I’m finding Well’s book The Courage to be Protestant to be somewhat depressing and I feel myself getting more and more jaded and cynical as I read it (mind you, I think he’s right about most of what he says). To balance Well’s out a little, I just started Michael Green’s Evangelism in the Early Church and I’m enjoying him very much so far.
In the introduction he asserts that the church in the West must re-emphasize the militaristic analogies that come to us in the Bible (warfare, being a good soldier, weapons, armor, fighting the good fight, etc.). He points to the early church and though many refused to enter into military service they used militaristic images as analogies for the mission of church profusely. In addition to the early church, the church in Africa, Asia and Latin America are also characterized by this mindset – victory at all costs against a strong spiritual enemy. These are images you don’t hear in the Western churches very often. Instead, Green comments, we see our churches as hospitals rather than military outposts. I think there is something in the hospital imagery that is good and should be retained, but I don’t think it is helpful as the dominant image of the church.
Now I agree that we probably should re-emphasize the militaristic images in our churches. We should bring back Onward Christian Soldiers and Lead on O King Eternal (though not “I’m in the Lord’s Army”). My question is how? How in a world being torn apart by militant religious groups do we recapture what is healthy and biblical without being totally misunderstood and caste as radical fundamentalists?