regularly with a couple of christian brothers who do not share my reformed roots… it is they who have levelled said accusation on occasion. I’ll not go into that project at this point other than to say that one of the results of that effort were to more clearly show me in a way I had not previously fully appreciated that christianity comes in a lot of different flavours.
My initial reaction on coming to this thought was ’and that is so wrong!’ The church is a singularity. Is is ’the body’ of Christ, not ’the bodies’. There is throughout the scriptures talk of singularity: one people, one God (albeit triune), one faith, one road, and on and on. So: flavours? That can’t be right. It just can’t.
Or can it?
Even while Christ was here He had an awareness of multiplicity. He maintained a relatively strong exclusivity in doing His work among ’God’s people’ (the Isrealites), but was fully aware of future work in the Gentile world, and indeed some of His most memorable, if rare, work was to members of that Gentile otherness. Now, that doesn’t constitute a flavour, does it? Maybe not.
But lets move ahead just a few years to the book of Acts, and notably Peter and Paul’s work among the Gentiles. There were issues. Indeed, full-on crises. And what was the result? Could we not say that that the first flavour differentiations of christianity were ironed out in the Jerusalem conference, wherein Jewish christians held to a certain way of worship and life expression, and Gentile christians were given permission to hold to another? I think we could.
Was this conference the last to define flavours? Most assuredly not. Church history is replete with many, many conferences that divided the church. And whether for good or ill, those divisions still exist today. Are all these divisions legitimate? Again, opinions on this have existed throughout the history of Christ’s body on earth, and those opinions have all too often resulted in bloodshed and other fruits clearly not of the Spirit of God.
This post is a bit of introductory thinking on my part. I plan to explore the current flavours more fully, and will use the tag #flavours to allow easy navigation of this particular topic.