Monday, July 20, 2009
One of my seminary professors (who will remain nameless) told us students, in explaining to us his own theological persuasion, that he was happy to be an evangelical Protestant theologian (serving in a mainline denomination). He went on to explain, however, that if, for some reason, he was unable to continue on as an evangelical, his back-up plan was to become a feminist theologian. And if, for some reason, that fell through, he said he would simply become an atheist and pursue his secular dreams.
I have thought about that revelation occasionally over the years and how I would explain my back-up plan to others. Where would I go? If, for some crazy reason my tradition vanished, what would I do?
First, I have to say that I am quite happy–or at least happy enough–as a Christian and a pastor in the Reformed tradition and in my Presbyterian denomination. As I put it on my Facebook Info page, I am a neo-orthodox (i.e., Barthian), catholic, evangelical, Reformed, Protestant Christian. But if, by some divine act there was suddenly no longer a Reformed tradition and I was forced to follow a contingency plan, here’s what I would do:
I would most likely swing toward a more robust, apostolic, traditional, historic Christianity, probably the Anglican (not Episcopalian, mind you) tradition. There are many things I admire about Anglicanism: the connection with the ancient church, the beauty and reverence of the liturgy and their ecclesiastical gatherings, their balance of Scripture and Tradition, and their soft stance on certain pieces of tradition (e.g., celibate clergy and exalted Mariology).
And if, for some crazy reason, that fell through–still hypothetically speaking–I would probably try out the Eastern Orthodox Church. Like Anglicanism, I have great respect for Orthodoxy. The Eastern churches preserve a robust, ancient tradition that thankfully never suffered through the Medieval age or the Enlightenment.
On the other hand, I would probably never become Lutheran (sorry; maybe it’s just too familiar and, in many ways, already like my Reformed tradition) or Roman Catholic (sorry again; there are many things about the Roman church that would need to change before I would be comfortable there). Similarly, the conditions would have to be just right for me to become a low-church/non-denominational evangelical (sadly, many churches in the evangelical movement have devolved into a caricature of the Church, whose proclamation of the gospel has become obscured by faddish marketing and shallow, American individualism).
If all that fell through, I guess I would just chuck it all and sell cars for a living.
What about all of you out there? Where would you go? What would you do if your tradition of Christianity were suddenly not an option? Low church? High church? No church? Please comment below!