Thursday, September 20, 2007

Spirit Movement vs "Churchly Christianity": The Montanist Controversy

"In testing such spirits and rejecting them, the spirits of the Fathers must themselves stand trial. The Montanists' renewal of prophecy suffered at the hands of a church preoccupied with closing the ranks, drawing clear lines of demarcation and safeguarding its heritage, an exercise in which apostolic was often synonymous with traditional. The condemnation of Montanism was a decisive point in the evolution of that kind of churchly Christianity which cherished office and order and had little room to 'welcome the charismata".
("Why Were the Montanists Contemned?" by David F. Wright)

Both Wright and Robert Bradshaw argue that Montanism, deemed a heresy by the Church and by most historians, was not tolerated because of its threat to the stability of the Church's growing hierarchy. Specifically, Bradshaw argues that it was Tertullian's view of a spiritual church within the visible church which posed the greatest threat.

This sad case study (from which the church has apparently not learned!) should be re-examined periodically, especially by movements as they "come of age". I invite you to be a part of this process and ask the tough questions!