Friday, January 15, 2016
It's all good. . .
For too many churches this is reality. It is all good. You can believe anything and everything (as long as you are not rigid in your ideas). Flexibility is next to godliness and it has come to the point where a flexible truth is the best truth to most folks. Instinctively we tend to agree with this. Relativism is the first idolatry and really the only one. Bendable truth is the best truth as long as we get to bend it the way we want.
But the reality is that heresy and practices that proceed from it are like a poison to the church and to the faith. A bendable truth is not merely one form of truth but no truth at all. Flexible truth is worthless and holds up nothing at all. It is not all good. Jesus insists that this is the case and warns against those who depart from the way in the same manner Paul warns against those who surrender the sacred deposit for the winds of change and the novelty of invention. Let him be anathema who preaches a different Gospel than the Gospel I proclaimed to you. There is not much flexibility in that kind of truth.
Hermann Sasse put it succinctly. Just as a man whose kidneys no longer eliminate poisons which have accumulated in the body will die, so the church will die which no longer eliminates heresy. Now there is a practical manner of describing how the poison of uncertain truth and flexible doctrine can kill the church from within!
We tend to be wary of those who are certain and yet it is this certainty which the church possesses through the witness of Scripture. We offer not mere opinions or reflections based upon feelings but the Word of the Lord that endures forever. It is either this eternal and unchangeable truth or it is no truth at all.
At the same time, this truth is not sectarian. It is not captive to an individual, an idea, or a moment but is catholic. It is this truth that Lutheranism claims confessionally. It is this truth that we must guard in an age of relativism when truth itself is suspect. We speak in such broad terms about the little bit of truth posited in every church body and it sounds so noble, so humble, but who wants to be part of a church that has only a little bit of the truth? Who can trust a church that claims to have but a version of this truth? The claim of catholicity, with the rigorous defense of truth against heresy, is that which distinguishes Lutheranism from the beginning and this will be our future -- or our demise if we surrender our confidence in the things in which we have been taught for a best guess.
For Missouri this is becoming personal. We must either get a handle on how to deal with those who teach and confess in conflict with what we have publicly said is our faith or we will end up with no truth left. For some other Lutherans, thinking here of the ELCA, the surrender of truth has already happened and in its place the gospel of social justice and advocacy has replaced the good news of the cross. For the ELCA one of the most important sins to be confessed is the sin of exclusivity -- even the exclusivity of the Gospel truth itself.
Now for Rome we begin to hear the same kind of thing. The Vatican has issued a new document on Christian-Jewish dialog. “The Church is therefore obliged to view evangelisation to Jews, who believe in the one God, in a different manner from that to people of other religions and world views. In concrete terms this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews.“ You can read about it here. Apparently not all who will be saved will be saved through Jesus Christ, confessing their faith in the sufficiency of His blood to accomplish what their works could not.
There is poison at work here and it is attacking the very exclusivity of Christ and His atoning work. But that is the end result of all heresy -- no matter how it begins. Unless and until a church body can deal with this false teaching, the poison will grow and it will do what poison does -- it will kill!