Tuesday, May 17, 2016
The radical Protestants were known for their hermeneutic of rupture -- the casting off of all that went before. For the radical Protestants, this meant a judgment that the Church was so mired in darkness that the light of Christ did not shine, the Church was so corrupt as to be impossible to reform, and, therefore, the best and only solution was to start from the beginning. In one way or another this form of Protestantism has been struggling to re-enact an Acts style New Testament Church -- something that mirrored what began before corruption rendered the Church too far gone to redeem. Tradition matters little in the pure form of radical Protestantism. The problem, of course, is that private Biblical interpretation and the papacy of every individual and his or her reason to determine what Scripture said and says means that there is not much unanimity with respect to these churches.
But there is another hermeneutic. It is, perhaps, the gift of modernity and, as some suggest, the domain favored by the now Pope Francis. It is the hermeneutic of ambiguity. The was born when exegetes began to treat the Scriptures as just another book, when skeptics began inserting doubt about the factual and historical truthfulness of Scripture, when ecumenicists decided that a unity born of minimalism and vague statements open to the many interpretations was better than denominationalism, and when those fearful of saying the truth began to hide behind opinions that were subject to change.
The ELCA pretty much admitted this hermeneutic when they disregarded Lutheran confession and the catholic Scriptural witness of obvious passage as well as intent to embrace the GLBT etc. agenda. This was done in the belief that a new thing was being done by a God whose love now trumped His explicit Word. They did the same in reconciling diversity to paper over differences in favor of a common communion fellowship with people who had not that much in common with their confession of what the Sacrament was, is, or does.
The hermeneutic of continuity and even, to a certain extent, the hermeneutic of rupture have some integrity to them but the hermeneutic of ambiguity is itself a deception. We must speak the truth in love but that means still speaking the truth. When the churches learn this, there may well be a slowing of the decline of numbers and participation. When the churches learn this, they may find a truer ecumenism born of real confession and not confessional minimalism. When the churches learn this, they will not have to find a new rationale for existence, a new gospel to proclaim, and a new structure to hold it together every generation or so. . . which, sadly, too many churches are doing today.