Heretics, Pirates, and Other Fun Dinner Guests

Richard Sudworth posted a critique of the thought of Pete Rollins and Kester Brewin last week (HT). Today I read Rollins’ response at his blog. Part of what’s going on is Sudworth’s disdain for Brewin using pirates and Rollins using heretics as a motif to explain where they think theology ought to go. Sudworth takes issue with the emerging/ent (does anyone understand the distinction between these terms, seriously?) use of “over and against” to describe how a new theology could relate to the existing order in the church.

My first observation is that everything Sudworth criticizes in the work of Rollins and Brewin could be applied to the leaders of the Reformation. The problem with Rollins and Brewin appears to Sudworth to be a disregard for truth and authority.

It’s strange now but we have a large and growing cadre of Protestant and particularly Calvinist church leaders (though I have no idea if Sudworth is in the latter camp) who want to hammer the idea of church authority. Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck clearly like the idea, so does Mark Driscoll. They are all heirs to a strain of Christianity that by the very meaning of the name it calls itself – Protestantism – declares that it was over and against what the Roman church was doing in the 1500s.

Of course things were totally different back then, I mean something had to be done to protest the existing order. The church was a greed-filled money-making machine that used bad theology to trick the poor into thinking they could buy their way into heaven with special pieces of paper or holy tchotchkes all the while enriching those on the top and supporting their lavish lifestyles. Good thing nothing like that happens anymore, right Joel Osteen?

By going against the existing church order, by finding out his own reading of the Bible and then challenging the entire hierarchy that believed itself instituted by God, the one true church, all the bishops in authority over him, Luther fits extremely well with the description “orthodox heretic.” His spiritual descendants are uncomfortable with that idea though, for many Protestants the reformers seem to need to be a one-off sort of thing. The quick version of their church history seems to go like “the church was totally fine in AD 30 and went along pretty well until Augustine. After Augustine everything somehow went very badly wrong and got progressively worse until the 1500s when we fixed it, got everything perfect and we’ll never end up making a mistake ever again.”