I think a little more clarification is in order before I continue my series on NT Christianity.
Stepping back, for a moment, from the focus on ecclesiology, I think a good way to broadly categorise the (hermeneutical) attitude I’m calling `New Testament Christianity’ is that it is there is no fundamental difference between the sort of life a Christian can (and should) live now and the sort lived in the New Testament era.
So, for instance, I can (potentially) have exactly the same sort of relationship with God that Paul did. I can experience the presence and power of the Spirit in the same way that Stephen did. I can be used by the Spirit to do miracles in the way that Peter was. I can experience the intense Spirit-driven community that some of the early believers did. The list goes on.
I’m not being simplistic here — there are obvious exceptions. For instance, the first disciples met Jesus as a physical person whereas I can’t (this side of the eschaton) and so I can’t quite relate to god in this way. Still, I think the distinction I’m making is clear. I think it’s also clear that what I’m calling NT Christianity cannot be caricatured as a desire to start wearing sandals and togas, speaking koine Greek, or anything of the sort.
There are obvious questions arising here: if the closing of the canon does not constitute a fundamental shift in what it means to be a Christian then what is the significance of the canon or even of the canonical writings themselves for a post-400AD Christian? I will try to address some of these questions in a future post.
In my next post I will begin to tackle the first of the objections mentioned in my first post — the idea that this `NT Christianity’ hermeneutic/attitude is arrogant and revisionist.
p.s. — I am beginning to realise that the appellation of `New Testament Christianity’ is a clumsy one. I should have thought of a better phrase. I use the phrase mainly because this is a phrase we have always used in the fellowship that I am a part of, eg. `we want to be “New Testament Christians” and live like the Christians in the NT did’. This has always been an important part of our identity as a group. So I have always associated this suspicious attitude toward post-Constantinian Christianity coupled with the desire to emulate the earliest believers with the phrase `New Testament Christianity’. Would anybody like to suggest a better appellation?