Tuesday, December 21, 2010

another take on lausanne

Here's Carl Trueman on "A Dissenting Voice on Lausanne III"

First he wonders first if such declarations makes any difference to the world at large: 

Evangelicals typically make the fatal mistake of assuming that the wider world actually cares about what they think. It does not: it increasingly regards us as fringe lunatics, rather as it did in the first century.
  
Then he wonders if anything new or ground-breaking came out of it, especially in light of its great expense...

To read some of the blogs and reports on the conference, you would think that something new and radical was being proposed.  Nothing I have seen could not have been found better expressed elsewhere by somebody else at some point in the past.  The question then becomes: did we need a gathering of thousands of church leaders (though no leader from my own church, local or otherwise, seems to have been present), at huge expense, to tell us these things?

He wonders about how representative it was...

Clearly, the Lausanne movement it is not a church but rather an eclectic collection of leaders from various different churches.  It transcends individual denominations, but does so in a way that is simply not very ecclesiastical.  Now, I know that we want to find ways and means of expressing our unity in Christ; but to do this via a non-ecclesiastical root is not consonant with scripture and also leaves the gathering vulnerable to the accusation that it is self-appointed and unrepresentative. This latter criticism is particularly ironic, given the laudable desire of the organizers to be inclusive and, to quote the webpage, to be `perhaps the widest and most diverse gathering of Christians ever held in the history of the Church.' To play the postmodern card: one wonders who decided which people were `representative' and thus received an invitation, and which were not and were left by the wayside.

His final thought...

Maybe Lausanne III will be significant. I wish I could believe that. More likely, I suspect, it will go the way of Lausanne I and II: it will produce some inspiring documents, an interesting book or two, and perhaps give those fortunate enough to have been present a vision of the kingdom which may last for a few months or maybe a year. It certainly will not have any impact at local level: it does not have the mechanisms attached to it to do so.  Thus, for most of us, life will go on as normal, in all of its boring, mundane routine: we will ensure that the gospel is faithfully preached week by week from our pulpits, we will attempt to apply God's word to the routine pastoral problems of our congregations, we will seek to reach out to the community where God has placed us, and we will, in these straitened times, strive to meet our modest budgets. In this context, a context very familiar to most Christians, some of us will wonder if the money and time spent in Cape Town might not have given a better return if invested elsewhere.
Trueman may be overstating the case, but these are valid questions.  I think there is value to such gatherings and to documents that help refine, clarify, and articulate clear doctrinal and missional positions.  It gives a reference point for agreement, even though they may not be "binding".  I felt the Manhattan Declaration, for example, did an excellent job at defining and defending the biblical view of marriage. 

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