Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Strawman Arguments and House Churches

The above icon pretty well describes what a strawman argument is.

The more I study house churches, the more I hear and read strawman arguments against them. Rarely have I heard anyone accurately describe house churches and then have something negative to say about what they really are. Rather, what I read and hear are people inaccurately describing house churches and then attacking their own false descriptions.

Over the next few days I'm going to be pointing out five strawman arguments that I have recently read or heard that go against house churches. I believe these are all unfair characterizations of what house churches generally are. Of course, like with all churches, differences exist between any churches. Therefore, I'm going to be dealing with generalities.

The first strawman argument I've heard/read goes something like this: "House churches are not consistent. They say churches today should look like churches of the New Testament, but today's house churches fail to do this."

The above strawman argument says that house church proponents believe that all churches should look exactly like New Testament churches, including cultural norms. I've heard those writing against house churches say things like, "Why aren't they wearing togas? Why aren't their bibles in scrolls? Why do they have air conditioning?"

The reality of the situation is that house churches do not expect churches to function exactly like those in New Testament times. Of course there will be cultural differences. House churches recognize this.

House churches are not striving to reinvent first century culture. House churches, rather, are trying to follow the biblical model of church life. For example, nowhere in the N.T. is it suggested that wearing togas is important. The issue of scrolls is never mentioned as important. Obviously, air conditioning/temperature in the house wasn't of significance.

What is important to house churches is to be consistent in what matters. So, what matters? What matters is following the practices stated in the N.T. for how churches should function. The reason for this is that since the bible is inspired by God, authoritative, and sufficient, then in order to be consistent, we should follow what we see in scripture.

What is important is things like having participatory church gatherings, celebrating the Lord's supper as a full meal, gathering in homes (or at least places that allow for real community), maintaining non-hierarchical church leadership, keeping families together, and striving for congregational consensus. We can find all of these modeled for us in scripture. Therefore, they are important.

Remember, the strawman argument mentioned above is the claim that house churches are inconsistent because they say churches should look like churches of the N.T., but fail to do so. The reality is that house churches believe that today's churches should adopt the practices of the N.T. church that are seen as important by the apostolic writers. House churches do not believe that all cultural norms must be adopted.

House churches want to be biblical, not first century, in nature. There is an important difference.


Alan Knox said...


You may find this new article by John Armstrong (author of Your Church is Too Small) interesting: "The Home Church Movement". In this article, he gives some statistics and positive remarks about home churches. He promises a follow-up article with his "personal and theological concerns."


Eric said...


Thanks for the article. I'll take a look at it. I wonder what his concerns are.