Thursday, November 13, 2014

Reviewing Gillquist's Becoming Orthodox (1)

This will be an irenic review.  Or the first of several posts.  Gillquist is legendary in the American Church community for moving from parachurch to The Church.  I want to examine why he did this and what it entails for the American Church.

Chapters 1-3

Gillquist is the best example of what I will call "The Zondervan Revolution."  The American Evangelical world found themselves--say around the 1970s onward--gifted in communication and administration in an environment waiting for growth.  One of the casualties was the Church.   Evangelicals were hard-pressed to answer "Why?" when the "Church" was asked.

For all of his success as an evangelist and church-planter, and there is no doubt that Gillquist had the Gift of Evangelism*, Gillquist realized that the parachurch model is not what Christ had in mind. So he and his buddies got together to "find the New Testament Church."  They delegated different topics for study: history, theology, liturgy, government.  Now for the heart of the review:

On Liturgy

PG is correct to see that the church has always been "liturgical." Since I, too, believe in liturgy, I won't develop the point here.  He also rightly points out that even the most spontaneous services are the same every week, as are the Jesus Weejus prayers ("Dear Jesus, we just...")


Here is where it gets tricky and he could slow down on the argument.  He knows that the NT sometimes uses "episkopos" and "presbuteros" interchangeably.  He asserts that James was the Bishop of Jerusalem (Gillquist 37) and if true, this would clinch the argument.  I just don't find the evidence that James was said bishop as compelling as he does.

He then brings up Ignatius and says Ignatius was bishop beginning in 67 A.D.  But the reality is far more complicated.  It's by no means clear that Ignatius was a "bishop" as early as 67.  And what do we mean by "bishop?" Ignatius himself seemed to think that the bishop was the president of the Eucharist.

Ironically for this review, I actually think there are much, much stronger defenses of episcopal government (cf Sutton, "Captains and Courts"). Honestly, this was rather weak (and I am not just saying this as a presbyterian).

The section on early Christology was okay, if basic.  One factual error.  He said per the Nicene Council that "The Orthodoxy of Athanasius prevailed at the council" (41).  We don't have evidence that Athanasius was even at the Nicene Council, and it would be odd if he were given his youth.  Further, Athanasius's key arguments against Arius were far later in his career.

*Raises an interesting topic:  The Holy Spirit exercising gifts--gifts which are always for the building up of the church--outside specific church (TM) boundaries.

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