Friday, January 27, 2012

They will catch up. . .

Certainly the missionary enterprise of both Protestants and Roman Catholics has borne great fruit.  According to some, about 62% of the world's population of Christians now lives in the global south.  This is in marked contrast to the way things were a hundred years ago.  But this is not without its own set of conflicts.

Rome has found that the money trail continues to flow from Europe and North America but the scandals, cafeteria Catholicism, and open disagreement with the Vatican have made these contributions a mixed blessing to be sure.   I, for one, was disappointed that the Pope's list of new Cardinals included so many from the establishment in Italy and so few from the global South where the faith is more vibrant and where the numbers are growing.

The Anglicans have found it difficult to reconcile the position of these Southern churches with those in the North.  The issue of sex may be the most obvious area of disagreement but it does not exhaust all the nuances in which the Anglicans of Africa, for example, distinguish themselves from the Americans.

Lutherans have found the same problem.  The traditional Lutheran lands have given birth to a very liberal (theologically and socially) identity that is increasingly in conflict with Lutherans in, for example, Africa.  Again, the area of sexuality comes first to mind but it is not the only area of theological and social disagreement.

A conversation with one Anglican suggested to me that it would be only a matter of time before those in the "third world" of Christianity would catch up to their kinsmen in the developed nations.  It was merely that these Christians are immature and with maturity comes a common commitment to social justice and a faith more friendly to the presuppositions of modern science.  Perhaps some of you are inclined to agree.  I am not so sure.

Part of what those Christians in the global South have rejected is the emptiness of a faith and practice that is no longer moored upon certain fact or possessing of a regular practice consistent with those moorings.  It is not just that these younger churches have rejected the conclusions of liberal Christianity.  They have also rejected the methodology that supports those conclusions.  Where there is a robust Christian presence in the developed nations, it is because they, too, have rejected both the end result and the means to that result in liberal Christianity.

It may be true that there will be those who will "catch up" to the emptiness of so much that passes for Christian faith and piety in the global North.  I do not dispute that.  But if and when that happens, it will not be a maturing of theses churches or the faith but a degradation of the evangelical and catholic confession and its practice.  It seems to me that the most help those 60%+ can do for Europe and America is to expose and repudiate the hypocrisy of a faith that often relishes the traditional form but rejects its content.  Creedal Christianity offers not mere historic documents but the living faith of the dead, to whom we are joined in faith as we believe together and speak together of God how He has revealed Himself.

It is my hope and prayer that none of these churches will catch up or mature so that they become more like the incarnations of Anglicanism or Lutheranism in its liberal state.  It is my urgent hope and prayer that they will engage us where we need to be engaged -- on Scripture and what it says, on the creeds and what they confess, and on the piety and practice of this faith that is consistent with both.  This will certainly impact the issues related to sex, gender, and morality but hopefully not limited to these alone!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They will catch up? Who will catch up: The leaders of a particular church denomination, or the laymen in the corresponding congregations. In the USA, we see how liberal church leaders experience new "revelations" and then vote to overturn traditional church doctrine by embracing homosexuality. For example, people and congregations are fleeing the ELCA to join the NALC and LCMC. Simple math: NALC and LCMC == ELCA - homosexuality.

My fear is not that some church denominations in the Global South will become heterodox, but that disaffected laymen will form and join denominations that are just as heterodox as the liberal Christian church they left minus the endorsement of homosexuality.