Thursday, November 13, 2008

Without a Paddle

Commenting on Reveal, Willow Creek's well publicized, weirdly-entitled self-study, S.M. Hutchens ("Up a Creek" Touchstone Nov. 2008) inadvertently wins the award for best use of the word "lactations."
Since the criteria used by Willow Creek to measure spiritual growth are by and large the same as those used by other Evangelical churches, if this study is valid the entire movement has been confronted with the question of whether the deeper one ventures into the Christian faith - the better he knows his Bible, the more faithful he is in the service of Christ, the more concerned he is for the welfare and mission of the Church - the less of a modern Evangelical he must perforce become. I have not heard it articulated this way, but think the conclusion inescapable... Something has been learned at Willow Creek that allows the more advanced member to understand he is in a spiritual nursery and can no longer live satisfactorily on its lactations. This means, however, that there must have been a competence of nourshiment to begin with.. and this is no small thing.
Reveal may provide trenchant analysis, but did we really need a published research survey to tell us this? Evangelicalism brings people to Christ (no small thing indeed). But the question is not whether maturing Evangelicals need to supplement their spiritual diet with the older Christian traditions. The question is whether one can do so on an intellectual level (e.g. a literary "taste" for patristic thought), while remaining outside the eucharistic, liturgical frameworks of those older traditions.

As to whether Anglicanism counts as one of them, in the same issue, William J. Tighe's retrospective assessment of Dom Gregory Dix's The Shape of the Liturgy suggests that contemporary liturgical scholars have confirmed Dix's view that Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer is essentially incompatible with Catholic and Orthodox traditions, its beauty being "clothed upon the negations of Zwingli."

Since when - I ask in jest - did Touchstone become a subsidiary of The Coming Home Newtork?