By admin | August 18, 2008
Where have we been? Where are we going? Submitted by Prof. Renihan
As Confessional Reformed Baptists, we are just beginning to develop an identity. While we have deep roots in the soil of historic post-Reformation Christianity, in one sense, they are not our roots. Modern RB churches, at least in the USA, are less than five decades old. The first of our churches was formed in Carlisle, PA in the 1950s: all the rest of have been planted (or experienced reformation) since then. Our theological roots stretch back to the 16th and 17th centuries, but our practical roots produce trees that are essentially very young. We hope one day to be like Giant Sequoias; now we are only saplings.
If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we are in a process of self-definition. While it is very useful to explore the nature of that process of self-awareness, I will not do so here. Rather, I would suggest that we remember that we do bring with us accretions from our previous identities. Some of us have come out of fundamentalist churches, others from evangelical schools, some from large established conventions, we even have some who were nurtured in essentially liberal denominations. This baggage (I hesitate to use the word, as it often has a pejorative sense I do not intend to employ here) contributes significantly to our self-definition. Whether consciously or (more probably) not, we carry the thoughts and experiences of our earlier religious experiences into the process of understanding ourselves and shaping our identity.
Not only do we carry our past with us, we are also profoundly affected by the religious culture of late 20th century America. For all of us raised in this religious ethos, its influence is profound and inescapable. If we fail to recognize where we have been (both individually and collectively) we will not understand where we are going. This would be foolish at best and deadly at worst.
I write to suggest the reading of a profoundly thought-provoking article:The Death of Protestant America: A Political Theory of the Protestant Mainline written by the Editor of First Things, Joseph Bottum. This is a good place to begin our understanding of who we are. Mr. Bottum’s observations and reflections may be very useful as we come to wrestle with the recent past as well as ourselves. We are the children of the 20th century–this article will assist us to know where we have been and perhaps also where we are going.
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