Friday, March 24, 2023

The fallacies of the universal. . .

In what has become a gross and offensive understanding of the universality or catholic nature of the faith, moderns have substituted the go to words of the day -- from inclusivity to diversity.  It is an easy attack on the faith because we have surrendered to the vocabulary of the world for the sake of reducing the technical jargon of the faith.  This means that Christians are even more comfortable with the dictionary of the world than they are of Scripture.  Along with this surrender of the terminology has come the distortion of what words really mean.  Catholicity is one victim of the Church yielding to the rules of culture.

While the substitution of Christian for catholic is not Lutheran in origin but predates the Reformation, we Lutherans have also become sloppy in our use of the term Christian.  Where it once might have presumed all that the word catholic encompassed, today it has become a word we have surrendered to Rome despite our claims to confess the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith.  It has even gotten to the point where some Lutherans find the word catholic offensive.  Again, this is the politics of surrender and with that surrender has come many problems.

Well up into the Lutheran Reformation every child knew the adjectives to describe the Church.  Every child and every adult confessed those words week after week in the Creed.  At some point in time, we began to forget what those words meant.  Some were content to be a schismatic sect without any claims to catholicity at all.  Others surrendered to the idea that catholicity no longer was the mark of one confession but every confession had bits and pieces of the pie.  More were content to individualize the faith so that even the Creed was not a churchly confession but an individual one in which the person defines the words confessed.

At the time I grew up, universal was the word used to unpack the word catholic.  It is still used by some though it might better be said to be whole and complete rather than universal.  Hidden in the universality of the faith has come the modern ideas of inclusivity and diversity.  We have gotten to the point where the Church is not united in doctrine or confession but is an umbrella of many doctrines and confessions that live within a broad parameter of what constitutes a Christian faith.  Indeed, some have decided that this is the hallmark of true Christianity.  It is not one Lord, one faith, one baptism but many views and opinions living together without any real claim to orthodoxy.  We seldom hear about orthodoxy anymore but we hear about the need for the Church to be inclusive of all people and points of view and to reflect the broad diversity heralded by the spirit of the age.

The Church is not universal in the sense that it includes a diversity of views on who God is and is inclusive of that diversity without attaching to any one of them.  That Church that does this is no longer catholic at all and not Christian anymore either.  Our catholicity is not reflected in our embrace of many versions of marriage or many genders anymore than it is marked by our acceptance of many truths about God and salvation.  Being against the current and popular expressions of such hot button issues as sexual desire, marriage, family, and gender does not violate our catholicity but preserves it.  Refusing to accommodate every opinion about God and everything else does not contract our inclusivity but preserves the true inclusive nature of the Son of God who died for the sins of the world, who is no respecter of persons, and whose name is the only name under heaven and on earth by which any who will be saved shall be saved.  

The Church is a communion of sinners who confess their sin and their inability to atone for those sins and who also confess that God has chosen to become their Savior in the incarnation of His Son, in the righteous life lived that all might be declared righteous, in the suffering the paid for the sins of every sinner, in the death that killed death, and in the resurrection that brought new life to those who had only death.  The Church is catholic because she has always been, exclusive to no tribe or continent or age, and because her truth is yesterday, today, and forever the same -- just as the Savior.  The Church is universal not because she allows for many views but because her mission is not to the few but to the world world, beginning from Jerusalem and spreading into every corner of the earth.  The Church is inclusive because she gives the gifts of Christ to everyone who comes without respect to merit or worthiness.  The Church is diverse because she draws across time and geography, race and culture, to make all into one people in Christ.  The Church is apostolic because she hears not only or even primarily the voices of the moment but the voices of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, confessors, and saints who went before her and who, like her, give testament not to view or opinion but by the Holy Spirit to the Word of the Lord that endures forever.

Once we start walking down the path of terms that have been confiscated by an ideology, the Church becomes an ideology, a mere ideology, and has surrendered herself to the prison of the present without anchor in eternity.  Salvation is exclusive -- in Christ alone.  The Church is inclusive in the sense that this salvation is proclaimed not to the few but to the many in the hopes that all who hear might believe and be saved.  But the Church is not inclusive in the way our Woke culture speaks nor can she afford to settle for a crude diversity in which no truth is larger or more profound than any other.  Once we do that, we have betrayed Christ and His Gospel.

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