Friday, May 11, 2012
Moderately important moderately true truth...
C. S. Lewis rightfully has pointed out the error of moderation when it comes to Gospel. Yet this is exactly what we have become -- moderate Christians who do not take the Scriptures or doctrine or worship all that seriously. Neither do we endeavor to live a Christian life but one rather moderate in its piety and devotion. As long as it does not directly impinge upon our chosen lifestyle and our desires, we are more than happy to be Christian and to reap the benefits of such faith. But when that very faith calls into question who we are or how we live, Christianity becomes something as frightening and offensive as radical Islam.
As Lutherans who have elevated moderation to the level of cardinal truth, we often appear to be a tradition without a piety and a theology without a certain liturgical expression. We have distorted our own history so that we don't even know who we are. I listened once as a Lutheran Pastor passionately spoke of how Luther broke down the tyranny of the Church so that the Church was no longer necessary -- only the direct personal relationship of sinner to his gracious God. Hmmmm, which Luther are you speaking about, I thought. It cannot be the Luther I know. It was precisely because the necessity of the Church as the bearer of the means of grace that impart and sustain faith that Luther was such a careful and conservative reformer (in comparison to the radical reformation of Zwingli and Calvin).
The difficulty we have with worship wars in our church body and the crisis of preaching are both fruits of our moderately important moderate truth and piety. Our hesitance to lay down and enforce rules is also a fruit of our moderate piety and conviction. It seems to me that we as Lutherans can no longer treat the Gospel as something that adds to our already full and complete lives and that we need to speak bluntly and forthrightly the hard truth of the Law or the Gospel will end up merely as an added ingredient to a life which lacks little in its self-sufficiency and richness.
Our cafeteria mentality toward the doctrines of the faith, the words of Scripture, and the worship forms of Sunday morning has made the Church merely one more store in the shopping mall, attempting to sell us something they think we need but one which we believe the appeal is entirely personal. Lewis has it absolutely right. If Christianity is not true, we have lost little of real value. But if it is true, we have lost everything of value by treating it so moderately that is remains on the fringe of our lives instead life's core and center.