Hermeneutics and Blue Parakeets: Restoration Movement Blue Parakeets

blueparakeetSo how does this approach to hermeneutics affect Restoration Movement teaching? Well, quite a lot, actually. Let’s take some examples.

Sunday

The classic Restoration Movement hermeneutic is to think in terms of commands, examples, and necessary infererences (CENI). This approach struggles a bit when confronted with inconsistent examples. For example, we see that the Jerusalem church met daily (Luke 24:53; Acts 2:46; 5:42). And yet the churches in Troas and Corinth seems to have met weekly (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2), although the texts are a bit ambiguous. Logically, if we were meet daily, we’d honor both examples, but we only meet on Sunday and Wednesday, and we consider Sunday the only day that’s strictly mandatory.

How do we decide? Well, traditionally, what we do is look at the Patristics, writings of uninspired early Christians that reveal that the early church meet weekly on Sundays. But this is contrary to being “silent where the Bible is silent” and sola scriptura

The Story, however, takes us down a radically different path. You see, the Story is all about overcoming brokenness and Otherness by the power of the Spirit through participation in a covenant community. How often does a covenant community need to gather to overcome Otherness?

The answer becomes very pragmatic. In some cultures and settings, daily meetings may well be possible and delightful. In others, weekly meetings may be all we can muster. But even where weekly gatherings are the norm, if we are truly seeking Oneness, we’ll look for opportunities to be together in smaller groups — classes, prayer groups, accountability groups, study groups, etc. And if we want to help the world overcome its brokenness and Otherness, we’ll look for chances to be together to serve others.

If we grasp the Story, we see the assembly as a gift from God to grow together — together with each other and together with God and together with as many lost people as we can get to come — for edification, comfort, strength, and encouragement. And do you know what? This is what the Bible teaches. We’ve just been blind to it because we started at the wrong place.

(Heb 10:24-25)  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

What we are to do when we meet (however often that may be) is “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” and “encourage one another.” The instructions are in the active voice. We don’t go to be spurred (passive) but to spur. 

In practical terms, we go to help our brothers and sisters live another week in mission for God.

In a parallel passage, Paul deals with whether it’s proper to speak in tongues or to prophesy in a meeting of the saints.

(1 Cor 14:3-4)  But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.

He draws a line — not between authorized and unauthorized acts — but between acts that help us overcome brokeness and Otherness, acts that strengthen, encourage, comfort, or edify, and those acts that don’t. And in light of God’s story, this makes perfect sense.

And so, how often do we have to meet? Wrong question. Better question: how often do we need to meet? Best question: how often do we get to meet? After all, if the assembly truly accomplishes its purpose, we’d be looking for ways to meet more and more.

Now, in my congregation, we’ve dropped Sunday night assembly for small groups, because small groups help us in these areas in ways that a second assembly cannot. And we’re finding our members spontaneously forming lunch and breakfast accountabilty and Bible study groups and taking on service projects as community, often out of the small groups but sometimes along other connections.

We meet all the time.

Instrumental music

I’m sure my readers know the classic argument. Under the Regulative Principle we inherited from John Calvin, we conclude that all that is not specifically authorized (by CENI) is prohibited. Instruments are nowhere authorized. Therefore, they are prohibited.

But under the Story, we are brought into covenant community to overcome brokeness and Otherness by the power of the Spirit. We gather to edify one another and to encourage one another to love and good works. And we intend for our love for each other to be so intensely present in the assembly that God-less visitors fall on their faces declaring that God is surely present.

Therefore, the question is pragmatic. Do instruments help us edify and encourage each other? Do they help us overcome Otherness and brokeness? Do they help visitors see the presence of God?

The answer isn’t immediately obvious, is it? And that’s because the answer is cultural and pragmatic, not theological. Actually, the answer is plain to those who’ve studied the culture. You see, nearly every Protestant church in the U.S. that has more than 2,000 members has at least one contemporary music worship service. That wasn’t true 10 years ago, but it’s true today because experience and study of the culture has taught the lesson.

But the culture isn’t entirely uniform, and the skill with which we do instrumental worship vs. a cappella worship varies. My own church, with nearly 700 present most Sundays, is a cappella only, and we find our worship attractive to people with many different denominational and unchurched backgrounds. But we do it pretty well. And we have lots of voices. Not every church can do it well. Besides, I think it’s likely more important to be contemporary than instrumental.

Now, for reasons I’ve explained elsewhere, the Regulative Principle is not scriptural. Considerations of edification, love, and God’s mission are. Musical styles is simply not a doctrinal question. Do what best serves the purpose of the assembly where you are.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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6 Responses to Hermeneutics and Blue Parakeets: Restoration Movement Blue Parakeets

  1. Alan says:

    I think part of the problem between conservatives and progressive / emerging / post-modern / etc types is the choice of terminology. These writers have developed a jargon that means something in their own circles but does not communicate well to outsiders. For example, consider the following sentence quoted from your post:

    But under the Story, we are brought into covenant community to overcome brokeness and Otherness by the power of the Spirit.

    . In the above-quoted sentence are three jargon words that IMO interfere with communication: "Story", "brokeness", and "Otherness". There are many other similar jargon words, as I'm sure you recognize. I admit that I recoil inside at such jargon. When I read things like that, it feels like someone is trying to slip something by me. I'm not quite sure what they are saying. I don't know how far they are willing to take the line of reasoning, or how far they will try to take it in the future if I consent to their immediate point. I don't know those things, because they are speaking in a language they have invented, a language I don't share. It puts me at a tremendous disadvantage in discussing the subject with any real precision. They are trying to persuade me to a point of view, but I can't accept it because I'm not sure exactly what I'm buying.

    The vocabulary obscures, in the same way as Orwell's Newspeak. Wouldn't it be better to use the commonly shared vocabulary of scripture?

  2. Jay Guin says:

    Alan,

    I use these terms because they are McKnight's vocabulary. But I thought the sense of the terms was clear. Obviously, I was wrong.

    "Otherness" is the opposite of Oneness. "Oneness" is from Jesus' prayer for oneness in John 17.

    I cite scriptures in the most recent post (on the Story and Our Salvation) that speak in terms of "separation" as the opposite of Oneness. Maybe "separation" would be a more Biblical word, but "separation" has so many other meanings in English that I'm not sure it gets the meaning across. Perhaps "separateness" would be better.

    "Story" means, well, story. I capitalize it solely to emphasize the one, unique, God-told, Spirit-breathed story — and to remind the readers that it's a story in the sense of narrative rather than fiction. But it really just means the story of the Bible. I have a children's book from my father's childhood that has that name. It's not Orwellian at all.

    "Brokenness" refers to the fact that we are broken.

    (Psa 31:12) I am forgotten by them as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery.

    We are "broken" in the sense that we are imperfect and cannot fix ourselves —

    (Psa 14:1-3) For the director of music. Of David. The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. 2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. 3 All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.

    (Rom 3:23) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

    (Job 15:14) "What is man, that he could be pure, or one born of woman, that he could be righteous?

    (Jer 17:9) The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

    (Mark 10:18) "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good–except God alone.

    (Eph 2:1-3) As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

    (Titus 3:3) At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

    (1 John 1:8) If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

    We are "broken" because we need to be repaired. God begins his repair work when we are saved, by the power of the Spirit. He completes it at the Resurrection of the saints.

    I could use "fallen" instead, but to some it would sound like "fallen away," which is not the right thought. "Flawed" and "imperfect" have about the same sense. I just like "broken" because it immediately implies the need to be repaired.

  3. Randall says:

    I appreciate your blog very much. I mean that sincerely, not as a prelude to be critical of you (or anyone else).

    I also appreciate much of what is being said in the emerging/emergent movement and I think I have a pretty good grip on much of the terminology.

    "Broken" and/or "brokenness" strikes me as an understatement – especially in light of the texts you just posted. It seems to me to be more acceptable in these times, kind of like using the term "servant" rather than "slave" in many translation of the bible. But it doesn't seem to capture the sense of just how corrupt we are. Leave it to me to be picky. What do you think?

    Peace,
    Randall

  4. Alan says:

    Jay,

    It is helpful to define the terms. I still think the progressives in general would be better served if they would present their case in the vocabulary of their audience instead. It would make their case more accessible and friendly to those outside their circle.

  5. Todd says:

    Alan,
    Is that along the same lines as how the translators of old invented words like Baptism, Sanctification and Justification to make things clear?

    Every generation and every movement has its "jargon." It is not intended to be scary nor intended to hide anything. In fact it is intended to allow people discussing similar topics to be more clear with each other not less so. It is what people do.

    And not to be snarky but did Jesus communicate things in easy to understand terms for the "outsider" or did He save the inside information for the, well, insider?

  6. Alan says:

    Todd,

    I'm just offering a perspective that might be helpful for those who want to communicate clearly with outsiders. Take it for what it's worth. If you're into keeping it in secret code parseable only by insiders, then fine. But I don't think that's where Jay is coming from.

    If you can't communicate your message clearly and persuasively in the terminology of outsiders, don't be surprised when outsiders don't embrace your message. In that case, the fault does not lie in those who reject your message.

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