Cafeteria Christianity: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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16 Responses

  1. Em says:

    I anticipate many thumbs up to appear in the comment section of this clever post, but this evangelical fundy has just read a perfect description of religious endeavors
    As a born again follower, i just don’t equate what Jesus accomplished for mankind, by submitting to crucifixion, with religion – i guess the question is, for me, what does define an obedient, born again child of God?
    It is good food for thought, however…. 😏

  2. Duane Arnold says:

    Em

    Sometimes “faith” is better than “religion”…

  3. Em says:

    Dr. Duane, somtimes?
    What feeds and strengthens ones confidence in the plan of God and ones place in it can sometimes be called religion … I guess. 🙆

  4. pstrmike says:

    Very creative, Duane. However, I’m not sure what you are trying to say here other than leveling a critique at the American church. This group, of which we are both a part of, is a target rich environment. Perhaps you are saying something quite differently than that.
    In my thinking, one of the strengths that we have at our disposal is the potential to enrich our spiritual lives through the many wells from which we can draw from. Peace.

    #ecumenicalmike

  5. Duane Arnold says:

    pstrmike

    Yes, it is a critique of the American (and English) Church. I am ecumenical as well, but I see the process being one of not watering down what we have in our various traditions, but instead bringing the best of our traditions to the table. Unfortunately, we have dined at the cafeteria so often, many no longer have a settled theology that allows them to enter into dialogue. Yes, we can be enriched by others, but only if we start from some sort of solid and stable base. My fear is that we have become so enamored with picking up “a little here and a little there” that many no longer know who they really are, or what they really believe, or why they believe the way they do. In terms of American Christianity, it is a pretty confused mess at present and has been for some decades…

  6. pstrmike says:

    ” Unfortunately, we have dined at the cafeteria so often, many no longer have a settled theology that allows them to enter into dialogue.”

    Yes, I see this as a big problem where too many are not conversant in different systematic theologies, let alone having a firm grasp upon what they claim to believe. I’ve come to the conclusion that any systematic theology or even orthopraxy can only take us so far, and then we normally have to extend beyond it. Finite beings attempting to grasp the infinite. Perhaps the “Red Letter” people may have some good purposes in their approach to this, although I would suggest that we cannot disregard the Wisdom literature either.

    However, at the end of the day, there has to be some type of structure for anything to work long term on a collective level. Either that, or we all abandon our buildings, meet with small groups in people’s homes, and hope that we strive for the best we can comprehend. Unfortunately, that usually further lowers the bar that is already set rather low.

  7. Duane Arnold says:

    pstrmike

    “Unfortunately, that usually further lowers the bar that is already set rather low.” This is really my concern. It’s the old question of “how can two walk together?” We need to have some basis of consensus in belief and, most likely, practice. In my tradition, I’ve always like the idea of The Book of Common Prayer – it is what we pray, believe and live together… in common. It becomes the basis of community (understood in the Christian sense). While I honor and learn from, for instance, Quaker ethics and spirituality, it is not my community. I have delved deeply into Orthodox theology and have profited from the journey, but, again, I had to recognize that without some major readjustments on my part, it is its own unique community. Sometimes I think we’re more interested in the icing on the cake than the cake itself…

  8. Michael says:

    That was an excellent conversation…

  9. pstrmike says:

    Duane,

    What I am hearing you say is that we need the communal attachment that is centered around a common belief system. That does make sense and I would agree that having things in common enhances our communion.

    Where I have experienced this to be limiting was when I was Calvary Chapel, both under CCOF and then CCA. The “Burger King” analogy (you don’t go to Burger King for a Big Mac) was in my opinion, part of the problem, in that it uses consumerism as a basis to illustrate their argument, which in my opinion, betrayed how they actually view ecclesiology. What was even of greater angst for me, was the small circle that was drawn around our feet regarding the required belief system. I shifted in some of my theological thinking and felt some of what was required to believe in to be “a Calvary” was rather narrow in its scope, particularly the requirement to be pre-trib.

    However, in fairness to Calvary’s requirement, people often get rather upset when I tell them I am not convinced that pre-trib is correct, cite a Calvinist (unless its Spurgeon or Keller) or catholic in your sermon, or challenge some of the other cardinal doctrines that Calvary holds as “distinctive.” For me, such a reaction is indicative of spiritual immaturity and a lack of charity. So, such requirements might not be as much about holding fast to the truth as it is fostering unity.

  10. Duane Arnold says:

    pstrmike

    “What was even of greater angst for me, was the small circle that was drawn around our feet regarding the required belief system.”

    Absolutely! Lately I’ve been musing over this issue for my own “tribe” and have been in touch with a number of people about my thoughts. What I’ve come up with so far is:

    – The Holy Scriptures, as containing all things necessary to salvation

    – The creeds (specifically, the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds), as the sufficient statement of Christian faith

    – The dominical sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion

    – Historic Oversight locally adapted.

    – A common public worship based on the Book of Common Prayer

    – Normative and regular Pastoral Care

    – A Learned and Devout Clergy who teach and pray (specifically the Offices)

    – No windows into “people’s souls” (with reference to particular systems of theology)

    – A reluctance to legislate conduct of Church life through narrow qualifications (legislating on social issues)

    – An aesthetic of quality, good order and restraint

    I’m sure that there are other “basics” I’m missing, but it seems to me that this list, especially among the clergy, might be a start…

  11. pstrmike says:

    Almost thou persuadeth me to further pursue Anglicanism . . . almost. 😉

    Much of what you listed has more to do with an ecclesiological identity, which of course, is informed by our understanding of scripture. Most Anglicans that I know personally all come from slightly different theological perspectives, yet I seem to recall a consistency in their daily practice.

    Evangelicalism seems to be the opposite of this. Within most groups (or subgroups), there is a consistency (generally) in doctrine, and a wider variation of practice.

  12. Duane Arnold says:

    pstrmike

    I will keep trying 😁!

    Seriously, out of the list (which I’m still working on) I think a couple of items require greater weight than others.

    “A Learned and Devout Clergy who teach and pray (specifically the Offices)”. If there is leadership given over to disciplined prayer and learning, the community is much less likely to chase after the latest “fad”.

    “Normative and regular Pastoral Care”. If people are cared for – in the hospital, in times of crisis, in difficulties, etc. – they are also less likely to be chasing after some “phantom” to solve their problems.

    “A reluctance to legislate conduct of Church life through narrow qualifications (legislating on social issues)”. If we recognize that we are the Church and not a political party or a sociological think tank we might do a better job in living as a community of faith.

    So much of it is simply practical. It’s what used to be called “the work of ministry”…

  13. Candance McGee says:

    This appears more, to me, like someone boasting of his own knowledge of the different “religions” within American Christianity than anything else. Which is pretty consistent with most of the posts I see on this site. They tend to be self righteous, judgmental, very good at pointing out problems but not so good at creating solutions. Anyone can criticize, folks. Let’s see some problem solving. Some uplifting, the glass is “half-full”, or how can we make this better posts.
    What’s particularly amusing is that you included Calvary Chapel into your little “cafeteria”. CCCs do not follow a particular set of denominational beliefs. They follow the teachings of the Bible, and sometimes there are differences in beliefs between pastors and specific churchs. But individuals are encouraged, by their pastors (and God, via the Word) to study the Bible on their own to ensure their teachers are not leading them astray.
    But I’m curious, what do you think America needs? One church? The American Church of God, like England has? One, approved Christian religion? Obviously that is NOT a good idea. So, maybe just a few approved choices. Who decides how many? Who decides what churchs make the cut? That is just as spooky.
    Sorry, this is the United States of America, and the freedom to practice our faith the way we choose is fundamental to the foundation of this nation. God is not nearly as concerned about the little nuances between “religions” as many people are. We need to stop getting so hung up on the stupid little differences in our “beliefs” that God really doesn’t care about…like eating meat on Friday or honoring the Sabbath on ONLY Saturday, and what exactly is the Sabbath, etc.

  14. Michael says:

    Candace,

    After 17 years I have to commend you…you are one of the most ignorant, yet abrasive, people ever to post here.
    Clueless…

  15. Duane Arnold says:

    Candace

    Many thanks. you’ve made my point…

  16. pstrmike says:

    Hi Candance,
    I know of a guy named McGee who pastors a CC in the Southeast. He did music in our church many, many moons ago. Any relation?

    I thought I would copy and paste parts of your post so that I can address them directly.

    “Which is pretty consistent with most of the posts I see on this site. They tend to be self righteous, judgmental, very good at pointing out problems but not so good at creating solutions. ”

    That’s a stretch. But if that is how you feel, what prompts you read and post here? I’m curious.

    ” CCCs do not follow a particular set of denominational beliefs. They follow the teachings of the Bible, and sometimes there are differences in beliefs between pastors and specific churchs”

    Having been in Calvary for over 40 years, I can tell you that they do follow “a particular set of denominational beliefs.” It is called “Calvary Distinctives,” which was the personal views of Chuck Smith and which every Calvary pastor indicated – unless they were dishonest – that they were in agreement with. You can say “that’s following the teachings of the Bible” if you want, but the reality is, all church groups – denominations/movements/associations/networks; they are all the same to me – based their teachings on how they INTERPRET the Bible.

    ” freedom to practice our faith the way we choose is fundamental to the foundation of this nation. ”

    It will vary with different historians, but freedom of religion was something that was brokered into negotiations to ratify the constitution. Aside from that, what Duane is describing has nothing to do with an American political construct, rather, he is addressing his views on the state of the church, as he said in his response to me yesterday, on both sides of the pond.

    If you have read our conversation, you would notice that we come from some different perspectives, but we also recognize that we have much in common and our discussion was working from the middle outward. That is how civil discourse should be conducted, at least in my opinion.

    “differences in our “beliefs” that God really doesn’t care about…like eating meat on Friday or honoring the Sabbath on ONLY Saturday, and what exactly is the Sabbath, etc.”

    I would agree, but I think God does care about these things, else why would the Bible address them? I would suggest that we add to your list things a pre-trib rapture and the baptism of the Holy Spirit as underscored by Pentecostal theology. Kinda changes the context of your critique then, doesn’t it.

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