A few months ago Michael Spencer on his Blog, described his concept of the "ideal church." Based on that concept and discussion I wanted to attempt to do the same. To do this discussion justice, I have to post in at least two parts, probably more.
To start with a clean slate, regarding the practical application of the local church, I would like to deconstruct our whole concept of "church," with a small "c."
But, before I can deconstruct church history I have to go back discuss how we think of history and how our philosophical orientation—being Dualistic or Monist—affects that view.
Most of my Christian friends see history as directed by God. The direction that history has gone in, over the ages, is the direction that God wanted it to go in. In other words, the Church that we have . . . is the church that God, in His sovereignty has ordained. The odd thing about this, is that my good Lutheran friends believe that the Lutheran (and their particular synod of Lutheranism) is what God has created. The same is true with my good PCA friends, my Christian Reformed friends and etc. All my protestant friends would see the pre-reformation Catholic Church as deeply flawed and evil. On the other hand, my Catholic friends believe their church is the Church that Jesus established on the shoulders of Peter himself.
There is a dichotomy in the thinking of these sincere and honorable friends. This dichotomy is in the schism between each of their concepts of the ideal church and knowing that they can’t all be right.
I believe that the common Evangelical, with their Dualistic perspective, must see history in this light (what is . . . is what God wanted). If you start with the premise that his physical world is inferior to the spiritual, then all events of this physical world must be defined via those terms. Human history makes no sense to them. That would mean fallen people doing fallen things can lead to outcomes that are fallen. They believe that God must be behind every human process, including the development of the present Church form (pay your money and take your choice on which is the one God so ordained).
But a Monist can look at things differently without taking away from God’s sovereignty and omniscience. A monist can say that human history is not junk, but does matter. So bad people can do bad things and change history in a bad way. Good people can do real things to fix ( redeem) history. Good (but fallen) people can make some mistakes (accidentally or via sin) that can influence history as well. God is in control and has promised that no one can “kill your spirit” but does not promise that all that is, is exactly the way He intended it.
So a monist does not accept what is as what God intended and this is no insult to Him. Beginning at this point, we can then go back to scripture and see what God wanted of the Church without adding layer upon layer of Church history as part of God’s grand design for the present fellowship of believers.
May the discussion begin! More to come in Part II.