Sunday, August 10, 2014

An approaching schism?

Liberals, collaborating with the “new paganism”, are driving the Catholic Church towards a split, according to Bishop Athanasius Schneider, the liturgical specialist who is carrying on a rearguard fight against “abuses” in the Church.  So serious are the problems, Bishop Schneider said in an interview last week, that this is the fourth great crisis in the history of the Church, comparable to the fourth-century Arian heresy in which a large part of the Church hierarchy was implicated. 

I have no idea whether or not Bishop Schneider is correct in his assessment of the scope of the crisis being felt in Roman Catholicism.  My instinct is to think that he is more honest and real in reviewing the state of the Roman Catholic Church since the 1950s than those who paint a rosier picture.  Time will tell.  You can read the whole story here.   The one thing that he is spot on about is the fact that this division is not simply about externals but about doctrine.  The Roman Catholic Church faces a very public challenge from media savvy but only nominally faithful figures ignore the consistent and unbroken teaching of the magisterium to promote an individualized and relative truth.  The issue of Mrs. Pelosi is only the tip of this iceberg.  Under the surface is the shocking fact that many Roman Catholics have come to doubt or ignore church teaching on a whole range of subjects.  Certainly no communion can continue with such broad diversity and without any means to correct the falsehoods being propagated in its name.  Further, this is not limited to Rome or to tradition.  The Scriptures themselves have become a smorgasbord of truths from which those who consider themselves faithful routinely pick and choose what they will accept, believe, and observe.

One thing the good bishop has it right:  I am not worried about the future. The Church is Christ’s Church and He is the real head of the Church, the Pope is only the vicar of Christ. The soul of the Church is the Holy Spirit and He is powerful.  This is not fear mongering or doom and gloom preaching.  This is about the truth -- a truth strong enough to endure the gates of hell, the taunts of modernity, the doubts of the fringe, the liturgical tinkering, the public challenge, and the unfaithfulness of some of its ministers.  And that is squarely where the issue ought to be framed.  Do we believe that the Word of the Lord that endures forever needs to be revised to fit the modern mind?  Do we believe in the primacy of feeling over trust, personal preference over enduring catholic creed and confession, and faithfulness as the chief barometer of success?

Rome is not the only communion so tempted.  Much of Lutheranism has already jumped ship.  They have marginalized the Confessions so that they agree only in part with their catholic claims. Either they have chosen the sinking ship of mainline Protestantism or the entertaining cruise ship of evangelicalism.  It is not and it never was a worship war over music or style; it has always been about content.  Do we believe the efficacious Word will accomplish God's purpose and return to Him the fruit of His intention or not?  Do we believe the Word of the Lord endures forever and faithfulness to that Word is the hallmark of catholicity and success?  Do we believe that the Sacraments deliver what they signify and bestow the fullness of what they sign?  If schism is the cost of faithfulness, it is the cost we must pay.  Heresy and apostasy are themselves schismatic and the response of the faithful to the errors of some (even many) cannot be governed by the fear of a smaller church.  The Church is certainly no purity cult but neither is she some broad avenue in which nothing is ever really wrong and truth is whatever you deem it to be.  We who hold the catholic faith do not narrow this faith by faithfully confessing it but just the opposite.  We express its fullness -- a fullness defined by what has always been believed in every place and not a diversity of opinions on every dogma.

Is it possible that those who have chosen to redefine the Gospel into social advocacy or justice will be restored to faithfulness?  It is possible that those who have lost confidence in the means of grace will abandon their preoccupation with feeling, preference, and the pleasure of the moment will recover their faith in the Word and Sacraments?  It is possible that those who have long argued for latitude in defining and confessing the most basic of Christian truths will come back to creed and confession?  Of course it is possible.  It is Christ's Church and His Spirit is the breath of this Church.  Should we sit around wringing our hands until that day comes?  By no means.  We confront error with the truth.  We hold fast to that which cannot be changed without losing the very Gospel itself.  We resist the temptation to get along and go along in a Wal-Mart style Christianity where there is something for everyone.  We shall not despair precisely because she is the Lord's Church, His bride, and His creation.  

4 comments:

Janis Williams said...

"Heresy and apostasy themselves are schismatic..."

Yes, and the problem with that is the orthodox who stand against them are the ones accused of being divisive.

John Flanagan said...

I was a Roman Catholic from my early years until after marriage, then about 14 years later my wife and I felt the Catholic doctrines were contrary to the Bible, so we joined an LCMS church, then went church shopping and attended a Reformed church, an independent Bible church, a Baptist church, then the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and now, for several years...back to the LCMS. Quite a confusing journey, wouldn't you say? Each denomination and each church holds to many similar, but some differing views of the same scriptural verses, and for many of us....it can be troubling...especially when one is earnest about being a born again child of God, devoted to having a right understanding of the Bible, and knowing inwardly that we probably mix truth and error in our feeble minds. And yet, I have come to understand and simply resigned myself to the fact that their will always be these doctrinal differences which tgeologians argue so passionately about....so I reduce it to this: I am a sinner saved by grace, apart from works. Christ paid for my sins. I love The Lord, I will stumble through life, but I will keep walking with Him, be led by the Holy Spirit, read His word daily, and will keep it simple. These schisms, heresies, apostasies, falling away of Catholics, Lutherans, and evangelicals will continue as they have during the past centuries, when theologians worried then as well. Still, the visible and invisible church marches on...a remnant mostly...but keeps going as Christ intended. Our worries will not change anything...but if we have faith in God....we know He is in charge, and His will is going to be carried out. And in the end, Christ will return. I may not be alive on earth when it happens...but either way, His assurance is that as a sinner saved by grace....I shall be among the saints of glory. That is where my hope and trust will remain until my eyes are closed in death.

Rev. Kevin Vogts said...

>>The Scriptures themselves have become a smorgasbord of truths

However, from The Examination of the Council of Trent we see this is certainly nothing new. That is precisely the attitude toward the Scriptures which Chemnitz incisively critiques and extensively documents already in the Roman Catholic Church of the 16th century.

tubbs said...

"Either they have chosen the sinking ship of mainline Protestantism or the entertaining cruise ship of evangelicalism. "

Wonderfully said - yet sad that "evangelicalism" has come to mean a kind of entertainment package.