Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Unpacking the Wineskins - 1

So back to the Phoenix Preacher wineskin post (and now more here). I have a few minutes between putting out fires managing the various and sundry blazing infernos as best as is humanly possible here at my day job to support my habit, so here goes, a brief limping start to unpacking Newnham's post.

First, a comment.

Mike mentions something that's long bothered me. In mentioning what he perceives as the already-cracking leather which is the Calvary Chapel wineskin, he mentions something that I've heard from some Calvary pastors:

"That's not how Chuck did it"

"Chuck said"….

"We need to stay on the old paths…what would Chuck say?"

...yyyeeeeaaaaah, 'bout that...

I have to admit, I've heard similar.

To be fair, I don't for a second believe that Chuck himself condones, promotes, or otherwise aids or abbets that sort of thing.

But I have heard it.

I have noticed in my tenure as a CC pastor that there are, in essence, to kinds of Calvary Chapel pastors. Sunni, and fundie.

I consider myself to be a CC fundie. More on that in a moment.

The other type, however, I've taken to calling "Sunni CC."

In Islam, the Ahlus Sunnah wal-Jamaa'h, or Sunni, take their doctrine not primarily from the Qur'an, but from the Ahadith, a body of collected sayings and recorded practices and preferences of the Prophet Muhammad. A particular hadith would go something like this:

It has been reported to us by the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that...

...followed by something which Muhammad said, did, preferred, wore, or what have you.

Whatever the Prophet said (...did, preferred, wore, etc.) is presumed to be Allah's best revealed will for mankind and should be emulated by all good ummah.

Hence, there are ahadith pertaining to:

  • How Muhammad bathed

  • What Muhammad ate

  • When Muhammad ate

  • What Muhammad wore

  • How Muhammad prayed

  • and on, and on, and on...

There are literally thousands of ahadith, effectively regulating everything in a Muslim's life.

And sometimes, when talking with some fellow CC pastors, I have wanted to reach out with the right hand of fellowship and gently tap them upside their foreheads in a very "I shoulda had a V-8!" sort of way, because what I have heard goes something like this:

It has been reported to us by the companions of the Pastor (peace be upon him) that he prefers the King James Version.

(The obvious, barely-unspoken implication being that therefore, you should, too.)


It has been reported to us by the companions of the Pastor (peace be upon him) that he prefers that children not sit in with the adults during the Bible study.


It has been reported to us by the companions of the Pastor (peace be upon him) that... {fill in non-Distinctives particulars here}.

I can't tell you how many times I've been in a conversation with one of my fellow pastors, and we eventually get to the "well, Chuck says..." or some variation thereof - with the (again) strongly implicit understanding that all discussion can now end; an ex cathedra pronouncement has been made.

Or, in keeping with the whole "Sunni" analogy, a fatwa.


And I can't even begin to count how many times I've walked into a Calvary Chapel and the setup, order of service, and pretty much everything is designed to look just like Costa Mesa. Which becomes more than a little amusing when there's all of thirty people there. And when you realize that Costa Mesa didn't always look/feel/run that way. A lot of the hadithic Costa Mesa-isms evolved over time out of necessity and pure practicality, and are just a bit pretentious when taken out of its context.

All that to say, I unfortunately am forced to agree with that portion of Newnham's observations.

And say that whereas Sunni CC-ites exist, I do believe that the majority of us are CC fundies.

Briefly: what I mean by "CC fundie" is that we believe that Chuck has been given a vision by the Lord, a philosophy of ministry, a set of principles that are not unique to Calvary Chapel but are uniquely applied by CC, and it's that set of principles that we adhere to.

And that set of principles is the Distinctives.

And this is where I begin to diverge from Newnham; I wholeheartedly and unapologetically embrace the Distinctives - eschatology and soteriology and all.

More on that later; breaktime is over. Bending back to bring nose closer to proverbial grindstone...

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