Churches of Christ…Iconoclasm

I’m reading the book Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional by Jim Belcher for an upcoming D.Min class.  The book is thus far accessing the conversation and clash between the emerging and traditional expressions of Evangelical Christianity, in which the former has become a sort of new reformation protest against the later.

Among emerging voices, who see traditional Evangelicalism fraught with serious problems (too wedded to modernism/enlightenment philosophy), there is a strong tone of deconstruction before there is any reconstruction.  While deconstruction is necessary when there is a perceived problem, Belcher says that the “protest is too sweeping.  At times it borders on iconoclasm” (p. 48).  He goes on to say:

…this iconoclasm is not fair, and if not tempered it will handicap this reform movement, potentially leading it into a new kind of sectarianism, mimicking some of the same mistakes of the past — anti-intellectualism, anti-tradition and tribalism (p. 48).

When I read this I just dropped the book in my lap and thought how much he could of easily spoken these words to my own tribe, the Churches of Christ, many years ago.

For those who don’t know, iconoclasm has to do with attacking and destroying cherished beliefs of an institution, such as Evangelicalism.  Because this is a blog, I won’t take the time to document all the ways in which the Churches of Christ fell into the trap that Belcher warns emerging Christianity of.  It’s suffice to say here that as part of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement, the Churches of Christ saw themselves as restoring the church read about in the New Testament.  Somewhere along the line this restoration project which began as a unity movement (“Christians only but not the only Christians) began asserting itself as the only true church, attacking all other denominations as false teaching and unchristian.  The result became an anti-intellectual, anti-traditional, and tribalistic form of sectarianism.  Of course, those still steeped in this sectarianism will cry foul at my assessment here but that may only show just how much we became a victim of our own iconoclasm.

While many among Churches of Christ have rejected this sectarian approach, it is worth mentioning as a living example of the warning Belcher offers:  Learn from history or repeat it!  For surely the Churches of Christ are not the only group of reforming/restoring Christians to become ensnared in this iconoclastic trap.

5 responses to “Churches of Christ…Iconoclasm

  1. the first iconoclasm was a fall from faith concerning the Church. The Church is the ground and pillar of the Truth and the Creed stated it thusly, I believe ‘in one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church’. The ground of this faith in a visible church, united, and filled with the Invisible Spirit, was based on the fact that is the earthly presence of Christ’s, incorruptible, resurrection Body. The Church as the Church is both the presence of Christ’s body on earth and icon of His presence in heaven at the right hand of the Father, and both are testimonies to the saving effects of the Incarnation. Humanity has been deified by the ascension of Christ; and God has sat down at Table with mankind in the Church, most pointedly in Communion.
    So, to speak properly of iconoclasm in a Christian way, one must speak of the breaking of icons, brought forth by God that expressly iconize the Prototype. So, to speak of the breaking of the multitude of forms that have been produced by Protestantism, it is not iconoclasm at all but the breaking of images made by synthetic attempts to restore the Church, a Church that never needed restoration, but needed to be found.
    Finding the faithful Church, the true icon is difficult, for the enemy and human hubris has shaped countless partial reconstructions. In the midst of those are countless sincere followers of Jesus, who, nevertheless suffer in a diaspora away from the express Image, in an iconic wasteland. Lord have mercy

    • “Finding the faithful Church, the true icon is difficult, for the enemy and human hubris has shaped countless partial reconstructions. In the midst of those are countless sincere followers of Jesus, who, nevertheless suffer in a diaspora away from the express Image, in an iconic wasteland.”

      Those partial reconstructions begin long before there was and Easter and Western Church but nevertheless carry forward into those Eastern and Western expressions.

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