3/02/2007

Amazing Grace

I am looking forward to seeing "Amazing Grace" at our local theatre when it plays. It is part of the story of William Wilberforce, one of my favorite historical figures and my favorite politician of all time to date (Ronald Reagan is a very close second).

Wilberforce was a key figure in the abolition of the slave trade in the British colonies. He was also instrumental in the changes to the charter of The British East India Company in 1813 which allowed missionaries to enter India (e. g. William Carey). It also shows John Newton, the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” and some of his critical interactions with Wilberforce. Newton was one of the first Anglican priests to allow blacks, even slaves, into his parish as communicant members.

I'll go back to Wilberforce. His book Practical Christianity is a must read for all of those in our time who would promote "deeds not creeds." One of the most prominent leaders of the Evangelical church today has said, "I’m looking for a second reformation. The first reformation of the church 500 years ago was about beliefs. This one is going to be about behavior. The first one was about creeds. This one is going to be about deeds. It is not going to be about what does the church believe, but about what is the church doing. "

Church history shows that deeds (orthopraxy) are a necessary result of proper creeds (orthodoxy). The emphasis on proper belief, particularly the Atonement of Christ, in Practical Christianity should be well noted. (Just be wary of certain modern English versions of this book as some of the abridgements leave out some of the doctrinal materials. It is well worth wading through the old English.)

If you take "deeds over creeds" to its logical conclusion, we will see the end of Christianity as a true religion within one generation. (Keep in mind that I am not a prophet or the son of a prophet.) The gospel will be eclipsed as it was in the dark ages.

Christianity is a religion of faith, confident trust in God and His Written Word to us. It cannot survive without a strong belief system, and I can’t believe anyone who has surveyed the current state of the Evangelical church in the U. S. would not want a reformation of its beliefs.

For my part, I can’t even find evidence of a through-going system of beliefs based on God’s Word in most of the modern books I read. That’s why I read and recommend very old books.

It should be noted that the leader quoted above would probably not carry the reformation of deeds over creeds to its logical conclusion. I think he would want the beliefs to be joined by the works, not to be supplanted by them. His ministry to date shows that in many ways. But keep in mind that many consequences of historical speeches that inspire movements are unintended misunderstandings.

The leader quoted above is not associated with the Emergent Church Movement. I do find several authors identified with the Emergent Church Conversation who would most certainly take the reasoning above all the way to the bitter end.

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