Friday, November 25, 2016
Unconscious dogmatism. . .
The unconscious dogmatists are, of course, those who claim to be dogma free. They have transcended the terrible curse of doctrine and truth and are able to see things much more clearly through the objective lens of their feelings and experience. It is a variation on the age old theme that doctrine divides and service unites, no creeds just deeds, etc... It is the claim of a false spirituality which appears to have elevated itself over the mundane of dogma to pursue raw holiness. The problem being that such unconscious dogmatists are rarely holy and use holiness as a ruse to further the dogmatism they do not claim to have.
These are those who speak of being pastoral, of trusting the discretion of others (or should I say urging their peers to be more trusting of them). For the unconscious dogmatists there are always higher claims and callings than truth. In Chicago Archbishop Cupich (soon to be Cardinal) put it this way: At the same time. . . doctrines are at the service of the pastoral mission. Now, there you have it. The mission comes first and, if necessary, doctrine must be adjusted or perhaps even jettisoned in order to accomplish the mission (however you might define it).
Roman Catholics are not the only ones to have their unconscious dogmatists. Lutherans have them as well. We have those folks who insist they love the liturgy more than anyone but Sunday morning piety must be sacrificed for the sake of the seeker who does not understand the liturgy and for the sake of the preferences of the sought who do not like it. Lutherans are wrestling still with the great division of substance from style promoted in the name of freedom, authenticity, and relevance. Not to mention the old missional vs confessional debate that pits the unconscious dogmatists against the the conscious ones.
The most strident rules to be enforced are the unwritten rules. The written ones are generally much less strict. Think here in the political realm of how politically correct speech changes but is the strident requirements remain the same. The chains that bind us and the shackles that hold us captive are more likely the rules and requirements of the unconscious dogmatists than the clear and open claims of doctrine and truth. Again Chesterton: "Instead of the liberty of dogma, you have the tyranny of taste."
Though Lutherans claim we are in danger of being consumed by our rules (doctrines), the truth is what threatens to swallow up Lutheran identity are not our rules (doctrines) but our feigned liberty that is not freedom at all. Our captivity to taste, preference, and desire is the most pernicious prison of all. Blest be the chains that bind but the ones that bind best and for godly purpose are the chains with which God has bound us -- to His Word -- not the shackles of personal whim and taste. If it is true that freedom leads us to choose whom we will serve (and not the illusion of serving no one), then let us serve the good of God's design, holding fast to the doctrine and truth that does not change and living this out in lives of faithfulness, holiness, and righteousness all our days. Whether Roman or Lutheran, we cannot afford to trade pastoral mission for doctrinal integrity without suffering the loss of our very identity.