1. a buffet offering a variety of hot and cold meats, salads, hors d’oeuvres, etc. 2. a wide range of something; a variety.
“The Mark of a false christian, the wolf in sheep clothing, is the willingness to split Christ’s body into warring factions” -Christopher Hall
Christopher Hall’s quote has a unique significance in light of the state of the Church in America today. There are as many denominations as there are people looking for a community, and choosing “the right church” is akin to going to a buffet and finding that every piece of food you try is perfectly delicious. Which, if you know anything about buffet restaurants, the variety of choices is valued over the quality of the individual dishes (but that is a blog post for a different day).
In his book, Hall talks about Iraneous’s beliefs regarding the Church. Iraneous values tradition and states that, though the Church is dispersed throughout the ends of the earth, it has a responsibility to preserve apostolic teachings and contemplate them with trepidation. In fact, for him, “It is not the job of the church to innovate or create new doctrines out of the whole cloth. Whatever the church chooses to say, must find its root in apolostic sources (230).”
In essence, He is calling us to specialize, become conservative in the doctrines we choose proclaim, and only proclaim those that stay close to apostles words. His call to action is beautiful in theory, and quoteworthy in a 140 character tweet. However, in practicality, it is difficult, if not near impossible to exectute with perfect form for a variety of reasons.
As time progresses, we move further and further from the time the apostles live, Who determines apolistic authority and what if two respected church leaders claim opposing view points, both in good faith?
Many of the scriptures were written for a specific cultural context. Take the Epistles for example, Paul was writing letters to specific communities with specific vices, within a specific cultural framework that, for better or worse has changed over time. How do we account for those changes while still honoring the essence of Christ’s teachings?
In our Western society that honors the spiritual walk of the individual over the collective working out of faith, how do we avoid “the private judgement of the individual as a fundamental hermeneutical principal.” Particularly, when of over half of churches in America (those under 75 members) have one pastor in authority and no one to hold them accountable to hold biblical interpretation and doctrinal formation a communal, ecclesial functions.
The question then remains, how do we honor the apostolic tradition as the church continues to evolve over time? In Sunday School, the running joke is that the right answer is always Jesus. However, in all serious, perhaps the answer is choosing not to focus on fulfilling the letter of the law, but understanding that Christ came to do just that — and He did so in love.
If then, fulfilling the demands of love must take precedence, What could it look like for us as followers to fight, argue and wrestle over the words of scripture, differ, and at times downright disagree, but not break relationship and not forsake the unity of the church? All in the name of preserving the apolostic tradition? Perhaps the church would look less like a buffet line at the nearest Golden Corral and more like a communal potluck where all contribute and the whole is greater than the sum if its individual parts.