Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Monasticism Redivivus

Note: The following is a response to a person who left a comment a few days ago in the combox of an article written by us over a year ago titled New Monasticism. My response is in blue font.

Lindsay stated:
You said that they [the New Monastics] accept everything nominally Christian, even thought 2 denominations might be mutually exclusive. I don't see this as a bad thing, Paul himself warned us about denominations. Being Christian means believing that Jesus is the one savior, that should be what brings us together, denominations should not get in the way. We may have different approaches to things, but we can still worship together, love each other, and love the world, together, we still believe the same core beliefs, we all believe in Jesus, the trinity, and the apostles creed, these are what matter, not the the different ways we go about believing in them. Jesus is not divided, nor should we be. Paul himself warned us about denominations.
Hi Lindsay,

Thank you for your comments. We also agree that there must be essential unity in the church of Jesus Christ and that Christians must strive for such so as to maintain a strong and effective witness to a lost and dying world. However, I have several disagreements that I would like to share:

1. Paul was not warning against denominations in 1 Cor. 1:10-17, for such a reading would be anachronistic. Instead, he's condemning sectarianism/factions within the local church at Corinth. This is not the same thing as denominationalism as it has been historically understood. Denominationalism has been historically rooted in a core set of Protestant beliefs; i.e., The Five Solas of Protestant Reformation, the doctrine of the Trinity, the virginal conception of Christ, and the literal resurrection of Christ and of all people at His second coming. In other words, various local churches could have different views on say the mode and subjects of baptism but in order to be considered a true church of Christ they had to adhere to
certain cardinal doctrines of the faith in order to be considered truly Christian.
Lindsay: Being Christian means believing that Jesus is the one savior, that should be what brings us together, denominations should not get in the way. We may have different approaches to things, but we can still worship together, love each other, and love the world, together, we still believe the same core beliefs, we all believe in Jesus, the trinity, and the apostles creed, these are what matter, not the the different ways we go about believing in them. Jesus is not divided, nor should we be.
2. Roman Catholics also believe in the Apostle's Creed, believe that Jesus is the "one savior . . . believe in Jesus, the trinity", etc. However, they deny one of the essential truths of the Christian faith, justification by faith alone (Sola Fide). In The Council of Trent, Catholic Church declared,
CANON XI.-If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema. [http://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/ct06.html]
CANON XII.-If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.
CANON XIII.-If any one saith, that it is necessary for every one, for the obtaining the remission of sins, that he believe for certain, and without any wavering arising from his own infirmity and disposition, that his sins are forgiven him; let him be anathema.
CANON XIV.-If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema.
CANON XV.-If any one saith, that a man, who is born again and justified, is bound of faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate; let him be anathema.
CANON XXIV.-If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.

CANON XXX.-If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema.
By virtue of their clear denial of Sola Fide, Catholics and other pseudo-Christian groups like them are preaching a damning lie. Here's an example of modern Rome's heretical denial of the exclusivity of Christ:
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841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."
Thus, according to 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Christians cannot have fellowship and work together in mutual ministry with anyone who preaches a false gospel and says that Christ is not the only mediator between God and man, no matter how nice they are (Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5). That is because those who wholeheartedly affirm such things are not Christians.
Lindsay: You also said: "Jesus didn't command us to cozy up to people who did not believe in the truth of the gospel. A lie believed by a thousand people is still a lie." I agree with you to an extent, you're right that a lie is a lie no matter what. However, I think we are called to cozy up to people who don't believe in the truth. That is what Jesus did, did he not? He was friends with the tax collectors and the prostitutes. He said himself, a doctor doesn't try to heal the healthy, a doctor is there for the sick. We are here to form relationships with those who don't know him, and to show His love to them, we are not here to surround ourselves only with other believers, what good does that do the world? Being close with unbelievers does not mean that we support their beliefs, and it doesn't mean we have to deny ours, but we are called to go to the poor and the sick and the lost with God's love and God's truth. I don't believe that a Christian can love another and not be sharing God's truth.
We are not saying that we shouldn't develop relationships with unbelievers so as to bring the gospel to them. We wholeheartedly affirm such things! During the semesters, we do weekly evangelistic outreaches on our local college campuses as we seek to engage the lost at every turn. We engage in cordial conversations, welcome debate (formal or informal) because we fully believe in the life-changing power of the gospel.

However, to reach people with the gospel we, as professing Christians have to first be agreed on what the gospel actually is. Feeding the poor is no good if the feeders are trumpeting uncertain and inconsistent sounds. If my Catholic friend wants to yoke with me in ministry to bring the gospel to abortive mothers, he must first renounce his Catholicism and then put his faith in Jesus Christ and embrace the true gospel as it is presented in the New Testament. Anything else is merely another welfare movement, and not a fulfillment of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20.

Lindsay: I understand your concerns, and they are definitely important to consider, but I urge you to look more closely into the beliefs on the New Monastic movement.
I have read their books, listened to their presentations, and weighed them in the balances and found them doctrinally wanting.
Lindsay: I find a lot of truth in their lives,
According to what standard? Yours or Scripture's? Truth is that which corresponds to the mind of God. We only come to know the mind of God by studying the word of God. Anything else is guess-work. If people do not speak according to His word in the main and plain things, it's because they have no light in them, no matter how many poor people they've clothed and fed (Isaiah 8:20). Remember, Ghandi helped a lot of poor people, but Ghandi rejected the gospel and is in Hell today. Feeding poor people isn't going to matter for a hill of beans if you and they don't embrace the gospel of Christ. People can feed the poor till the cows come home, but without Christ, all of them will burn in Hell.
Lindsay: . . . and they aren't claiming to be right all the time, they want to live a life glorifying God and spreading his love, Shane Claiborne said so himself in his interview with Tony Campolo.
"Claiming to be right all the time" isn't the issue, the gospel is the issue. I am not expecting anyone to be "right" all the time because no one individual person understands all parts of Scripture with equal clarity due to the noetic effects of sin on our minds. We all have false beliefs about Scripture to one extent or another, but to flatten out all doctrinal propositions with the result that you confuse the Catholic "gospel" with the Biblical gospel in order to promote helping the poor and indigent is grossly mistaken at best and heretical at worst.

The bottom line: We do not yoke ourselves with unbelievers who clearly deny the Biblical gospel in order to work together in mutual ministry nor can we share fellowship with them (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

I'll conclude with a statement from the article you commented on:
The only problem with the New Monasticism movement is its foundation--and therefore everything built upon the foundation. There is no clear theological basis for New Monasticism; they accept anything & everything that is nominally Christian, promoting what Pastor Dustin describes as a "buffet bar" mentality to Christianity.
"Buffet bars" are great when it comes to getting a meal with the family after church, but they are horrible when it comes to doing theology and developing theological foundations for ministry. New Monasticism is wrong because it confuses Biblical discipleship with social justice; and the two are not the same. We are not commanded to go into the world by first adopting a least common denominator faith that allows us to strategically join forces together with heretics in order to feed the poor. Instead, we are told to preach the gospel, make disciples, and then baptize them. If we do that, everything else Christians are supposed to be doing will follow.