Lest you think that it is only Protestantism in its various forms that is so enamored, read what Pope Francis has reportedly asserted:
‘Jesus does not want the church to be a perfect model, satisfied with its own organization and able to defend its good name… Jesus did not live like this, but on a journey, without fearing the upheavals of life.’
Living like Jesus demands the ‘courage of renunciation’ …a willingness to abandon traditions that are dear to us.
Changing and adapting is not about imposing something new, ‘but leaving aside something old.’
‘God often purifies, simplifies, and makes us grow by taking away, not by adding, as we might do.’
‘True faith cleanses from attachments. As a church, we are not called to corporate compromises, but to evangelical enterprise.’In other words, what God has done is not as interesting or as important as what God is doing or might do. From Rome to Wittenberg to Geneva to your city, Christianity is in danger not of holding onto the past and becoming irrelevant but embracing the future and becoming impotent. Our only power and our only purpose is the Word of God that endures forever. Faith comes by hearing the Word and this Word is itself the power to accomplish what it says and the Holy Spirit works through this Word. (Not to diminish the Sacraments, but to highlight the sacred deposit of doctrine.)
The mantra of Pope Francis, church growth gurus, the sexual liberation movement, the feminist movement, contemporary Christian music and worship, and preaching and teaching today is that the new thing God is doing and the future we are visioning is not only more important than God's saving acts in the past but the sacrificial offering we must make if the Church is to survive and thrive. Except for one thing, those jurisdictions that have forgotten their past and embraced the future of their own imagining have declined at rates faster than those who live by the faith of their fathers and guard the sacred deposit of God's Word and Sacraments. Strangely enough, there are those who view the means of grace as precisely the attachments that Pope Francis believes are an impediments to evangelical enterprise (whatever that means).
Our congregation has an Instagram account and recently it was mentioned how many churches on Instagram have more to say about people coming out as gay, lesbian, transgender, or queer than about Jesus' death and resurrection. In other words, the rainbow flag has replaced the cross. This has always been the temptation -- to make the Gospel more about me than about Jesus -- but it is even more pernicious today because it is the prevailing trend all across culture and religion. The individual me has become the center of everyone's universe and with it we run the risk of completely forgetting the Gospel itself and returning to the prison of self that once made the free captive to sin and its death. The quotes from Francis are deliberately vague. That is how he communicates. But they are specific enough to give support for the whole idea that faith is one person wide and one person deep, just like the truth that under girds that faith, the faith that is confessed, and the life lived out from this faith identity.
To Francis and all those who think that the Church must be rescued from this sacred deposit and set free from her tradition, I plead with you to exercise care and caution in your quest to find vitality and life. Once Christ crucified and risen becomes only part of our message or is displaced from our preaching and teaching, we have nothing left to offer the world, nothing to say to the culture of death, nothing to offer to the despairing, and no hope to offer anyone. We have become the worst of the choices available, worse than a sect, we have become merely a lame echo of the sinful heart whose desires are both its truth and its purpose. We all have much to answer for before God but it is of this that Jesus says to those who cry "Lord, Lord," "I know you not."