Opposed to Defense: Why I Don’t Defend My Church Tradition from Criticism
by Carson T. Clark on March 27, 2012
Here are four interrelated thoughts about why I feel no need to offer an apologetic of my church tradition:
- Experience tells me that other doctrinally- or historically-inclined Christians have a much stronger sense of loyalty than do I and, therefore, feel the need to defend their traditions from criticism. This has always seemed odd to me as I feel no such impulse. I invite critical feedback so long as it’s valid.11.Key word: valid. I don’t do well with ignorance. How else is one to learn and grow? Few things are worse than being surrounded by like-minded Yes Men who pat themselves on their backs in honor of their own brilliance. Yuck.22.Such ecclesiastical inbreeding fosters the worst self-assured arrogance evident throughout church history. No thank you.
- Anglicanism for me is an adjective rather than a noun, a description rather than a source of identity. I’m a Christian, a follower of Jesus. That’s my source of identity. Everything else is merely a descriptor of what sort of Christian I am. That reason in tandem with my commitment to the rigorous pursuit of truth and recognition of our postmodern cultural context (where people value transparent admission of error) results in my consistently being the first to criticize my tradition.
- I disagree with people’s tendency to want to distinguish a church tradition in the present from its origins in order to somehow convince themselves of its purity.33.Some might want to chalk this up to mere differences of perspective that are all equally valid. While I tend to be an advocate of perspectivism, I’m gonna go ahead and challenge it this time. Rarely do I say this, but that’s not a biblical way of thinking. Not only are we as Christians people who should excel in grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation, but for us history is a seamless redemptive narrative. Anglicanism’s tragic origins–and even its current troubles, for that matter–in no way disinclined me from committing to it. I anticipate finding no unblemished expression of the Church till the Lord returns to set all to rights.
- Honestly, I don’t even see the need to defend my tradition’s theology.44.And clearly don’t say that as one who’s theologically apathetic or belligerent. I’ll happily discuss Anglican beliefs with anyone offering criticism. If they’ve got a good point, they’ve got a good point. It won’t ruin my day, let alone my life, if the tradition has been or is wrong about something. Of course, one of the things I love most about the Anglican tradition is its doctrinal elasticity within borders. Unlike, say, a Baptist who comes to accept paedobaptism as a valid practice or a Presbyterian who can no longer affirm Reformed Theology, my views can evolve without having to chuck the whole thing. Admittedly, this is a luxury not shared by many Christians.