A reflection on nondenominationalism

I came across this comment at The Evangelical Outpost.

Non-denominationalists might condemn denominations because they alienate real Christians, but I condemn non-denominationalism because it gets rid of history and tradition while opening people to unconscious shifts in theology, and some of that is my gut feeling about non-denominationalism.

The fact is that people new to a nondenominational church have a very difficult time knowing what the church believes deep down in its identity. There are surface details – Apostles Creed, Lausanne Covenant, etc. – but those things which are really believed and shaped some of the essential directions and teachings of the church are not made obvious. Since the church refuses to identify itself with a tradition (which it has but does not point to in any clear way), it takes away from the guest any readily available way to interpret the new church.

For instance, most nondenominational churches are baptist – congregational in government and credobaptists. Willowcreek is a baptist church by another name. They are part of the baptist movement, stripped of the identification and with the illusion they are beholding to no one. I think this gives the attender a false sense that they are experiencing pure Christianity there. They are not.

What is more, at a nondenominational church aberrant or angular views can get slipped in as truly Christian and essential without the church being aware that there is a divergence. Dehistoricizing the local church makes it appear as if that church sprung fresh from the Bible, in contrast to all those “other churches” that are weighed down by tradition and out of date doctrinal battles. All of its teachings are seen as pure and sprung fresh from the Word without any interpretive tradition. This seems slippery to me and not entirely fair to the attender. They are given nothing to compare it with, no sense of context, place or even names of those who are associated with it. Most of the legwork of tracking down the teaching and its implications are up to the pew guy.

The church I grew up in considered itself interdenominational. I think this a fairer way to represent oneself, though the same concerns apply. Nondenominational is a kind of pride – we are not like the other churches. Interdenominational is a more humble stance – we choose to set some differences aside in order to fellowship and worship together. There is a shade of difference between the two.

There are fresh calls for the revival of denominations and truer confessionalism. I think there is some valued in this, as long as there is a check on the attendant pride and arrogant debate that often follows after.

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