Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Losing our language. . . losing our identity. . .
Once the Church loses the capacity to speak with its own language, we lose our identity. Even if the world around us and many within the Church have chosen to abandon the language of Scripture, Council, Creed, and Confession, the Church must be very slow to adapt and adopt the vocabulary and language of those around us. Our whole nature is words -- we speak of the Word made flesh, of the written Word of God which is performative and efficacious, and of the visible Word that delivers what it signs but all of this is meaningless when we surrender our vocabulary to those who speak from outside the faith or against the faith.
I fear this is exactly what is happening in Rome as it prepares again to convene a synod on the family and to deal with such issues as the communion of the divorced and the GLBT questions. When Rome surrenders its vocabulary and begins to speak in the language of the world (social justice, fairness, sincerity, love, affection, etc.) the whole issue is lost in a maze of terms foreign to the Scriptures and to our own unique history as the Church. Lutherans are in the same predicament. When we begin speaking like evangelicals or when we abandon the unique vocabulary and language we learned from the Scriptures and honed through years of council, creed, and confession, we have surrendered the argument and the authority to those who begin at another point.
No one is saying that in speaking the Gospel in conversation with those not yet of the Kingdom that we must be constrained to use only Biblical language and only creedal or confessional vocabulary. However, when we bring them into the Church we must teach them the language of Scripture and creed and confession. For part of catechesis is helping them to recognize and speak with the same vocabulary as Scripture and tradition. When we speak to the world addressing the world with the in apologetic task, giving our defense of the truth, we should endeavor to speak consistently and constructively using the Biblical framework of terms. For the very essence of our witness is that the Kingdom of God is in but not of the world, even as its citizens are.
I worry that we are becoming strangers to the Biblical framework and terminology, becoming orphans from the very theological and creedal tradition that unites us to those who have gone before, and becoming strangers to our own confessional identity. Once the Church loses the capacity to speak with its own language, she loses her very identity. We have a rich Biblical, liturgical, creedal, and confessional heritage and history. These are not peripheral to our identity but flow from it. To willingly choose to surrender our language, vocabulary, and identity is to surrender who we are as God has made us and called us to be distinctive as His own, living under Him in His kingdom, now and forever.