What manner of Christian be ye?

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : May 21, 2006

Scot McKnight is asking folks what manner of Christian they are. I’m sure, as always, the discussion will be quite interesting.

At the time I read the post, his concurrent poll revealed the following:

Evangelical 37.7%
Post-evangelical 35.8%
Other 10.3%
Charismatic 5.4%
Mainline Liberal 4.4%
Anabaptist 2.5%
Roman Catholic 1.5%
East Orthodox 1.0%
House church 1.0%

I selected “post-evangelical.” But that was only because you could only pick one. The problem is that I, like many these days, defy categorization.

Though my parents werent’ exactly evangelicals (my mom was anti-religion and my dad was a lapsed Mormon) I am generally from an evangelical background (”saved” at Bible camp in my teens). Currently, I am a part of the Baptist General Conference–which is thoroughly evangelical.

But the evangelical church of my teens was charismatic and had a mennonite pastor–I still consider myself charismatic (though more likely I should be called “post” charismatic).

My old mennonite pastor left a mark, however. Currently, my church is pursuing dual-affiliation with the Mennonites. Theologically, I am pretty mennonite (pacifist etc.).

At the same time, my church is basically neo-monastic. We have a lot in common with the house church movement. Though we have more in common with modern house churches as opposed to traditional house churches (post-house church?). Nevertheless we don’t think of ourselves as a house hcurch. We are neo-monastic because we draw heavily from Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theology and monastic traditions. The Catholics have a richer, in my opinion, monastic tradition. But the Orthodox have a richer theological heritage. My Doctrine of God is very Orthodox. Many of their other doctrines also appeal to me.

I am decidedly a mutt. And there are tons of mutts out there–and more all the time.

When people ask what sort of category I fall into, I say that I am a neo-anabaptist post-evangelical who is the founder of a neo-monastic missional order. Usually, that doesn’t help clarify.

What do we call ourselves (or what tradition we should claim) when the old categories no longer work? How do we really root ourselves in tradition when we don’t fit into one? How do we think of denominational loyalty in light of the “emerging” freedom to identify oneself across the spectrum of traditions and beliefs?

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4 Responses to “What manner of Christian be ye?”

  1. James on May 21st, 2006 11:26 pm

    When people ask me to categorize myself, I tell them I am a Christian.

    I, like you (I assume), believe that within the Christian tradition there is both good and ‘bad’ traditions. As Jaroslav Pelikan put it in his book The Vindication of Tradition we must be willing to study the Christian tradition to discover those things that are good and profitable for Christians and embrace them, but at the same time discard and reject those traditions that are in error or destructive to the faith.

    So, like you, I must also admit to being a mutt in that I try to find those things in the tradition (whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant) that are consistent with the Word of God and/or will help draw Christians closer to their Lord.

  2. b-nut on May 22nd, 2006 9:15 am

    maybe I am a post-Christian follower of Jesus…does that exist?

  3. Blorge on May 22nd, 2006 3:08 pm

    I have a similar problem, however it is additionally complicated by the fact that I am at Luther Sem where the way that things get framed is different from my Bethel days. They don’t tend to see the distinctions that people at Bethel see as so important. Instead of asking my denominational background, they ask my confessional tradition. I feel as if I can say a lot of different things and have them all be true of me (i.e. “Emergant” or “Anabaptist” or “House Church”) but none of them seems absolutely comfortable. I have had to just let that identity part go and to just say house church and wait for follow-up questions to give out the exact nuances based on their level of interest and categories. If someone is just asking to make small-talk, then why bother giving out the full view? When it becomes relevant, I’ll distinguish further.

  4. JVD on May 26th, 2006 7:36 am

    What category do I fall into? I love God and try to love other people. Hopefully some days I do a decent job of both… Is there a category for that? JVD

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