Saturday, February 16, 2019

With friends like these. . .

The old expression says with friends like these, who needs enemies.  That becomes particularly apropos when those challenging doctrine and practice do so from the inside, in this case, inside the inside.  Professor Marie-Jo Thiel, whom Pope Francis appointed as a new member of the revamped Pontifical Academy for Life, recently advocated for a thoroughgoing reconsideration of the Church's teaching on sexuality and family.  According to Thiel, the Church’s teachings on sexuality have been a “complete failure.”  In view of the fact that these teachings have been undermined by the sexual abuse scandals and sometimes ignored by the faithful, Thiel said the Church’s teaching that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can never be approved must be rejected, along with the ban on contraception.  And this from a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life supposedly to defend and advocate for these teachings on homosexuality and contraception, to name but a few.

Thiel appeals to the idea of a decentralized, regional or geographical approach to what should or should not be taught and, of course, to the traditional liberal ideas:  a sense of self-determination and the individual conscience.  That is often the case with those who oppose doctrine.  They describe the ecclesiastical supervision that holds pastors and teachers accountable as some obtrusive and oppressive mechanism that violates the idea of individual freedom and conscience.  There are not a few Lutherans who have the same sort of ideas.  They question both the authority and the role of a church in protecting and defending doctrinal integrity and practice which conforms to that doctrine.  They speak of a fresh air in newly liberated lungs that breathe with the times and are closer to the people in the pews.  It is an appealing idea but its real purpose and result is to eliminate the idea of objective truth and to leave it subjectively to the beholder.  Again, it sounds appealing but the world does not need a church that is empty of truth or a church that echoes the familiar refrain of personal desire and preference and feeling in place of the Word of the Lord that endures forever.

Don't fall into the trap.  This is the familiar back door entry of error and falsehood into the life of the church.  What cannot be confronted or changed directly is left hanging on the tentative hook of popular appeal, personal freedom, and individual truth.  What has not worked, must not be true and what is not true must be changed.  This is the mantra of so many who decry your grandfather's church and promote a relevant church, zeroed in on the moment without the baggage of history or the chains of continuity challenges what feels good or seems good to us now.  Contrary to those who agitate for such a false gospel, this will not grow the numbers of the faithful but will stifle such growth and end up killing the church from the inside, like a cancer.  With friends like these, who needs enemies?  Indeed, the devil need not say a word when those within the structures of Christendom so openly and brazenly erode away the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone.  Wake up, people.  It is happening in Rome, in Wittenberg, and in Geneva.  The same progressive voices from different lips whose words are an affront to the truth and a false gospel, bowing to a false god.

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