Thursday, October 5, 2017

When was this written?

That the Church has had small influence of late, and seems likely to have little more in the immediate future, is the Church's own fault. Christians have been too willing to come to terms with, and even to flatter, an essentially godless world. Sometimes this has been due to ecclesiastical venality; more often it has come about from inability to understand what has been happening. Carried along by inertia, churchmen have watched without comprehension while congregations have melted away, while the secularly educated younger generation increasingly has absented itself from worship and activity. To have retired fighting before the attacks of a growing secularism would have been a hard but glorious adventure, perhaps the prelude to a new and vigorous offensive; to have drifted into the position of a tolerated minority, politely begging an increasingly indifferent multitude for occasional smiles and reluctant contributions, has been to enact a role no less ignominious because ecclesiastics have not known what they were doing, no less deplorable because the populace, at least in Anglo-Saxon countries, has been too polite to tell church people the truth about themselves.


 In every generation the saints, believing the demand to be from God, have devoted their lives to renouncing and denouncing, as basic poisons, those things upon which mankind today would feed.The Church, these later years, has forgotten how to renounce and denounce them. Instead it has sought to soothe a sick mankind with ointment of sentimental piety plus injections of a superficially optimistic geniality. The note of prophecy has, indeed, not wholly died away; but the prophets have been expelled from the synagogue, banished to obscure Coventries, or at least persuaded "to draw it very mild." This is understandable. Prophets are upsetting souls. They interfere with the financing of missionary budgets and, in general, with the smooth running of ecclesiastical enterprises. They make difficult the erection of super-temples, and mar the nice amenities of life.

Well, let me tell you. . . the date is 1942, the author is Bernard Iddings Bell, it was the October issue of The Atlantic.  It could have been written today.  The circumstances have not changed.  The Church still seems to have small influence, coddles to the powers that be, mirrors the morality of the world, and finds its best future in trying to keep up with the pace of change in this life.  The masses of the folk, observing the Church as of late the Church has been willing to present itself, say, "There is nothing here to bother with. These people bear within themselves no salvation. They are as mad as all the rest of us. They are not worth listening to. They are not even worth crucifying."  But what was the hope in 1942 and is still the hope in 2017 is not some new relevance but the age old proclamation of the Gospel of Christ and Him crucified.  Where people still gather at the beckoning of the Spirit through the means of grace, there is hope and life.  The Church WILL endure the onslaught of her enemies even if she must surrender what does not offend for the sake of preaching that which does offend, the true and everlasting Gospel.  The structures of the Church and the amenities by which earthly successes are judged will probably not survive but the Church will and where she is, there is hope planted in despair, life amidst death, and a future for a people who had only a past. Bell was wrong and is wrong in pining the hopes of the Church upon the morality of its people, preachers, or institutions.  It was and is only about the righteousness of Christ, an alien righteousness gifted to us by grace, to a forgiven people washed clean in baptism and given the new name of hope and life in Christ.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Church can only proclaim the truth of Scripture and Jesus Christ
who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The world has been secular
in every generation and tries to avoid the reality of a majestic and
almighty God who created and who now rules the world.