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:: Tuesday, June 10, 2003 ::

The Calvary Chapel Statement of Faith: Part One

Many of my wife's old college friends attend a local church affiliated with the Calvary Chapel denomination. Over the past couple of years, I have become rather familiar with this church and its teachings.

Calvary Chapel churches, founded in Southern California in the wake of the "Jesus Movement" by Chuck Smith, combine methodical verse-by-verse Bible preaching with contemporary, "free-form" worship. The theology is basic foursquare Protestantism with a Pentecostal twist: a strong undercurrent of fundamentalist didacticism and an unswervingly literal approach to the Scriptures combined with a "low-key" charismatic form of worship. One of the interesting elements of this particular denomination is the demographic--many Calvary Chapel church pews are overwhelmingly filled with Gen-Xers. In some parishes, 20-somethings comprise up to 60% of the membership.

During a recent discussion, one of our friends asked me to look over their statement of faith and make some comments. (Yeah, they don't know me very well!)

The following is the brief and vastly inadequate critique of the Calvary Chapel statement of faith from the Eastern Orthodox perspective that I sent her. I thought I'd post it in parts on the blog. Again, this is by no means a finished draft and I'm sure has a few holes in it. Feel free to point them out! Here goes:

Calvary Chapel has been formed as a fellowship of believers in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Our supreme desire is to know Christ and be conformed to His image by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are not a denominational church, nor are we opposed to denominations as such, only to their over-emphasis of the doctrinal differences that have led to the division of the Body of Christ.

The first sentence, presumes that the original church doesn't exist and needs to be "formed" again--I don't think I need to go into the reasons why the Orthodox would find this problematic! The second sentence is fine. The last sentence presents problems. As I�ve pointed out before, there is no such thing, philosophically, as a �non-denominational� church at least from the perspective of western Christendom. Every western church was founded on some opposing principle or on some set of beliefs that were contrary to another church (either Roman Catholicism leaving Orthodoxy, or the various Protestant churches leaving either Catholicism or another branch of Protestantism). Even the �non-denom� churches are reacting to denominationalism! Ecclesiology is an essential matter for Christians and always has been. There is no such thing as �Churchless� Christianity!

Also, while many churches do take an overly polemic tone in doctrinal debates or issues and while many churches divorce doctrine from the practical and daily life of their flocks, this does not mean that doctrine doesn�t matter. Many of the early heretics (Arius, Nestorius, Marcion et al) thought they were the true Christians, yet their teachings are diametrically opposed to the witness of Christ and the Church. It was vitally important that the Church decide which doctrines are true and which are not. These decisions (made in the Ecumenical Councils) did bring schism-but only because the heretics refused to repent of their false teachings. The point here is that divisions and schisms are sometimes based on TRUTH, not just fruitless and hairsplitting debate.

We believe the only true basis of Christian fellowship is Christ's Agape love, which is greater than any differences we possess and without which we have no right to claim ourselves Christians.

This is fine. The Orthodox would emphasize that the Eucharist makes this fellowship fully realized.

We believe worship of God should be spiritual. Therefore, we remain flexible and yielded to the leading of the Holy Spirit to direct our worship.

Hmm. The first sentence is a little vague. I�m assuming it is an oblique reference to John 4:24. If so, this is true. If it is trying to imply that the physical forms of ancient worship (icons, incense, sacraments etc) are idolatrous and thus only non-physical worship is "spiritual", then we have problems. The second sentence seems to imply that the forms of worship are still up for interpretation and can be recreated based on �new revelation.�

However, the Scripture as well as the history of the early church shows clearly that the form of worship ordained by God in the OT was to be explicitly liturgical, sacramental, and sacrificial and that this form of worship was to be continued in the Church. Jesus validated the temple worship by participating in it fully during his earthly ministry. And the Apostles and disciples and early church fathers took the liturgical worship of Judaism and added the Eucharist to it, but did not change its essential form.

More to come....

:: Karl :: 11:14:00 AM [Link] ::

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