Markers – Recovering Identity: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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85 Responses

  1. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I don’t know about others and other traditions, but the only thing that makes a Christian a Lutheran is subscription to the Book of Concord. There is no other marker.

    Those who stray from the Box, stray from being Lutheran.

  2. Duane Arnold says:


    Wholly predictable… Yet even among the LCMS, I think there are other “markers”. I’ve been to a number of LCMS churches that were “difficult” for me to recognize as a Confessional Lutheran body. Just as I have been to Anglican churches that were likewise hard for me to recognize as Anglican.

  3. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Wholly predictable right back at ya!.
    You purposely ignored where I said those who stray from the BoC stray from being Lutheran.
    Perhaps that was what you were witnessing – as I stated.

    If they want to return, they should grasp the marker – the BoC. Rather simple I would suggest.;-)

  4. Josh says:

    I think being Southern Baptist comes down to giving to the Cooperative Program and adhering to the Baptist Faith and Message, though neither is enforced. But that is sort of the Mere Chritianity version of SBC markers.

    Incidentally, I read my first three Dobson books this semester. Some meat, some bones, for sure. Probably read my last three this semester, as well. 🙂

  5. Jean says:

    I think a lot of identities are assumed unconsciously, either by being brought up in a tradition or by being converted into a tradition without any explicit intend to take on an identity. Thus, a person might naively think that “everyone things or practices an aspect of the faith like me” or “isn’t this what all Christians think about this or that.”

    If someone is more intentional about identifying with a tradition, then it is incumbent on him or her to learn all about it, the faith and the practice, and from bona fide sources who pass it down authentically. That requires real work and effort, but it is rewarding.

    I personally think that a person is better off in a coherent tradition, than if he or she takes the salad bar approach, because of the risk of picking up inconsistent teachings and practices. Also, I think people are generally better off worshiping with others who share a common faith and practice (a common confession, if you will) than in a group where people have conflicting beliefs regarding the faith and practice.

  6. Duane Arnold says:


    “If they want to return, they should grasp the marker – the BoC.”
    And what would that sort of church look like? I’ve seen a charismatic LCMS church, one with open communion, one that is using a church growth (mega church) template, I could go on… Like you, I would wish “Lutherans to be Lutherans”, but it is harder to see exactly what that looks like these days.

  7. Duane Arnold says:


    I think you are, to some degree, echoing what I was trying to get at in the article…

  8. Michael says:

    I tend to be a minimalist in this…if a body isn’t using the Book of Common Prayer and following the liturgy,they aren’t Anglicans.
    Further, they threaten true Anglican identity by refusing to do so.
    When you no longer accept the markers of a given group, you need to form your own group…and call it something else…

  9. Duane Arnold says:


    How do you feel about some of the other markers? Or, do you see the other markers emerging from the use of the BCP?

  10. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane – you may be a hard nut to crack. Are you looking solely to outward appearances to the outsider – or the identity markers used by the insider to associate?
    As to the charismatic church, there is a good example of not subscribing to the BoC that speaks against the “enthusiast” and / or “enthusiasm” that mark the charismatics.

    ***not to Duane who I am sure is familiar with the terms, but to others – enthusiasm does not contain the same meaning / understanding we use in our common English today.***

  11. Duane Arnold says:


    “Are you looking solely to outward appearances to the outsider – or the identity markers used by the insider to associate?”
    I think both are important, but it has to start with an internal identity (at least in my opinion).

  12. Michael says:


    The other markers progress from where we start…and at least for me, the starting point is the BoCP.
    The rest seem to naturally fall into place.
    I think the other thing that forms identity are the leaders who model what it means to be Anglican or one of the other tribes.

  13. Michael says:

    I was on the wrong side of those argument for a long time when writing about Calvary Chapel.
    There has always been a group that demanded CC’s follow the ‘Distinctives’…and because I thought they were poor theology I thought it good to move away from them.
    However, a CC without them is just another Baptist church…

  14. Duane Arnold says:


    Agreed as to BCP…

    Do you have an article or link that lays out the CC distinctives for other readers?

  15. Xenia says:

    I think the main marker for us Orthodox is the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. We have plenty of other things that make us distinct, such as icons, calendar differences, fastings, etc. but I think it’s the Liturgy that defines us best.

  16. Michael says:


    We Anglicans say that our unity is around how we worship far more than doctrine.
    Is there a monolithic doctrinal standard you have to confess in Orthodoxy?

  17. Duane Arnold says:


    As an outsider, I think that I would agree with you, but with the addition of the Orthodox “sense of time” in terms of the Church Year which I think is far more profound in the East as compared to the West…

  18. Xenia says:

    MIchael, at baptism, the convert has to recite the Nicene Creed. (Godparents recite it on behalf of babies.)

    Duane, after just passing through Holy Week I have to agree with you!

  19. Xenia says:

    For example, it is not uncommon for a child to point out that “next week is the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing women.”

  20. Xenia says:

    BUT I must say that I am only familiar with how the Orthodox live by the Church Year and not how other liturgical churches live.

  21. Xenia says:

    As an example of living a life guided by the Church Year, because this is Bright Monday I have a nice leg of lamb roasting in the oven. 🙂

  22. Josh says:

    I misunderstood the direction a bit earlier. I’ll try to give some specific markers you’ll find at any (SBC) Baptist church:

    Something very similar to inerrancy. They may not call it that, and may not know about the Chicago statement, but if you flesh it out, every Baptist church will believe something very close to inerrancy.

    Believer’s baptism – In other words, full immersion after a profession of faith. There is no rue about how young a baptism candidate can be, but you would rarely see one younger than six years old.

    Senior leadership will be Male. You will find women in all leadership positions accept the top one in whatever organization or church you are in.

    Opposition to abortion. Politically, we are all over the map, but abortion is a galvanizing issue for Baptists, at least since the late-70’s.

    Promotion of traditional family roles. 1 man, 1 woman, etc.

    I’m sure there are others, but that is all that I can think of that doesn’t have substantial representation on the other side too.

  23. Duane Arnold says:


    Yes. You got exactly what I meant. There is simply a more profound attachment to “Church time”. Anglican, Lutherans, RCs and some others follow the Church Year, but it is more like “keeping it” than being fully immersed in an alternate universe of time…

  24. Jean says:

    I think that the inculcation of any temporal Christian identity should serve the greater aim to deliver to the Christian an eternal Christocentric identity. If that is not the ultimate objective, then it would vanity. I do not doubt that this is how most Christians view their tradition and Christian identity, but it never hurts to test your identity markers to see how they measure up to Scripture’s portrayal of Jesus.

  25. Duane Arnold says:


    It’s an interesting list! As an outsider, it almost seems “theological/cultural”. I’m not saying there is not theology behind the cultural elements, as I know there is. It also struck me that the “contentious” issues would have seemed normative 50 years ago… not so much today…

  26. Duane Arnold says:


    Indeed, it has to serve the higher ideal. I’m of the opinion that it is as much a matter of our “practice” as it is of our “theology”. I’m not discounting the theological component, but identity seems to be connected to how that theology is expressed in our practices.

  27. Josh says:

    Duane – there are certainly cultural markers for SBC. Abortion would be one. If you look at SBC writings before the 70’s,there are views all over the spectrum, with “legal but rare” probably the most common approach. As the political culture in our country has changed, so have our views. You would likely get run out of church for saying abortion should be legal, safe, and rare today.

  28. Duane Arnold says:


    Are there other “cultural” or “practice” markers for the SBC? (Other than the church potluck ?!)

  29. Josh says:

    Not that are universal across the convention. Even potlucks are gone. I do miss them.

    I would add memorialist (or similar) view of the Lord’s Supper, too.

  30. Duane Arnold says:


    I think it is part of the problem. I think, “SBC”… What do I think of? Your church? Greg Laurie’s church? Charles Stanley’s church?

    Among Anglicans, we have the same problem… and it is killing us…

  31. Xenia says:

    Oh man, are you seriously telling me the Babtists have discontinued their potlucks?

    Even in the South???

  32. Michael says:

    Has there been a replacement for potlucks as a way to gather communally outside a service?

  33. Josh says:

    Yep, potlucks are a rarity. There has not really been a replacement. Most churches have tried some sort of small group home fellowship, but that is far from universal.

    Duane is right – Warren, Stanley, Laurie, Furtick…all SBC (actually, I don’t think Furtick still is. He was educated in the SBC and Elevation was an SBC plant, but I don’t think are any ties now.)

    Something like 85% of SBC churches have 100 or less members. Makes it even tougher to put a finger on it.

  34. Michael says:


    How do you think this affects the local church and the SBC as a whole?

  35. Josh says:

    Which part? The death of potluck?

  36. Michael says:

    I would see that as a symptom of the death of real community.

  37. Duane Arnold says:


    If I go to a concert, I sit with a lot of people. In the course of the evening we may sing together… laugh together and applaud together. We may think it is community, but at the end of the concert the house lights come up, we all move toward the exits and go our separate ways. It’s an experience, but it is not community. I see a similar phenomena in church after church. We mistake the “experience” of being together for an hour or more as being “community”… it’s not.

  38. Michael says:


    I agree…but we’re even getting close to losing shared experiences like concerts…

  39. Josh says:

    Michael, I agree. It is definitely less family feel than it was in previous generations. Every baptist church around here used to have horse shoe pits. Everyone would bring food, hang around, and have a good time. 20 years ago, or so, we started following the mega-church examples. No more potlucks. Got to get people in and out. We don’t really know each other any more, and certainly don’t want to spend time together.

  40. Duane Arnold says:


    I even see it in the dying custom of the pastor/priest at the door of the church talking to people as they leave. It was humanizing. If someone had something happening in their life, they were likely to mention it to you. You thanked people for coming (what a concept!). I’m not talking “nostalgia” here… but the loss of human contact…

  41. Jean says:


    “I’m of the opinion that it is as much a matter of our “practice” as it is of our “theology”.”

    While I may not see as much independence between practice and theology as you do, if I were to distinguish the two, I might distinguish them in terms of the two services in a Lutheran divine service: The Service of the Word; followed by the Service of the Sacrament.

    In a way they are both enactments of divine service, but there is more ritual enactment (i.e., practice) in the Service of the Sacrament than in the Service of the Word. Similarly, there is more theological exposition in the Service of the Word than in the Service of the Sacrament, although even there the proclamation of the Gospel is certainly present.

  42. Eric says:

    At churches I’ve been part of, it’s been normal to hang around for a while after the service. I never thought of it as a core part of Sunday church, but now that I think of it, I suppose it is. The worship service may run 10:00-11:15, but the meeting of God’s people runs 10:00-12:00. Church lunches still happen (not called potlucks here, but I guess it’s the same).

  43. Duane Arnold says:


    Good observation…

  44. Fluke says:

    Duane please forgive the way this question is presented and there may be a better way for you to word it. Understand if your unable to respond or if previously addressed perhaps direct me properly?
    Can you explain the attraction of many an Anglican to the early revival of the Jesus Movement?
    Yet later (and presently) an attraction to Anglican by those that once embraced the early convictions of the Jesus Movement?
    Thus is this simply and historically a common cycle in the Christian Faith?

  45. Duane Arnold says:


    My reference to “practices” could certainly be applied to the liturgy, but in my own thinking I was referring to things such as the pastoral offices (marriage, death, confirmation) as well as other areas such as pastoral care, the prayer life of the clergy, the sense of reverence in worship, how we order a worship space, etc. While the theological side is (or tends to be) cerebral, “practice” is what is seen, heard and felt… As an example from my own tradition, someone may have no knowledge of the 39 Articles, but they will remember attending a service of choral evensong for years…

  46. Duane Arnold says:


    I think you might be right that it is part of “a common cycle”. We tend to forget that the first and second “Great Awakenings” came out of Anglicanism through the Wesley brothers and George Whitfield (all Anglican priests). Even the early Anglo-Catholics and Tractarians had an evangelical ethos, especially in their work in the slums and among the poor.

    In the modern era, I think Bob Webber of Wheaton led the way. Anecdotally, I continually run into people who coming our of the Jesus Movement met, or read, Webber and embraced Anglicanism. I think the attraction is an ancient/modern faith that values much of what the Jesus Movement embodied – faith, community, prayer, music, etc.

    It is an interesting question that deserves further exploration…

  47. Xenia says:

    I rather hesitate to post this here but the SBC has been brought up and I’m madder than a hornet so here goes.

    Beth Moore is my hero. On Twitter, she generally posts words of encouragement for Christians and I imagine most of her fans are women. She is a Southern Baptist and we’ve discussed her here before. Yesterday she tweeted that White Supremacy was incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You would not believe (well,maybe you would) the angry backlash she is receiving.

    Here’s why I think Beth is heroic. She is losing money over her stand. She made it clear in the past she could not support Trump because of his lack of moral character and she was accused of supporting Hilary and Planned Parenthood. The attendance at her events has dropped. She went from being the darling of the SBC ladies’ Bible studies to an object of hatred. Just imagine: suggesting that racism is incompatible with Christian teaching has turned her into a pariah. Well, good for her. God bless her. Well done, good and faithful Beth.

    And lest you think I am picking on the Baptists, just the other day we had an incident at our parish where a visitor was alarmed that a Mexican man was seen on the property. I told him “That’s our brother Ricardo. He’s a member of the parish. ” Minor, but people of color have to put up with this kind of thing all the time.

    Anyway, I just want to commend our sister Beth Moore to you all. It would be so easy for her to just continue tweeting Christian platitudes and keep the money rolling in but she is choosing to risk it all.

    (She also got into trouble for praying for Rachel Held Evans.)

  48. Michael says:


    I just read that thread.
    Those people loathe her because she blurs the traditional boundary markers…

  49. Xenia says:

    I’d better clarify that her detractors aren’t claiming white supremacy is compatible with the Gospel; they are claiming it is not common among Christians.

  50. Duane Arnold says:


    Off-topic… but not! Both Russell Moore and Ted Cruz are SBC, yet owing to cultural and identity issues, it is difficult to to place them in the same “tribe”. It is also true among Anglicans (think Gene Robinson). I think this is but one more reason that these “markers” of what lies at the heart of each of our traditions is so important. The culture on the left has torn apart the Episcopal Church. The culture on the right may be doing the same in the SBC. The real reason, however, (at least in my opinion) is that when we forget who we are, politics and culture will fill the vacuum.

  51. Xenia says:

    Russell Moore (no relation, I don’t think) is another hero. God bless him!

  52. Xenia says:

    To be fair, the Orthodox have a lot of prejudices too, hold-overs from the Old Country.

  53. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I think we need to be clear that the charge of “white supremacy” has morphed from being Klan type stuff to white privilege and then down to just being white.
    So now around college campuses you are guilty as charged just for being white.

    When I hear someone talking white supremacy anymore, it could just be a charge of walking around and being white.

    So if folks like Beth Moore want to charge that Klan type activity is not compatible with the gospel – I am all in. If she is buying into this liberal white guilt crap – then I stand against her statements. btw, I have not read her comments as I do not Twitter – which from examples I have seen and stories I have heard, in itself, twitter may not be compatible with the gospel.

  54. Jean says:

    Before his ascension, Jesus (who is the image of the invisible God) commissioned his disciples thus: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations;” and “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

    If you’re opinion about other racial or ethnic groups is lower than Jesus Christ’s, who shed His blood for all people, then you’ve got an identity problem.

    In my opinion, Christian churches and Christians should be leading our nation in promoting reconciliation and equality among racial and ethnic groups. Leading!!! In and outside the home. I don’t know how one can read the Bible or claim to be a Christian any other way.

  55. Josh says:

    Beth Moore is a hero.

  56. Em says:

    I’m with MLD on the whole focus on white people as the cause of miseries – people are the cause of miseries
    Am i lucky because I’m white? NO! I am blessed because, for the most part, my forbearers were God fearing, intelligent, self disciplined, sacrificial hard working folk who built this house i live in – each gave according to brains or muscle that God gave them… that includes various “people of color.”
    Are you an honest white person? I salute you
    Finished my rant for the day… ?

  57. Josh says:

    Beth Moore was renouncing the Synagogue shooter.

  58. Duane Arnold says:

    I’m sorry, but this is now getting a bit off topic. Additionally, I think the subject of race in America is a subject which, while worthwhile, deserves more than expressions of outrage – from either side of the argument.

    I believe the subject being discussed was church identity…

  59. Em says:

    A bit off topic, yes…. But
    The thread raises a question in my mind – maybe two…
    Would it be accurate to say that, for 2,000+ years the Faith has mostly been carried and promoted by the peoples north and west of the Holy Lands?
    Has the material world also benefited from these peoples?
    Maybe our identities should begin with some mutual respect…maybe? Dunno, tho, do i … ?

  60. Duane Arnold says:


    “Would it be accurate to say that, for 2,000+ years the Faith has mostly been carried and promoted by the peoples north and west of the Holy Lands?”

    Only if you discount Byzantium, the Orthodox in Russia, the Mar-Thoma Church of India and in modern times, Christian Church in Africa – mainly Methodists, Anglicans and non-denominational. Currently there are more Methodists and Anglicans in Africa, than in the UK, Canada and the US combined…

  61. Jean says:

    In terms of identity associated with “the peoples north and west,” let’s see:

    industrial slave trade,
    genocide against indigenous populations,
    sexual revolution,
    mass abortions, moving into mass euthanasia,
    internet pornography on a massive scale, including sex trafficking and pedophilia,
    global pollution.

  62. Em says:

    Ahem, Russia is north of the Holy Lands. And Byzantium is west, is it not? I think of he Christians you mention on the African continent as the product of missionary efforts early on… ?
    I understand there was a pocket of dedicated ancient Chinese Christians near the Gobi desert… the Church of India is new to me.. will read uo … Thanks, Dr. DJane

  63. Em says:

    Jean forgot one detail, the sins listed apply to the whole world….
    I apologize if it seemed i was promoting the areas mentioned as free of egregious sins

  64. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Perhaps I can tie the 2 conversations together. – Christian identity and racism (or just general scrappy people).
    It may just be a Lutheran identity point that we are all sinners and scoundrels…even of the worst sort.
    As for myself, even against the good advice of St James, too many times I have made friends with the world and at times I am at enmity with God and as James says make myself an enemy of God.

    So, I am capable of, and at times guilty of all bad things, including racism. But it is why we Lutherans identify as we do at the confession and the absolution.

    How is that for a great denominational identity. Just be glad all your groups can identify differently and more positively. 🙂

  65. Duane Arnold says:


    For the record, Early Christianity spread quickly into Syria, Armenia, Cappadocia, Persia and eventually into India and, in the early centuries constituted the majority of the Church. Why this has any relevance is beyond me. Christ said, “all nations”… I don’t remember him issuing compasses to the disciples.

  66. Duane Arnold says:


    Glad to know that you’re still simul justus et peccator… a pretty standard identity for most of us…

  67. Em says:

    Ummm…. Point taken, Dr. D … But
    The Jews spread the gospel at the beginning… Paul took it northward… am i wrong in thinking that it has been the seed that Paul sowed that has put in the most missionary effort over the centuries…? Witness Lee gf the 20th century excepted ☺

  68. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane, I wonder how standard it is?
    Our churches preach against sin, preach the continuing sinful nature of the old Adam etc – but let a believer be a racist or shoot up a synagogue and we are amazed and in disbelief that a “real” Christian could do such a thing – to the point of denying they are a Christian at all.

    Pretty standard stuff? I think not.

  69. Duane Arnold says:


    Yes, and Paul took it through Greece to Rome, but it was not the greatest effort, nor did it yield the most significant results in the early centuries. Thomas took it to India. By the fourth century, Ethiopia and present Sudan had vibrant churches from the seed sown by Mark in Egypt. It then spread to North Africa, which by the way, was a predominately Black church and gave us St. Augustine. I could go on…

  70. Duane Arnold says:


    Racist and violent ideology is wholly inconsistent in any way I can imagine with the identity of a Christian of whatever tribe… Stalin and Hitler were both baptized, not sure that I expect to see them in heaven…

  71. Jean says:

    And Cyprian.

  72. Jean says:


    Trust me on this: simul justus et peccator does not function as a cover or excuse for practicing manifest sin.

  73. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane, I do not expect to see Stalin or Hitler in heaven either, but not because they we sinners, but because they we unbelievers.
    You can pick your sins of choice that keep Christians out of heaven, and many other people have their own even longer lists.

    My list of sins that keep a Christian out of heaven is non existent. Now unbelief can do it, but then there is no simul.

  74. Duane Arnold says:


    Agreed. I always remember that heresy is orthodoxy taken to a logical extreme…

  75. Jean says:

    There is a difference between a verbal confession of faith and saving faith. From a certain German theologian:

    “Oh, it is a living, energetic, active, mighty thing, this faith. It cannot but do good unceasingly. There is no question asked whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked the works have been done, and there is a continuous doing of them. But any person not doing such works is without faith. He is groping
    in the dark, looking for faith and good works, and knows neither what faith is nor what good works are, although he indulges in a lot of twaddle and flummery concerning faith and good works.”

  76. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Wow Jean, sounds like Luther’s outward anti semitism has him now awaiting the hot flames of he’ll.

    So I don’t screw up, will someone please give me the list of sins that keep one out?
    Let’s not rule out divorce and remarriage – I know Jesus spoke of that one.

  77. Jean says:


  78. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    avoidance 🙂

    Hey, any concept of reforming the old Adam squeezes the simul out of existence.

  79. Jean says:

    I hope Paul fairs better than Luther:

    “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

  80. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I plead guilty – “you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
    I have not put to death the deeds of the body.

    LOL – Send me a copy of your book telling me how you have done that. I’m coming to your church – it must go faster now that you guys can cut out the confession and the absolution.

  81. Jean says:

    The tradition is at bat and the count is now 0-2. Here’s the third pitch,

    “Likewise the faith of which we speak exists in repentance, i.e., it is conceived in the terrors of conscience, which feels the wrath of God against our sins, and seeks the remission of sins, and to be freed from sin. And in such terrors and other afflictions this faith ought to grow and be strengthened. Wherefore it cannot exist in those who live according to the flesh who are delighted by their own lusts and obey them. Accordingly, Paul says, [cit. omit.]: There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. So, too, [cit. omit.]: We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. Wherefore, the faith which receives remission of sins in a heart terrified and fleeing from sin does not remain in those who obey their desires, neither does it coexist with mortal sin.” Apology, para. 21-23.

    Duane, as you may notice, even within a single tradition there is a spectrum of identities. Not that all of them are historically authentic, but because of the lack of study and teaching in many modern churches today, a lot of Christians who hold to a tradition have become untethered to their historical tradition.

  82. Duane Arnold says:


    “…the lack of study and teaching…” There’s the problem, as much among the clergy as among the laity. When I was in a parish ministry, we did a full “instructed Eucharist” every year. It allowed people to understand what was happening and why. I think Michael hit on something in one of his remarks, identity needs to be modeled, both by clergy and lay leaders.

    We sell our people short. I used to keep a stock of Lewis’ book “A Grief Observed” which I would give to people who lost loved ones. It allowed them to learn and to reflect. In one church we had a “Ramsey Reading Group” – we read his biography together and then went on to his theological works. There are so many resources. We just lack the will to use them…

  83. Jean says:

    Yes, Duane, there is a tremendous quantity of high quality resources, and if one is willing to borrow and buy used, they are generally affordable.

  84. Em says:

    I like the conclusion this morning… 2 Ti 2 esp. vs. 15

    For MLD’s point…
    do we not now live in a sin vulnerable dying body? Confess and keep pressing on… perhaps that principle isn’t taught among popular evangelicalism today? Indulge and deny are not principles of The Faith

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