Thursday, February 26, 2009
Moderate Baptists and Ash Wednesday
Associated Baptist Press has an interesting story today about the phenomena of moderate/liberal Baptist churches trending toward the observation of Lent (the 40 day period excluding Sundays before Easter). In the liturgical calendar, yesterday was "Ash Wednesday" and some moderate Baptist churches have even offered "the imposition of ashes." The above article notes that Baptist related Belmont University even had a Catholic Bishop co-preside in their chapel service!
What do we make of this? Many moderate Baptist churches are enamored with "high church" liturgical worship with smells, bells, candles, robes, and holy days. I think many are more than a little embarrassed by their blue collar, "low church" Baptist roots. So, they borrow the traditions of Anglicans and Roman Catholics. Likewise, when I went to a moderate Baptist seminary, reading Catholics like Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton was all the rage. When doctrine does not matter anymore, the line is blurred between Baptists and Catholics.
My guess is that some moderates like the mystical, visual, experiential, and tangible elements of such "high church." The irony is that they seek to borrow what they perceive to be "traditional" outward elements of worship style, while jettisonning traditional Biblical theology, roles of men and women, views of Scripture, etc. Another irony is that they don't realize that these expressions of "traditional" Christianity are more recent inventions in church history.
Sadly, they miss out on returning to their Reformation roots, and then to apostolic Christianity, to the simplicity and beauty of worship regulated by Scripture. We don't need ashes smeared on our heads to express repentance. We only need to read the Scriptures, to listen to the preaching of the gospel, to sing praises, to pray, to observance the ordinances, and to worship on the Lord's Day.