Monday, February 8, 2016
Orthodoxy is the new radical. . .
The media have presumed to know all things about theology and to discern the intent of Scripture that transcends its clear and plain word. Liberalism has escaped the fence of creed and confession to embrace a gospel which has little if anything to do with the cross, empty tomb, forgiveness, life, and salvation. Social justice and advocacy have become the pursuits of the evangelistic fervor of evangelicalism with a conscience and liberal Protestantism. Personal happiness and achievement have taken over the rest of evangelicalism and even threatened the agenda of ordinary Protestantism.
The boomers remain deluded in the pursuit of personal preference and still think that strumming a guitar in church is the cutting edge of contemporary and emergent Christianity. The feminist, gay, lesbian, transgender, and every other agenda have become the new orthodoxy of too many Christians and too many denominations claiming to be Christian. There is tolerance for nearly everything that a generation or two ago would have been labeled a perversion but there is no stomach for doctrine and morality consistent with the Scriptures and the early church fathers.
No, if you want to be radical in this age, orthodox doctrine, creedal and confessional theology, and historic, catholic liturgy (with the expectation that God actually works through the means of grace) is about as radical and odd as you can get in the world today. As one who danced to the tune of the moment in his youthful rebellious years, I have learned that the most radical thing there is and every has been is orthodox Christianity which takes the Scriptures at their word, seeks the fullest catholic expression of doctrine and practice, and finds the vibrant surprise of God's presence not in feeling or thought but in the Word and Sacraments that actually do what they say and deliver what they promise.
In a strange turn of events, the most conventional Christianity of all is the one that has been transformed by the spirit of the age, that listens to the heartbeat and pulse of the moment, that seeks to be on the forefront but not too far ahead of every movement of social change, that loves technology more than the unchanging Gospel, and divorces the gospel from text and story until it becomes merely a moral of the story and tacit approval of what we have always wanted or desired. To be radical is to gather around the Word and Table of the Lord, to believe the Scriptures without seeking to find hidden meaning or principle that trumps the fact of what is said, and to rejoice that God is with us in the concrete splash of water, voice of absolution, taste of bread, and sip of wine.
There is nothing stranger to our world than a conscience and life captive to the Word of the Lord. There is no sight more out of keeping with modern sensibility than a smokey setting of incense and prayer, chant and liturgy, preaching and Sacrament. There is no truth more radical than one which does not adjust or change or reflect the times and tenor of the people from age to age. There is no God more radical than the One who would inhabit a Virgin's womb, a manger bare, a crude instrument of suffering, and a cold, dark tomb. There is no more radical hope than in death life is born and this life will transcend all earthly reality, dream, and imagination. There is no more radical conviction than because He lives, I shall live also.
Nope, if you want to be radical, try being a confessional Lutheran gathered with other confessional Lutherans around the Word and Table of the Lord, paying homage to catholic ceremonial that flows from catholic doctrine, singing the chorales of yesteryear while adding the best of the best to the heritage of faithful song, praying with the saints the Amen of Thy will be done, joyfully giving tithe and offering in testament to God's giving love, and walking out the door to fulfill the baptismal vocation of worship, witness, prayer, service, and works of mercy.