Saturday, July 8, 2023

The challenge before us. . .

The rise of the secular truth was based, in part, upon the rejection of the religious truth that had under girded both the structures and identity of the West.  When religious truth became suspect and when even the churches succumbed to the idea that there was a difference between the historical Jesus and the Christ of the Scriptures, the damage was done.  Truth was no longer premised upon fact or history but upon the imagination of mankind.  At that point, the Gospel itself was attacked at the core.  This radical rejection of the very core of the Church’s narrative of who Jesus of Nazareth was and is and,of the very nature then of the God whom He reveals is under suspicion from modernity.  With that comes the inevitable challenge to the identity and purpose of the Church.  Everything that was once a fact has become a question and there is no single individual's answer more worthy or truthful than another about who Jesus was and is, who God is, and who the Church is.  That is the fruit modernity has wrought.

The worship wars. pronoun wars, sex wars, and marriage/family wars that are raging in the Church today are the consequence of not knowing with confidence who Jesus was and is, who God is, and who the Church is and for what purpose the Church exists.  The openings for dispute over what the liturgy is and what happens within the liturgy was created by the cracks on the foundation of who Jesus was and is, who God is, and who the Church is.  The same is true of the pronoun wars, sex wars, and wars over marriage/family.  This the legacy of our loss of confidence in the Biblical narrative, in the catholic tradition, and in the structures and institutions of the Church.  Modernity has done an effective job of undermining the keryma and creed without ever directly attacking either.  All that has happened is a question mark has been placed where once there was a period.

The Church was once not a listening agency but a mission one.  We did not listen but told of the mighty acts of God for our salvation.  Modernity has shifted the conversation.  Now it is no longer of importance what there is to tell but it is of critical importance to listen.  Listening here is not hearing the need so that you might speak the healing truth of the Gospel but listening without judgment and listening so that every truth is equal and equally true -- at least in so far as any truth is true in modernity.  So all of a sudden, well, not really, the Church is on the defensive.  The challenges are no longer from without but from those who claim to be Christian.  Who Jesus was and is has become a battleground of conflicting opinions without any truth to say one is wrong or one is right.  Who God is has become the domain of feelings, imagination, or experience without God's own self-disclosure to say what is true and what is false.  Who the Church is has become the dispute of the ages and modernity insists that the only valid answer is to welcome every competing truth, vision, desire, and preference and somehow mix it all up into a sea of uncertainty.

So when you end up with a guy like Pope Francis who may indeed hold to tradition but who is loathe to insist upon it, he feeds into the modernist narrative whether he wills to or not.  He is not a scapegoat but a poster child of the question that has replaced an answer and of the supposition that has replaced truth.  In the end, he has only an appeal to authority to solidify the diverging paths and people that were once the Roman Catholic Church.  But he is not alone.  The Lutherans have their own problems here.  Seminaries were once the institutions of great confidence in which pastors were formed in the truth of the ages, in the bold confession of one time for the future of our very movement, and in truth of the Scriptures as the infallible voice of God.  Long ago that confidence was replaced with the same questions that have plagued Rome.  We now live in a time when most Lutherans have pretty much conceded that the seminaries are not aids to the Church but enemies of the evangelical cause or mere propaganda machines for a long gone era.  Who are our Lutheran leaders who stand on a national stage to say this we believe, teach, and confess?  The rest of the Christian world is equally in the grip of the modernist cause.  Rick Warren may well bring the Southern Baptist Convention to its knees over something a few generations ago no one would have foreseen.  The not so United Methodists can believe anything and everything about Jesus but will divide over matters of sex and gender.  The Anglicans are a shell of a union in which the whole broken communion is covered over by a very nice looking cope.  Evangelicals are all over the page but most of them are adrift on the same sea which borrows the worship songs from the heart, the preaching from self-help gurus, and the fellowship of the body of Christ from social media.

We can fight worship wars, pronoun/gender wars, sex wars, marriage/family wars, and such but there are too many battles on too many fronts.  The real fight is over truth, whether the Scriptures are reliable and trustworthy, whether the Gospel is about Christ's death and resurrection or freedom to pursue our own wants, and whether there is anything that is true beyond the moment (and the rejection of the legacy of our forefathers who passed down the sacred tradition).  This is the battle we need to address and if we fight this, the other wars will fall into place.  We learned that in Missouri after the Battle for the Bible in the 1970s.  You can win the battle but lose the war.  We must fight the real enemies with the truth that endures forever instead of running here and there to put out the little skirmishes that are merely diversions that would mask the real enemy.

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