Friday, March 14, 2008

Some thoughts and questions for C. Michael Patton

Look out Christian bloggers, C. Michael Patton is at it again, starting good conversations with those charts of his! He's posted a new chart HERE that coincides with a new series on the topic of "What is Orthodoxy?" Check out the chart and see what you think. Personally, I'm glad to see Patton continue to give us great fodder for discussion.

I have some preliminary thoughts and concerns with the concepts that his chart seems to indicate. For example, Patton's chart shows the church getting more and more "orthodox" as the church marches onward through history. This seems possibly problematic to me, for a few reasons:

1. What church is here being described? Does Patton think that the church as a whole is progressing in its understanding of orthodoxy, or is he referring to Protestants broadly, Reformed churches? Who is being referred to?

2. His chart seems to indicate that the truth known now is somehow more orthodox or more refined than when the apostles were around. Do we really want to say that we know God better than the apostles? I'm not saying this should be rejected out-of-hand, but I'm also not sure our good friend (he really is quite supportive of us!) Patton would be ready to say that.

3. Also, the chart seems to center on the church's (whoever that is) grasp or articulation of orthodoxy, but doesn't tell us yet where orthodoxy lies. This is a mistake: if we are to avoid the aforementioned error of Tony Jones (and many others) as it pertains to orthodoxy, we can't simply locate orthodoxy within the doctrine of ecclesiology. Ecclesiology, I believe, shouldn't be the controlling doctrine here.

4. The chart seems to indicate the notion of continual, linear progress. I'm sure that, for Patton, the progressive nature of this is rooted in God's ongoing activity in the church and not in man's intellectual or spiritual capabilities. Nevertheless, I think it fails to recognize the tendency within the people of God to recede into false worship. It seems true that there have been some extremely dark days in the church's history, both doctrinally and practically. How do we explain these dark times if our notion is one of continual progress?

Anyhow, I might be wrong about all or some of these assumptions, but these are just my initial thoughts and questions. Perhaps Patton will take some of them, if they are helpful, into account as he blogs about this topic. I think that this issue is exceedingly important, and I am excited to see the conversation that ensues.

I don't intend to enter into the fray yet with some type of drawn-out thoughts on the nature of orthodoxy, but I will say this: we've got to have a launching point for Christian orthodoxy that is fixed. And if that launching point is going to be truly Christian, the entry point for our definition of orthodoxy should be Jesus Christ.

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