Michael Spencer has been in a ranty mood this past week. That's good for readers, because he has very well-reasoned rants to offer. Recently, he composed a list of the major blunders that the American evangelical movement has fallen into. He explains each one in detail. They are:
1. Eliminating all hymns
2. Goofy youth minister style preaching
3. No church membership
4. The megachurch agenda vs. the healthy church agenda
5. Too much music
The first one is particularly interesting, and I think comes from the evangelical tendency to disregard the historic Church. That which came before them, or before 1980, is essentially bad. But if your theology (and specifically your ecclesiology) is the latest book at the LifeWay, then you're on the unstable ground of market forces, instead of deriving your theology from what the Bible AND what the historic Church has said about the Bible throughout the ages.
This tendency is also, to an extent, an overcorrection by some schools of Protestantism, which held that the Church became apostate after 95 AD and remained so until the Gospel sprung, fully formed, from the brow of John Calvin five hundred years ago. It is also the idolatry of both Modernism and PostModernism before the new, the innovative, and the cool.
I was a history major in college and tend to see a long view in such matters. That's why I find myself rather taken aback in our arguments on the Virgin Birth, Resurrection, etc. because my debating opponents are essentially saying, "Well, it turns out that the historic Church has always been wrong on this central, creedal statement on Christianity, and we've only understood the actual truth in the past few years." That's a really shocking statement to me, but apparently not to others. We should always read and interpret the Scriptures for ourselves, and may disagree with the historic Church on some matters. But if we find ourselves rejecting what the greater Church said on an issue that it said was critical, up until 100 years ago, then that should set off alarms. For example, if we can't say the Apostles' Creed (which includes issues like the Virgin Birth, Resurrection, Ascension), then we have departed from historic orthodoxy, and should be concerned.
Conservatives, too, can fall into this trap, such as the Pentecostal belief that whole Church was apostate until 1905. This is a particularly strange teaching for KJVonlyist Pentecostals, because that that means that their Bible was translated by non-Christians. Or perhaps a better example is Gwen Shamblin's cult, which started out of mainstream evangelicism, but left when Shamblin determined that the Church has always been wrong about the Trinity.
As we read and prayerfully study the Scriptures, we should regard the historic church as a critical navigational instrument. Those, both Left and Right, who toss such sextants into the sea, run great risk of running aground into heterodoxy.