I attended a public lecture at Regent College this week by Gordon T. Smith on the topic: Can we be Pentecostal, Evangelical and Sacramental? Although he was preaching to the choir, it seemed from the responses that, for the mostly serious, academic, evangelical audience, it was a radical proposal that we embrace all three. They are obviously unaware of Brian McLaren’s self-identifying subtitle of almost a decade ago where he lists no less than twenty different theological and denominational traditions that he identifies with. “Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed- yet hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian.” We live in a post-denominational age where a more “generous orthodoxy” should not be a radical idea, but I suppose it has not been treated by a serious academic before. I have appreciated Smith’s strong argument for a more sacramental view of baptism—besides appreciating his process view of conversion—in his book, Transforming Conversion. Although he could have added a dozen or more terms the way McLaren did, as an Anabaptist, I noted in particular how “Anabaptist” could have been added as a fourth dimension to formulate a more “full-orbed” view of spirituality. Smith does add a side-bar on Anabaptism in the book above but did not mention it at all in his lecture.
For example, he quoted John 15:4 and stated that the call to union with Christ is the marker of Christian maturity. Then asked: How is this possible? The Evangelical response is “through the Word.” The Sacramental response is “through grace infused matter.” The Pentecostal response is “through the Spirit,” because after all “John 15 is sandwiched by John 14 and 16 which both discuss the role of the Spirit.” My response is that John 13 precedes these chapters and points to the Anabaptist response: “through the serving community.” In his treatment of Acts 2:42-47 Smith mentioned the apostles teaching [Evangelical], spiritual signs and wonders [Pentecostal], and the breaking of bread [Sacramental], but did not mention the economic sharing [Anabaptist]in the text. Smith concluded with a case study of a baptismal service. The service begins with a preaching of the Word on baptism, then comes the baptismal rite, concluding with the anointing of oil to declare the coming of the Spirit. Again, the Anabaptist part was not named: the welcome into ongoing community.
The problem with only mentioning the first three is that it simply continues the individualism and spirit/body dualism so prevalent in western traditions. Including the Anabaptist tradition would have given us the more “full-orbed” view that Smith was looking for.