Saturday, July 19, 2014

How uncomfortable are you. . .

I’m uncomfortable with church doctrine that excludes women from the pastoral office and calls GLBT lifestyles sinful. 

First of all.   I am uncomfortable?  Is this the language of the Church?  Have we devolved the great conversation of Scripture and tradition to the innocuous vocabulary of feeling.

Secondl  Church doctrine?  Does this imply that the Church's doctrine is separate from or distinct from Scripture and tradition?  If is it, then show where it is.  If it is not separate from Scripture and tradition, then your discomfort is not with the Church per se but rather you have a fight to take up with the Lord Himself.

Third.  Where is your discomfort with sin?  Where is your discomfort with the arrogance of the sinful heart that insists the Lord of heaven and earth must subject Himself to the whims of our feelings?  Where is your discomfort with the rebellious attitude that places reason over Scripture, feelings over tradition, and personal preference over catholicity?

Yeah.  I get a little testy when people tell me they are uncomfortable with doctrine and truth, sourced in Scripture and confessed faithfully until the most modern of moments.  It drives me nuts.  Have you ever noticed that the same folks who talk like this are never uncomfortable with themselves or their opinions?

I will admit it openly.  There is much in Scripture that makes me uncomfortable.  I do not like being hit between the eyes with the rock of the Law, condemning my intentions, my desires, my words, and my deeds.  I am very uncomfortable with a Gospel that begins with the presumption that I am helpless to redeem myself and that my condition is so far gone that it required nothing less than the Son of God to become incarnate, to suffer, and to die in my place.  I am most uncomfortable with a holiness of life which challenges the desires of my heart, insists upon self-control, and directs me away from my self to God above all things and to my neighbor before me.  I am distinctly uncomfortable with a God who tells me what He wants me to know but seems completely oblivious to my quest for the answers to the strange and oddest of questions that somehow I believe are more important than even the story of the cross.

God makes me uncomfortable.  In fact I think it is the whole point.  Unless and until I am uncomfortable with sin and uncomfortable with the price of my redemption, I am blind and oblivious to the whole darn problem.  I think of what C. S. Lewis wrote in response to a critique written by Norman Pittenger:

The statement that I do not ‘care much for’ the Sermon on the Mount but ‘prefer’ the ‘Pauline ethic’ of man’s sinfulness and helplessness carries a suggestion of alternatives between which we may choose, where I see successive stages through which we must proceed. Most of my books arc evangelistic, addressed to tous exo. It would have been inept to preach forgiveness and a Saviour to those who did not know they were in need of either. Hence St Paul’s and the Baptist’s diagnosis (would you call it exactly an ethic?) had to be pressed. Nor am I aware that our Lord revised it (‘if ye, being evil…‘). As to ‘caring for’ the Sermon on the Mount, if ‘caring for’ here means ‘liking’ or enjoying, I suppose no one ‘cares for’ it. Who can like being knocked flat on his face by a sledge-hammer? I can hardly imagine a more deadly spiritual condition than that of the man who can read that passage with tranquil pleasure. This is indeed to be ‘at ease in Zion’.
      C.S. Lewis, “Rejoinder to Dr Pittenger,” God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 181-182.

Funny how comfortable with are with the things that God thinks should cause us discomfort and how uncomfortable we are with the things that cause us to defer to and trust in the wisdom and beneficial will of the God who risked ultimately uncomfortability in becoming flesh and blood for our salvation and dying to accomplish what all our living an dying could not!

It would seem to me that we ought to be uncomfortable more and comfortable less.  We ought to learn to be uncomfortable with the things of sin and its death.  We ought to be more uncomfortable with ourselves and the paltry righteousness that so inflates us.  We ought to learn to be more uncomfortable with our feeble efforts to resist temptation and sin.  Whoever said that faith makes your comfortable?  Where did God ever speak the great wisdom to us that His goal in all things is to remove all our discomfort?

Well, I am uncomfortable with your discomfort... and with mine... and I have nothing to know and no place to go to find anything but distress EXCEPT to the cross where there is one discomfort that bore holy and blessed fruit even for sinners such as me... 

We worship when it is convenient for us... we wear what is comfortable to us... we participate as we find it relevant, pleasing, or meaningful... when the reality is that the most comfortable place in the world is outside the Church, on the broad and easy highway to hell in which we can be consumed with only one thing... how comfortable we are... for now.... 

Or as one LarsWalker put it:  Faith is trusting God and telling your feelings to sit down and shut up. 


William Weedon said...

Outstanding, Fr. Peters. Thank you.

Paul said...

If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don't recommend Christianity.

C.S. Lewis (also from God in the Dock)

John Joseph Flanagan said...
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