A Common Obituary

Eric Landry
Tuesday, July 1st 2008
Jul/Aug 2008

An indication of the depth of our spiritual blindness is our inability to see efforts to rid the world of the institutional church as one of Satan’s most significant and oldest acts. If the church is both organization and organism, and if the church has existed since the Garden Temple of Genesis 2, then the current nail-biting laments over the state and future of the church are just the latest in a long series of conflicts between the seed of the Serpent and the seed of the woman. And so long as we have Christ’s own promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church (Matt. 16:18), then to paraphrase Mark Twain we can confidently say that reports concerning the church’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

The expected riposte to all of this is that the church doesn’t go away, but that the current form of being the church should make way to provide room for more contemporary cultural expressions of the church. This argument has lurched forward under the pseudo-academic guise of Frank Viola and George Barna’s book, Pagan Christianity: Exploring Roots of Our Church Practices. (For a good summary and critique, read Peter Jones’ review at www.Reformation 21.com.) And it’s to this issue that Reformed pastors Michael Horton and Daniel Hyde turn their attention in their respective articles: is there continuity of practice that helps define the church from age to age? Is that continuity a historical accident, or are there clear, biblical expectations that help define our experience of the church?

A buzzword that helps unify those who wish to overturn the institutional church for something else is “community” and the search for authentic community they suppose should characterize whatever form the church takes in our age. Is the problem really individualism? Is the solution merely community? Not so, says Jonathan Leeman, director of communications for 9Marks. The real issues at play are the subversion of proper authority and the exaltation of the self.

This issue concludes with two different perspectives on being the church. The first, from Presbyterian pastor John Day, explores the dynamics and implications of the church’s identification as the “mother, brothers, and sisters” of Christ (Matt. 12:49-50). The second, from Lutheran pastor James Bachman, takes off those rose-colored glasses and forces us to look at the necessity of the law as way of providing order to an increasingly disordered ecclesial life.

The great tragedy of our age is the absence of Christ from many of the communities that name themselves after him. And while we can lament all the divergent and heterodox movements away from the visible body of Christ on earth, the church, we must be willing to ask the hard questions of our own communions and our commitments to the church. We appreciate your willingness to thoughtfully tackle these questions with us as we continue our yearlong project of exposing and reforming “Christless Christianity.”

Eric Landry

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Eric Landry
Eric Landry is the chief content officer of Sola Media and former executive editor of Modern Reformation. He also serves as the senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas.
Tuesday, July 1st 2008

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

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