Sunday, August 27, 2006

Baptist Catholicity

I'm a Historic-Christian first, an Evangelical second, I'm Reformed third, and Baptist at a distant fourth. From that order you can tell that I'm not the type of person who wakes up every day saying: "Hooray and Hoorah for Baptists cause we totally rock". I find that the words "exciting" and "Baptist" do not naturally go together. But one book that has got me excited about being Baptist is: Steven R. Harmon, Towards Baptist Catholicity: Essays on Tradition and the Baptist Vision (SBHT 27; Carlisle, UK: Paternoster, 2006).

Harmon's primary concern is to root Baptist theology, faith, and liturgy in the Niceao-Chalcedonian tradition of the Church. In his opening essay: "Catholic Baptists' and the New Horizon of Tradition in Baptist Theology," Harmon offers a seven point plan for Baptist Catholicity:

1. Catholic Baptists recognize tradition as a source of theological authority. Less this be confused let me explain. Scripture is, to use Grenz's term, theology's "norming norm" but all Scriptural reflection occurs in a horizon of tradition whether we choose to believe it or not. The Tradition that provides the framework for biblical faith is the Niceao-Chalcedonian confessions.

2. Catholic Baptists see a place in Baptist ecclesial life for the ancient ecumenical creeds as key expressions of the larger Christian tradition.

3. Catholic Baptists give attention to liturgy as the primary context in which Christians are formed by tradition.

4. Catholic Baptists locate the authority of tradition in the community and its formative practices. That means that biblical interpretation and theological reflection is not not a matter of the individual (i.e. soul competency) but occurs in the context of faith communities.

5. Catholic Baptists advocate a sacramental theology. Sacrament here does not signify a means of imparting salvific grace in the Roman Catholic scheme, it means rather "a theology that understands the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist as paradigmatic of the relation of God to the material order that is disclosed in the Incarnation."

6. Catholic Baptists engage tradition as a resource for contemporary theological construction.

7. Catholic Baptists promote a thick ecumenism.

I don't know if I'd follow this manifesto to the letter, some points I'd want to qualify urgently, esp. tradition and ecumenism, but it sounds quite interesting to me.


One of Freedom said...

That looks so sweet. As a former baptist lay preacher I think that has to go on my book wish list!

boxthejack said...

As someone who seems to have unwittingly returned to the Baptist fold, I also should give it a look.

thunderbeard said...

i'm thinking about forsaking my baptistocity for anglicanism (maybe even as far as having the pastorate i'm aspiring to in the Anglican/Episcopalian tradition). not so much because i'm no longer a credobaptist, but because of the american baptist landscape. i attended the undergrad school at sbts (boyce college), and the prevailing southern baptist culture there (and, subsequently in the sbc at large, since southern is the flagship seminary of the sbc) was troubling.

i agree with many of the things mentioned in this post, and i yearn for a liturgical, sacramental church and spiritual life. i also don't really like many of the cultural battles that the sbc is fighting. as well, i don't want to feel isolated from my denominational brethren because of my outlook on corporate worship and spiritual disciplines (which is how i feel as a loosely identified southern baptist). i want a strong fellowship with those of a like mind (as well, of course, with those of an almost like mind).

i feel like my options are pastoring a baptist church that is, like so many baptist churches in america, an independent church, being a black sheep in the sbc (or some of the other larger baptist denominations), or gaining a strong, unified ecclesiological tradition and ideal liturgical situation in anglicanism, but at the cost of renouncing some of my baptist distinctives.

i haven't really explained myself too well, here, because i'm being somewhat hurried at the moment, but i would appreciate any comments (particularly from the bird). are there any other options? are any of these ideal? or am i just being unreasonable?

also, bird, you might remember the potential book cover for your book that i designed. do you think there's a snowball's chance in sheol that they would ever consider that?