Friday, October 01, 2010

Dealing with the junk drawer

I'm listening to a series of lectures on Reformation history from RTS ( Dr. Donald Fortson related the following metaphor for understanding the different groups within the Reformation, which I thought was very helpful.
We all have a "top dresser drawer" into which we throw everything that there's no other place for. Over time, it just gets full of all different kinds of things.

In church history, "tradition" kind of filled up the way that drawer does. And there were four different ways that the Reformers dealt with that drawer.

The Lutherans went through the drawer, looking for things that weren't Biblical. Lutheranism took out the things that weren't biblical, but they left everything else in there.

The Reformed took the drawer and dumped everything out on the bed. Then they went through all that stuff, checked it over carefully, and put back the things that were Biblical.

The Anglicans opened the drawer and took out one thing, called "the Pope," and put back in one other thing, called "the Archbishop of Canterbury." (He acknowledged that this was probably the least analogous part of the metaphor, given the 39 articles and all.)

The Anabaptists took out the whole drawer, dumped everything in the trash, and lit the trash can on fire.
I just thought that was a light-hearted little story for a Friday.


Jennie said...

I love that!
I just finished reading a book that shows the relationships between all these groups, and Catholicism also, throughout church history. It's called 'The Pilgrim Church' by E.H. Broadbent. He writes from the perspective of the dissident churches, such as those he calls
'the Brethren' and the anabaptists, and Moravian churches, Waldensians, and others. He uses much documentation and great stories and quotes, many from sources that are not available anymore. It was published early in the 20th century, I believe, and only recently is back in print. I really enjoyed the book because of the gospel message and how it showed the freedom of the Spirit to call and equip whomever He wills in order to build the church, outside of all the established structures that man builds up. He shows the different churches in their strengths and their weaknesses.
Broadbent was born in the mid-1800's and died in 1945, I think, and he traveled extensively and was involved in spreading the gospel and planting churches all over the world.
The book is available to read or download online (, and also to buy online:

john said...

John I don't know if you know this but some of the best anti-Romanist polemical works were written by Anglicans IE Whittaker, Goode, Salmon etc. Also the ABp of Canterbury does not have the same authority in the Anglican Church as does the Roman Pope in the Roman Church outside the Church of England. Anglicanism is more akin to Eastern Orthodoxy in that regard. I actually belong to one of the Anglican groups (Reformed Episcopal Church) that are a part of the newly formed Anglican Church in North America aka the ACNA. The Anglicans never intended to be "revolutionary" like the Anabaptists/Baptists but rather a restoration of the ancient Patristic "Catholic Church" minus the unbiblical and novel Roman Dogmas.

Tim Enloe said...

That is very humorous!

John Bugay said...

Hi Jennie, I'm glad you liked this. I laughed out loud as I was driving to work listening to this.

Though I have some sympathy with the Anabaptist position (wanting to throw the whole thing in the trash and start over), I do believe they went a bit too far in throwing out all of the authority structures. Another good thing about the Anabaptists was their call to holiness in living; but I do think they are lacking in their understanding of the Gospel -- the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and that salvation is totally from God.

Though I've not read it (and it is a bit pricey), my understanding is that George Williams's work, "The Radical Reformation" is the definitive treatment of the early Anabaptist movement.

John Bugay said...

Hi john, I actually have a great deal of respect for the Anglican writers you've mentioned (and a few others). Matthew Schultz is working through Whittaker on this blog, and David King has recommended Goode's work in the highest possible terms.

Here's something he's recently written on that:

(Although I see that's less about Goode and more about Newman, etc.)

I've found some of the works by modern Anglican writers to be some of the most thorough and astute that I've found (Especially J.N.D. Kelly and R.P.C. Hanson).

Dr. Fortson did characterize his brief comment on Anglicanism as probably being the least accurate part of his analogy.

Jennie said...

I do think they are lacking in their understanding of the Gospel -- the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and that salvation is totally from God.

One thing Broadbent brings out in his book is that to prevent division in the body of Christ, we must practice forbearance of each other's differences when they spring from incomplete understanding but also from faith. If they spring from unbelief and error that is another thing. I believe there is incomplete understanding on both sides of the Calvin/Arminius debate, and that it is partly because there are things we as humans can't understand, and also because God wants to teach us this humility and forbearance toward one another. This has been one of the hardest things for Christians to learn historically.