Full Text for American Religious Scene- Volume 31 - The importance of knowing About Other Denominations (Video)

No. 31. >> You know, Dr. Rast, I can see the importance of knowing the confessional and historical background of the various denominations intellectually. But what is the practical application of all of this? Is there any? >>DR. LAWRENCE R. RAST, JR.: David, I think there is. In fact, I often ask myself when I was at the seminary: As interested as I was in history, how will this impact my ministry? Is there a way to make this stuff useful? And now that I'm a seminary professor, I've heard students ask me the very same question. Well, I found that as a pastor in Tennessee of all places that it was very important for my ministry to be familiar with these symbolical books of the various traditions. As well as to know something about their history. Not just the names and the dates and the facts. You know, I could make the statement that the Methodist Church was formally organized at the Christmas Conference in 1784. But who really cares? However, knowing that when I came into contact with a Methodist, perhaps with a person who had been largely disenfranchised in that tradition who had dechurched themselves over time, yet I knew part of their story, was familiar with what they had learned as a child perhaps in their church from their Catechism or from their Sunday school, it immediately made a way for us to connect. That is it provided a bridge. It provided a way for us to develop a relationship. Let me give you a really strong case in point. Again in Tennessee one of the more interesting groups that was around was the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Now, when I arrived, I knew little or nothing about the Cumberland Presbyterians. I had heard of them, of course. But what they were I didn't really know. But over the course of my early ministry, as I began to be aware of their presence in our area, I said: I better get a handle on these folks. I better learn something about them. And what I came to understand is they had grown out of the great revival in Kentucky/Tennessee 1800. And they had had a terrifically difficult experience with the larger Presbyterian tradition. In fact, things got so tense, the challenges were so pronounced, that finally they found themselves compelled to remove themselves from the general oversight of the existing Presbyterian churches. The point of controversy was especially the teaching of Christ's limited atonement. They rejected that particular emphasis within the Presbyterian tradition. And as a result, developed this new church body. This new denomination called the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, named after the river, the area where they had first developed. The cornerstone of their teaching is expressed in a way at Montgomery Bell State Park just west of Nashville. Just west of Nashville, Tennessee, about 40 miles. Where you see an archway that says: Whosoever will. And basically what they were saying is Christ had died for all. And whoever would accept him as their personal Savior could be saved. They didn't believe that Christ had only died for a portion of the world with, the elect. We'll talk about that more with Calvinism shortly. They believed that Christ had died for all. And that the opportunity for salvation was therefore, open to everyone. Now, I explored that a little bit. I visited the state park. I delved into their history a bit. And I read some of the early documents of their tradition. And it just so happened that one day a person who had for a long time been a member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church but had always been unhappy with some of their teachings, particularly in regards to the Lord's Supper happened by. And they asked me a question. This person asked me a question: What's the difference between Martin Luther and John Calvin on the doctrine of the Lord's Supper. Well, I asked: Do you want the long answer or do you want the short answer? And this person answered: The long one. I said: Well, you better come in. This may take us a while. So in came this person. We sat down to chat. She immediately stated that she was from the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. I said: Oh, okay. That means -- I told part of the narrative of that church's beginning. And I expressed a familiarity with their theological position. And immediately we had a connection. She said: You know my story. You know where I'm coming from. And therefore, you know, also, some of the points at issue. Perhaps some of the differences between our traditions. But I could speak as one who was informed. Not merely as one passing judgement. And as such, we began a relationship that ended in her joining our congregation. Her family joining our congregation. And being a very productive member of our little community. It was a wonderful blessing. And it started from just knowing that little bit of that story and helping make those connections. So I think there is a very practical use to all of this. It's not just technical theology where you can spout off a bunch of confessional documents and quote chapter and verse within them. It's more about the ongoing story of the church here in America as it defines itself, expresses itself and as human beings struggle to confess what they read in the Scriptures. And it gives us by knowing those various stories a way of immediately connecting with people. Of saying that they are important. Of expressing their value. And of giving an opportunity for making a good confession, a clear confession of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. And what could be more practical than that?