Review: "15 Theses" of House Churches, Part 3
This is part of an ongoing series examining Wolfgang Simpson's "15 Theses". Review:
3. The Third Reformation.Simpson has stated that he wants a radical departure from the "system," the conventional means of church life. Though Luther made great strides in recovering the message of salvation, Simpson alleges that Luther failed to do enough in recovering the "pure" worship structure that came before Constantine. If we were to obtain such a departure today, it would amount to nothing less than a capital "R" Reformation of Lutheran proportions. He writes,
In rediscovering the gospel of salvation by faith and grace alone, Luther started to reform the Church through a reformation of theology. In the 18th century through movements like the Moravians there was a recovery of a new intimacy with God, which led to a reformation of spirituality, the Second Reformation. Now God is touching the wineskins themselves, initiating a Third Reformation, a reformation of structure.Theology and Intimacy with God
The oddity of the minds of those caught in modern and postmodern thought is that they can separate reason from faith. This separation of the two realms is best demonstrated in debates between creationists and evolutionists. Bystanders wonder what the problem is: are not science and religion answering different questions? Why then do some religionists get bothered by what some scientists say?
Christians who are more Reformed in their theology will tend to answer the confused by affirming the unity of faith and reason, that God should be visible in both nature and man.
Because faith and reason are unified in the universe God created, theology is important. Theology is, after all, the "study of God."
For instance, if Luther was right, then we can not know God through good works, even if those works are sanctioned by a church claiming the name of Christ. Having a basic understanding of theology would then be essential for any person who desires an intimate relationship with his Creator. That is, knowing what God has revealed about how to approach Him (i.e., through Jesus Christ) is foundational for approaching Him.
On the flip side, one who does not seek after or who rebels against sound theology cannot have an intimate relationship with God. The question of how one approaches God is revealed in Scripture, thus to invent new and inventive ways of approaching Him is an insult against His wisdom.
It seems strange, then, for Simpson to say that Luther's was a reformation "of theology" only to insinuates that after Luther came a Reformation in intimacy with God.
To be fair, we have all seen instances of dead theology, where an individual or an entire church seems to believe correctly but has no fruit of love and joy. Also to be fair, Simpson does say that it is a "new" intimacy, so he may not discount the value of Luther's salvation theology in order to enjoy a kind of intimacy (though I would take strong exception to anyone who teaches that the relationship one enjoys with Christ at salvation is "not enough" to enjoy and glorify Him, the basis for Gospel-living).
Also interesting is that Simpson singled out the Moravians—one of the 18th century movements responsible for those ushering in a reform of "new" intimacy. He does not specify his thoughts, leaving us with a couple of possibilities as to why he mentioned them.
The Moravians were the ones who seemed to turn on the light for John Wesley after his unsuccessful American missions trip, so Simpson may be referring to the kind of dead orthodoxy in which Wesley found himself beforehand. Simpson may also be referring to the hymns produced by the Moravians in this period, many of which demonstrate Germany's rich musical spirit and some of which were important enough for Wesley to copy.
Then again, others were having experiences like Wesley before the 1700's, apart from Moravian influence, so I'm not sure what the great "Second Reformation" of spirituality was. While there was the "First Great Awakening" in the American colonies, that came though Calvinistic theologians like Johnathan Edwards and George Whitefield, not Moravians.
The only other possibility that comes to mind is the new focus on holiness teachings. While some good has come out from holiness teachers, there has also come a great deal of error, central of which is the idea that each Christian must undergo a second, mystical experience to see real sanctification or blessing in their lives. Holiness teachings find their way throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries through a number of aberrant groups, such as the Pentecostal denomination (a group I presume has touched Simpson since he claims to have had a "direct experience with God" which showed him his purpose in life according to his online biography).
A Reformation in Structure?
In Part 2, we looked at what Scripture demands for the NT church's structure. If Simpson wants to look at the Roman Catholic church and say, "we need to reform this," he would be correct. If he looked at many of our contemporary Evangelical churches, such as the pragmatic-driven mega-churches or the more mystical Emergent churches, then he would also be correct in his assertion. But to say that a home church is the only way to do church is simply in error.
We might take issue with many home gatherings wishing to pass themselves off as "churches" if they reject the NT model of doing church.
It does not yet appear that Simpson's Theses are ones for believers to adopt, but we will continue to look at the rest in future posts, perhaps moving more quickly by studying more than one per post.