Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Good and bracing thoughts about corporate worship, from Ben Witherington

Disclaimer: I haven't read Witherington's books; quotations from them indicate to me that he has some notions with which I'd heartily and emphatically disagree.

HSAT: Justin Taylor links to a first and second post by scholar Ben Witherington, offering a withering (pun intended) interaction with Barna and Viola's Pagan Christianity.

You don't have to have read PC or any of Witherington's books to find this pair of essays profitable. Witherington offers some very solid, Biblical, historical, theological interaction with an idea that's been festering for a few decades. This is the idea that what's really wrong with the church is that we have structure in our services, meet in buildings, and have services led by men. Things would be so much more wonderful if we had none of those things. Constantine ruined everything. All those bad things entered after several centuries.

Witherington points out that the idea is itself nonsense: those unstructured meetings still meet in particular places at particular times with particular ends in mind, and have particular individuals exercizing some sort of oversight. But he also shows the bad, un-Biblical thinking that lies at the bottom, and the crazy (I'd say Dathanic) abuse of the truth of the priesthood of all believers.

(Anyone over 40, I'd say, looks at the current Emerg*** [and other] mish-mash and thinking, "Uh, yeah, this is so new we already tried it and rejected it in the 60's and 70's.")

Witherington offers more, but you'll find here a bracing and healthy counter to this latest man-centered fad. It's well worth wading through, and not minding the typo's.


Stefan Ewing said...

Witherington is excellent on Biblical scholarship and evidentiary apologetics. His dissection of the "Jesus Tomb" hoax was masterly. He's a Methodist and does hold some views that I disagree with, but he's a good guy to have in your corner when it comes to these kinds of things.

Tim and Sarah said...

this is a great response from another scholar

Ron said...

Tim and Sarah

Just a question; is this a "great" response because it fits your own notions of what church should be? Viola freely admits his prior negative views on "institutional church", which can lead to a Scriptural search to substantiate and validate his views, which leads to forming a man-centered opinion void of the whole counsel of the Word. Might I suggest a review of The Parable of the Banquet in Luke 14:15-24? Is the problematic issue revealed within this verse where or how the banquet was prepared or held? Not at all.

candy said...

Anyone over 40, I'd say, looks at the current Emerg*** [and other] mish-mash and thinking, "Uh, yeah, this is so new we already tried it and rejected it in the 60's and 70's.")

Isn't that SO true! It reminds me of when I was taking art up at the university and this couple did endless nude photographs of each other and then would scratch them up to portray abuse or some such thing. All I could do was roll my eyes cuz they thought they were so cutting edge in their "art". I thought, "Do you really think you are the first to do this kind of stuff?" I thought they were the most self-absorbed people I had met up there. Incidentally, people raved about their photographs.

Oh yeah. I was totally a part of the 60's and 70's trend. Friends in Berkeley, New Age mysticism, free-spirit hippiedom. I even had a friend who named her son Sunshine and another friend who named her daughter Ladybug.

DJP said...

Is this couple leading a "cutting edge" emerg*** church now?

Maybe we should call it "Athenianism" (Acts 17:21).

Highland Host said...

Witherington is an Arminian, but after the mould of John Wesley, my favourite Arminian. Like Wesley he is a very insightful writer except on Calvinism, when he really shouldn't have put pen to paper. But the rest of his corpus is enough to make you forgive his slips.

Of course I've heard a lot of the things in Barna and Viola that he refers to before. It's not really fair to blame Foxe for repeating the Isaiah being sawn in half tradition, though. It's Jewish, and Foxe didn't have access to the sort of research library that Witherington has. What's more, the image of Isaiah being sawn in two is such a useful one to refer to modernists who postulated two Isaiahs!!!

I've met with many of these claims before. The funny thing is that it sounds a lot like these two postmodernists have rediscovered 19th century Brethrenism, only they are presenting it in a 21st-century dress. So the Brethren have no idea of setting apart elders or deacons, and any male believer is permitted to speak at the Breaking of the Bread.

Two great articles, thanks for bringing them to our attention.

Highland Host said...

PS. Witherington's Methodist background helps him to see, I think, that the sort of 'sharing meetings' advocated by Viola and Barna have a place - but not gthe place of public worship. This is one of the best things about the early Methodists (Wesleyan and Calvinistic), they understood the distinction. They understood also the need for ministers with some sort of training in using the Bible.