Yay! I’m a fanatic!

A fanatic in action.

That’s right. I’m a swivel-eyed extremist. I’m a close-minded fool. A totally un-modern man whose quest in life is to encourage hatred among people. At least that seems to be the claim of a mailing I received this week for an up-coming conference.
The conference is run by Free to Believe the liberal equivalent of the Group for Evangelism and Renewal. Their conference title is: ‘Interfaith – The New Ecumenism?’

Here’s where my fanaticism is named and shamed:

There have always been two definitions of ecumenism. In the narrow definition, ecumenism is simply another word for Christian Unity.  In practice for the last 100 years the ecumenical movement has essentially been a movement for Christian unity and a huge amount has been achieved.  Attitudes have been largely transformed.  Denominational differences matter infinitely less than they used to.  Apart from a few fanatics, most people no longer care about the labels anymore.

I bolded out the relevant section. I think that classical, Reformed theology and ecclesiology is closest to the Bible. I have serious issues with Baptists (on baptism), Methodism (on the role of man in salvation and perfectionism) and Anglicanism (prayer book, bishops, Roman accretions). Therefore, I am not those things. I believe they are my Christian brothers and sisters but there are important things that separate us. I’ll happily be called a fanatic.

However, it goes on:

At the same time it is now self-evident that some of the hopes invested in Christian unity were misplaced.  Many people believed that if denominations united this would lead to a missionary break-through.  In fact whatever was keeping people out of churches, it clearly was not the existence of separate denominations. All united churches have declined faster than the divided churches they replaced!  No-one can now believe that the Anglican-Methodist Covenant or the creation of the United Reformed Church were decisive events in the remaking of faith.  As a result, the movement for Christian unity, while still part of our commitment, has unmistakably lost drive and enthusiasm.

So, those churches who pursued unity have declined. Why? Could it be that in trying to bring about unity we’ve compromised so much that we no longer have anything worth believing or preaching? Notice my objections to other denominations above. They’re all objections to classic forms of those denominations’ practices. Would the average Methodist have any idea what perfectionism is nowadays? That makes my point, I think.

But rather than see the ecumenical project come to an end, Free to Believe want to see the project expanded to include other faiths. I think Private Eye have that project summed up pretty well in their satirical organisation Drawing All Faiths Together (DAFT).

So here I stand. A fanatical Reformed Protestant who believes that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only thing that can save sinners like me. It’s not cool. It doesn’t make me look clever in the world’s eyes but here I am anyway. Thank God for his wonderful grace in drawing me out of the liberal quagmire and into glorious freedom. And may God bring Reformation to his church.

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5 thoughts on “Yay! I’m a fanatic!

  1. Hi Phil,

    It would would be good to catch up some time.
    I would like to spend some quality time with you to encourage you as you encourage me.
    God bless
    Ash<

  2. Dear Phil, you do make me laugh sometimes, but I generally agree with you, denominational differences do matter to the inward spirituality of the believer, their depth and understanding of the faith they profess, and therefore it is still necessary that we preach on these differences as well as on those things we (as Christians) hold in common. Labels matter less than the teaching of the doctrines themselves. I rejoice in all that I find in common with Christian believers (and join them wherever possible in our common commission), but I do not pretend that our differences are immaterial. Ecumenism is not about ignoring our differences but recognising that which we hold in common and the presence of Christ in the other! No ecumenism can be done with people of other faiths for they are not part of the “household of God” as they are not by adoption children of our Father in heaven. Therefore, it is only appropriate to enter into gracious and sympathetic dialogue with these people of other religions to further our understanding of their beliefs, and to enter into an evangelistic engagement with them as led by the Bible and inspired by the Spirit. This belief in no way gives credence to violent, ungracious, dishonest treatment of others who are like us “made in the image of God” and therefore deserving of Christian respect and dignity! We must as Christians assure that our own house is in order and oppose all those who would abuse the Scriptures for political gain through preaching intolerance and violence towards others.

  3. Jon,
    The liberals don’t get me down. Quite the opposite – receiving that mailing made my day.
    I’m preaching in a Baptist church this Sunday so I’ll practice my debate with them and get back to you…

    Ash,
    Are you at GA next year?

  4. Not sure? But I think I will try, if only to see you mate.
    If not I’m happy to come home to Yorkshire for a day or two.
    God bless<

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