The relevance to us of the Acts church...
This post was excerpted from the Should we still be making disciples thread.
Andrew, I have sympathy with your view not least because the subordination of historical reality to abstract concept is something I am often concerned over. However, I am not sure that limiting the meaning of actions to their particular historical context solves the dilemma either. Your suggestion tends to compensate for the Platonic subordination issue by creating an arguably (not that I would argue it because as I said I sympathise with your view) equally problematic subordination of present to past. The result ethically is that we have less purpose now than the first believers did.
Is it not a better solution to simply take the New Testament church, for what it was in its own context, responding to the issues of its own day, on an equal footing with the issues we face in our own day? Agreed. the New Testament should not become a new set of laws for modern Christians to replace the Old Covenant under Moses. If that is the case, then we have not advanced since Moses and Christ died for nothing. Sadly, too many Christians and even whole denominations do this. But in the same way that the first Christians responded dynamically, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to the issues that they were faced with, so we should respond dynamically to the issues we face ourselves. If the early church felt they had to respond to their political milieu by insisting on an ethic of non-violence, or to their position within the context of Jesus’s prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem by constantly making disciples and undertaking much missionary activity, then there is no reason why we can’t similarly respond in our own day by instead of making disciples, creating a better adapted church society. If that is what was felt to be relevant today. But the reason we would be doing it would not be because there is some fundamental difference between us and the first Christians, as if we would never again need to make disciples or as if we would never again need to accept martyrdom. Rather, we would simply be doing exactly what the first Christians were doing: acting as freed men under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The relevance to us of the Acts church, then, is that they were the first believers in a tradition of which we are the continuation. Their history is our history, therefore we identify with them and we are continuing to make the same kind of decisions as they did. And the reasons we make the decisions we do today is not so much because we are postmodern as because we are free as we always should have been and as it turns out because we are recovering from the aberration that consisted of so much dogmatic and moralistic church governance.