Saturday, March 31, 2018
So, are we better off?
I grew up in a congregation that had something of an odd liturgical identity. Things were rather plain, liturgically, except that our pastor chanted;, there was a crucifix on the altar; the altar was an elaborately carved oaken for;, the communion vessels were sterling and intricately made.. but the pastor wore a black gown; Holy Communion was held only quarterly; no one in their right mind would mistake this for a Roman Catholic building and congregation... That said, the people were serious about the faith, rarely missed church, were sacrificial in their support of the work of the kingdom there and elsewhere, and lived humbly. Now we no longer live all that humbly, we are less generous in our support of the church, we consider once a month faithful church attendance, and we treat the faith as if what you believed really did not matter (both as an individual and as a church).
Is this an improvement? Are we better off? Is the church stronger and more faithful and are we as individual Christians stronger in our faith and more faithful in doing God's bidding than our ancestors?
Let me say up front that I am not at all suggesting that everything was perfect 60 years ago or more or that we were living in the golden age of Christianity in America. There were many things that were not so good and some of those have improved. At the same time, however, many things have changed that have contributed to the weakness of the church and of individual Christians. These changes have to addressed; we cannot live in the past, after all. But these changes do not have to be lauded as progress. Because many of them are not. They are regressive and not at all progressive.
To treat the Bible with skepticism and treat doctrine as not all that important is not progress. To spend more time in catechesis but to end up knowing and believing less is not progress. To have the Sacrament of the Altar more frequently but still on the fringes of our piety is not progress. To be so comfortable in our sins that we do not seek out private confession and to presume that a general confession is a fit replacement for this private confession is not progress. To be in church less often and to give less (percentage wise) is not progress.
The past was no pristine moment of glory but neither is our modernity progress when it destroys the best of the past and offers nothing substantive to replace it except doubt and disregard toward the means of grace. I am not saying we need to go back but I am suggesting we should repent of much of what we have done with the things of God entrusted to our care.