Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The religion incapable of delivering its promise...

George Weigel wrote in First Things of the inability of shallow, tribal, institutional-maintenance religion to meet the challenge before Christians, to sustain the life of Christians wearied by the changes and chances of this mortal life, and intimidated by the press of cultural religion and generic spirituality.  Only a robustly, unapologetically evangelical [Christianity], winsomely proposing and nobly living the truths about the human condition the Church teaches, will see us through….[read it here]

Though Weigel certainly directed his comments to Roman Catholics, his words are worth a wider reading.  Christianity in general, and my own Lutheranism in particular, is well in need of the same chastening comments.  It is not a matter of the institutional survival but the feeding, care, and nurturing of a people with the resources of the Word and Sacraments given by Christ to His Church.  It is not about merely keeping what we have but marshaling the resources God has given to His Church to fulfill His purpose in the world.  It is not about fixing the world's wrongs and leaving the world better than we found it but about shining with Christ's light into the encroaching darkness of a world in decay and on a path of destruction.

I have long said that ecumenism is best served by churches serious about the Scriptures and about maintaining and passing on the best of their confession and identity rather than watering down faith so that it is easier for anyone to accept but harder to recognize as the Church established by the blood of Christ.  I have long said that no one is best served by promoting a Christian lite version of their own denominational identity.  The world pays scant attention to the watered down Christian identities that offer nothing to those already within their pale much less something for those caught in sin and its death.  If Christianity is to continue, it will not be due to our accommodation to culture and its skewed values or our denial or redefinition of the Scriptural faith once handed down by the saints.

Liberal Christianity as promoted by the critics and scholars, evangelical Christianity and its repackaged health and wealth gospel, and cultural Christianity with its nod toward legacy while embracing a modern, entertainment appeal are utterly incapable of offering the sinner captive to death anything.  Distraction, maybe.  A feel good moment, maybe.  But we need an answer to death, a remedy for guilt, a means to holiness, and a medicine of immortality.  We need a robust and unapologetic Christianity.  It is and has always been my appeal to Lutherans and it is one I commend to others.

Seeking to know what Scripture teaches means confronting the evangelical and catholic tradition.  Seeking to confess what Scripture teaches means embracing that which is evangelical and catholic in the very best sense of both of those terms.  Seeking to witness to what Scripture teaches means listening to the fathers even as we speak in our own language the timeless and hopeful Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and risen.  Weigel is absolutely right.  Christians can afford no more cafeteria adherents who pick and choose from the buffet of truth and then go home stuffed full of themselves but empty of anything to offer their neighbors.  Now is not the time for those ashamed of Christian doctrine or embarrassed by Christian truth.


Janis Williams said...

Well said, and amen.

Norman Teigen said...

Your post came up on my Flipboard on my iPad. Greetings from Minnesota. Very good reading, dear Pastor.