Catholics = those united in orthodox Christian doctrine. Full stop. Or, at least, that’s how I’m defining it in this post. By using such a term, I do not refer to the false catholicity of Roman Catholicism, but the catholicity true Christians share on the foundation of true doctrine.
There are generally two ways in which professing Christians can fellowship. They can fellowship through right doctrine, or on the foundation thereof (the most basic of which would be the doctrine of God, of course). Or they can fellowship through a common goal.
There are pros and cons to each. For instance, those who fellowship through right doctrine (catholic Christians) are exclusive. They exclude people from their fellowship because they do not believe in the same ways. This tends to wreck friendships, and it makes large-scale parachurch organization really, really difficult if not impossible in some measure. The pro, however, would be the integrity of doctrine and fellowship founded upon true, substantial and eternal doctrines revealed by God Himself.
Those who fellowship through common goals may amass more friends. But, we have to remember, goals change. Goals change because social issues, which often elicit our goals, change. The pro for those who fellowship through common goals is more friends, higher-grossing conferences, better branding, and perhaps more influence. But all of this stuff depends largely upon which goals are shared and what kinds of issues are seen as relevant. Many of these goal-oriented platforms will deteriorate over time and will not last beyond a generation or two simply because interests will change.
“Big Boys” is what I’ve termed those who fellowship through arbitrarily elected common goals. Just over the last five years, I’ve watched major Christian influences shift doctrine, change churches, and change their associations. I’ve seen friendships develop which I never thought I’d see. I’ve seen associations crumble, and churches disband. And all of this movement appears to be the result of a realignment in goals and priorities. Such are never concrete, because human interests change. To say it another way, common goals commonly fluctuate.
Christian modernity whimsically selects what it believes to be important, and then it goes about forming relationships. It’s nothing but an exercise in subjectivism. Sure, the facts they hold to be important are themselves objective. But their determination of those priorities are altogether subjective. This largely explains why some people leave churches when someone sneezes the wrong way while talking about eschatology. Modern Christians—instead of ordering their theology according to some objective standard—have pet doctrines.
The speaker circuit of the evangelical industrial complex—no—of the Reformed evangelical industrial complex, is an instantiation of this Christian modernity.
The reason we have speakers sharing stages who have vastly different ideas of who God is is but a symptom not only of ignorance but of a subjective circumstance-driven fellowship. The reason some of these major Christian speakers can lock arms on social issues is because more fundamental aspects of the Christian faith, e.g. the very answer to the question of what and who God is, are relegated to the realm of non-importance. Why? Because the subjective interests of these speakers lie elsewhere. Fluctuating social conflict has become the driving force behind fellowship.
The solution to this sickness of subjectivism is a confessional theology. Not only do confessions offer clear doctrinal guardrails which will help form Christian relationships on the basis of the most important truths. But they also provide a causal, systematic structure.
The historic confessions, a la., The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, are self-consciously ordered according to cause and effect. This is why they begin with the first principles, i.e. Scripture and God. Scripture is how we know God sufficiently unto salvation, and God is who accounts for both Scripture and all the doctrine flowing out of it. Instead of a subjectively determined theology, and fellowship built upon the same, we need objectively determined theology as the wind behind the sails of our relationships.
This is excellent. I have three questions, or really one question which concerns three items. Are common goals, pet doctrines, and confessions merely options for us to choose from or axioms (i.e. inevitabilities) that we must employ? I lean toward thinking the latter. Let me explain why with an example. The Big Boys haven't laid aside a confession, per se, but by their actions have tacitly affirmed the confession that, "Present day issues are more important for the sake of fellowship than first principle truths which might otherwise divide us." Even in this, I sense a terrible irony, namely that this is itself, for them, a first principle. What do you think?
Yeah this is a huge problem for me. I'm troubled seeing how some big names in our reformed circles endorse bad books seemingly ignorantly and just ignoring any opposing critiques from the "little boys". Our new visiting church in Mebane North Carolina have went full CRT and SBC. It's hard enough finding reformed Baptist churches, but now many of them are woke or they are walking away from confessionalism toward their social common goals