Monday, April 22, 2013
The Same Church
From then Cardinal Josef Ratzinger in an interview in 2003
Every time you read or hear someone suggesting the Church must change or die (meaning here doctrine), it appears to be a perfectly reasonable statement (from the perspective of the world). It appears perfectly unreasonable, on the other hand, to insist upon that which not jot or tittle may change and which, though heaven and earth may pass away, this truth is steadfast and endures forever. Such is the dilemma of the faith. Paul seems to have expressed it about as well as it can be when he speaks of the foolishness of God and the weakness of God being chosen over the wisdom of the world and the strength of men. This is certainly the scandal of the faith.
Yet this is exactly what the Church is being pressed to do. Not tolerance or even acceptance of things once found objectionable, but the declaration of holy given to that which Scripture says is not and, likewise, the declaration as unholy that which Scripture has said is holy.
The sad truth is that the Church has for so long been silent over the heterosexual sins of cohabitation, premarital sex, and promiscuity, that now we have fall into the trap of unfairness when we raise our voice against same sex marriage or the redefinition of family according to the whim of the moment. The culture honestly wonders what the big deal is. Has not the Church lost its voice over certain issues in the past? Why now must the Church speak? Let is go...
I am not entirely comfortable with the idea (Luther and Lutheran or not) that marriage belongs simply to natural law. There is too much invested in Scripture in the relationship between husband and wife, father and mother and their children. These are not merely utilitarian functions but divinely assigned roles with redemptive consequence. The language of Scripture and the Church uses the imagery of the man and woman, husband and wife, father and mother and children to speak of the nature of the kingdom of God, of the love of God, even the nature of God. No, it may not be a perfect analogy but it is divinely sanctioned in Scripture.
To declare things holy that Scripture says not and to make unholy the things that Scripture says are is to cut to the heart of the faith and shake the very foundations of what is believed, confessed, and taught. It is no small matter, indeed. It is not merely love that does not end but the Word of the Lord that endures forever. Love can triumph over the Word for the Word and the Love of God are the same, embodied and incarnate in Jesus Christ. Love is never generic; it is the love revealed by the obedient life and life-giving death of Christ. The Word of the Lord is not some generic word but the Good News of Jesus Christ and Him crucified and risen. The Gospel that we preach is Christ specific, cross shaped, and it touches every aspect of our lives and identities. Change in this realm cannot be possible without the loss of the very distinctiveness that the Church is established to be and to make known.