Some years ago a group fashioned itself as a renewal group. Intent to stem the perceived tide of progress they labeled themselves a group to return a local church to “a New Testament Church.” After some years of college and seminary I reflected on that moment in my Christian experience and wondered, “Which New Testament Church are you choosing?”
Romanticism dies hard. Idealism even harder. Would we romantically wish to fashion ourselves after the New Testament Church in Corinth? Rife with division and struggling to live in new ways, the letters of Paul to Corinth should dispel any romantic misgivings. Even if we selected the New Testament Church at Philipi, arguably the least dysfunctional of them all, our idealism would crumble under the weight of either self-serving preachers or female leaders in conflict.
These things came to mind as I finished Tony Jones‘ latest book.
I am glad to have full copy of the didache. Tony does a good job of walking the reader through the attendant sections and the related subject matter. Even the reflections by Trucker Frank offer a way to see how someone today may consider the form of Christianity practiced by some of the earliest Christian communities.
But, I come way with the feeling that if we could just get back to the primitive believing and practicing of this ancient community things would be different. We would be more self-sacrificial, altruistic, and faithful. Simpler would surely be better. But simplifying what we have to follow does not necessarily mean anyone would indeed follow. That, I believe, is romanticizing the past and creating a neo-idealism. Weights under which people of the Way of Jesus have suffered for two millenia.
Make no mistake. I find value in The Teaching of the Twelve: Believing & Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community. I do believe we should be cautious not to overstate the import of the discovery of this little book when we possess the narratives of the Gospels pointing to the Way of Jesus.