Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Provocative or Faithful. . .

The Roman Catholic Church is poised to canonized John XXIII, elected in 1958 as Pope and the one who called for the Vatican Council.  Some saw him then and some still see him as the one who opened the door of the Roman Catholic Church to modernity (for good or for ill, depending upon your perspective).  In reality he was nothing but a compassionate conservative.  Unlike his philosophically adventurous and intellectually curious predecessor (Pius XII) and successor (Paul VI), the man born Angelo Roncalli was was about as traditional a Roman Catholic as you could get in 1958. 

Provocative and interesting people are not always healthy for the faith or for the church.  We love to listen to those who will surely leave us stimulated, laughing, and crying at the same time but they generally do not make for great leaders.  Under the best of circumstances they often give rise to movements that sell out the faith and the church to modernity.  Under the worst of circumstances they can foster a cult of personality unhealthy for the larger community of faith.

Those interested in John XXIII may wish to read his personal diary, later published as Journal of a Soul and still in print.  There they will find the simple, sturdy, and thoroughly traditional Catholic piety that sustained this man the whole of his life.  I believe it is safe to say that Rome would not be in such a state today had this Pope lived long enough to prevent the exaggerations of Paul VI from transforming the Roman Catholic Church and its worship. 

John XXIII was convinced that the Church possessed of a greater vitality of life than ever before and that this would fuel a renewed missionary effort throughout the world.  It is for this reason he convened a council determined to renewed commitment to the holy life of the faithful and the religious, a more powerful proclamation of doctrinal truth, a refreshed appeal to live the Gospel, and a renewed priesthood in both commitment and numbers to serve the faithful and the church in its mission to the world.

As a Lutheran I am reminded how easily noble intentions can be undone by those who have concluded that the way we have always done things is the primary roadblock to the church's future and how irresistible the power of provocative and radical words can be to shake the church from her doctrinal and confessional moorings.  We live in the same kind of age today.  Lutherans who would never look to Rome are looking to the trendy and edgy voices of people like Tim Keller, Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, Mike Breen, and Ken Hunter and those who went before them (Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, etc...).  Provocative people, to be sure, but those who hold neither our confession nor our values.  I am not suggesting that we do not need to be shaken up every now and then but not by those who would lead us away from our Confessions or who would insist that to grow and endure the Church must change (and leave behind her tradition).

The Church is always in better hands when those who lead her are convinced of her truth, of the vitality of her life by the Spirit from the means of grace, of the profound character of her mission to speak faithfully Christ to the world, and who believe the Word will do what it has promised.  Provocative folks are certainly interesting and offer us compelling (though not always objective criticism) yet they too often begin with the rejection of the past instead of building upon it.  We are best served by incremental change than by radical rebirth.  Look at the Reformation and the ruins of mainline Protestantism and touchy feely evangelicalism from those who believed Luther too conservative and who insisted in order to make the church alive we must kill her.  The Church of every age dances with a host of suitors who tempt her and seek to woo her heart but she is best served by her faithfulness to Him who created her, washed her in His blood, and called her to be His bride.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

" I am not suggesting that we do not need to be shaken up every now and then but not by those who would lead us away from our Confessions or who would insist that to grow and endure the Church must change (and leave behind her tradition)."

Well, perhaps you will not suggest it, but I will say it loud and clear: "We must avoid those who would lead us away from our Confessions and shun those who insist that the Church must abandon Her traditions. They are anathema!"

The damage done by John XXIII is incalculable, both to the Roman Church and to all of Christendom. I don't know that it was deliberate, but it was, at the very least, careless. He opened Pandora's Box, casually, without nearly enough thought to the potential consequences. Shame on him!

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest