Friday, June 06, 2014

Calvinist or Anabaptist? - does it matter?

Terry Hiebert, at Revive! EMMC Leadership Retreat, noted that within the EMMC there are both Calvinists and Anabaptists. He titled a presentation he lead "why can't we get along?"
(Working definitions of Calvinists and Anabaptists)

Does it matter if we are Calvinists or Anabaptists?

Our theology shapes how we live, how we do ministry (run church).
Everyone has a working theology. You might not be able to explain it, but it does exist and shape you.

The Gospel Coalition (Calvinists) states "The Bible is without error, but also that its inerrant content must be properly interpreted."
Historically this means that "proper interpretation" rests with "properly" trained scholars. People come to listen to trained scholars explain what the bible means. Preaching is very important within this tradition. Training of scholars is also important.
Strengths: The bible is treated with great respect. It is also acknowledged that it can be a difficult book to understand. It is really old and was written in Greek and Hebrew. Education and scholars have an important role within the church. The bible is does not mean whatever you feel like you want it to mean.
Weaknesses: Can create a priestly system. For the average person to approach the scriptures (and by implication God) they need to have a scholar (priest) assist them. Another weakness is that a human's interpretation can get tied so closely to scripture that to challenge the interpretation is seen as a challenge to scripture itself. This results in toe the party line or be accused of heresy. 

Anabaptists on the other hand lean toward a communal discernment of scripture. People should read the scriptures together and wrestle with what it means and how applies to their lives within community.
Strengths: People are encouraged take ownership of reading and understanding scripture. This is not for the elite but for all followers of Jesus. Scripture reading is not simply about right interpretation but also about application to life. 
Weaknesses: The hard work of understanding scripture within its original context can be down played. Studying the bible can simply become a sharing of what we feel scripture says instead of diligent study.

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