Monday, November 28, 2022

Not just knowing something but doing it. . .

We have watched as faith has turned into something personal but also private.  It has become largely a matter of what you know and of your consent to that knowledge to make it your own.  There is dispute about what informs what you know (is it feelings or experience or reason or revelation) and although faith has become a more experience or emotion centered reality, it is the reality you know or choose or perceive or have manifested.  Faith has also become a domain in which what you know is also personal -- less objective than subjective and truth that is the defined by the individual.  Truth itself is not a common possession but an individual determination.  It has come to the point where the things we once argued were not true for me have become the dominant expression of everything we consider real.  It is only true it if is true for me (facts become an invention of the individual and not the domain of community, history, or society).

But faith is not merely a matter of what we know.  It is also what we do.  Piety is not an enemy of the faith but its expression.  At some point of time we forgot it.  We got so angry with the pietist that we tarred and feathered piety.  The problem is that in making faith merely a matter of what you know, we have distorted what it means to have faith.  The pietist was wrong in making the experience the only realm of faith but in our pendulum move against pietism we erred in making knowledge the only domain of faith.  Walther once famously complained upon surveying the state of Lutheran Christianity and Protestant Christianity as a whole that it had exchanged the church or temple for the lecture hall.  He was quick to defend the ceremonial of the old Lutherans who had come to a new land.  Today we struggle to know what to do with piety because for some a doctrine light piety is the only religion.

That is clearly expressed in those (even Roman Catholics and Lutherans among them) who do not believe you need church to be a good Christian.  This is a confusion both of those who make reason the domain of faith and those who make emotion its home.  How did we get the idea that faith does not need church or worship?  How did we end up with the idea that believing does not mean praying or reading the Scriptures or serving the neighbor?  How did we get the idea that ritual or ceremonies are fine for the odd ones who like them but almost alien and foreign to the whole idea of believing?  How did we get the idea that watching worship as spectators without opening our mouths to speak or sing is what it means to praise the Lord?  How did we get the idea that Bible study primarily imparts knowledge instead of growing our faith so that we might live it out in our daily lives?  How did we get the idea that sacraments were meant for te individual and could be handled in some form online or at home?

Christianity is not simply about what is believed but what is confessed in actions and lived out in daily life.  You cannot say that you hold the Holy Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood in high regard and not hunger to receive it every time it is offered (even when conscience might preclude such communion).  You cannot say that you hold the Scriptures to be the Word of God and be more concerned about protecting its infallibility than receiving its efficacious power to do what it speaks.  You cannot say that you hold the office of the pastor in high regard and treat him like a hired hand, a budgetary expense, or a functionary who does what every can (and maybe should) do.  You cannot say that you love God and fail to love your brother in need (whether that need is to be forgiven and restored or food or clothing or shelter or job, etc.).  I think I might have read that last one somewhere -- oh, yeah, the Bible??!!  It is the whole deal.  It is discipleship and not membership, doctrine and practice, faith and piety, belief and life.  God does not redeem parts but the whole of us -- our full embodied selves and how that self lives even as what that self believes.

The great legacy of the information and internet age is that we treat information as personal and we are passive before it.  We hear it when it interests us or we have a personal need but most of the time we just squirrel it away in an information vault.  Because of that, we still treat God's house as not our own home, the things of God as His things more than ours, and the work of the Kingdom for those who want to do it or are paid to do it. 

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